Archive | October 2013

Are ‘Dumb Jocks’ actually nerds? Response to the Opinionator article.

In my humble opinion the article: ‘Are ‘Dumb Jocks’ really Nerds? http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/is-the-dumb-jock-really-a-nerd/?_r=0  touches on the critical reasons that the Sport of Squash, known to few and utterly misunderstood by most, offers an unparalleled opportunity for human beings to maintain and hone the essential assets required for success and continued evolution both as individuals and as a species.
Decisions to adopt and perfect specific skills are made with the conscious mind – by thinking and deciding. However the conscious mind is an appallingly inefficient survival tool and it is only by using our subconscious mind – or by ‘feeling’ that we are able to make complex survival decisions at hyper speed.
Hence an athlete that attempts to ‘think’ their way through a pressure situation will never be able to compete with an athlete who can ‘feel’ what needs to be done.
The conscious mind is employed in the learning process to interpret and assimilate the new behavior and once the new behavior is adequate for use in the heat of battle it is then stored in the sub conscious mind where it adds to the arsenal of existing possible choices that the subconscious mind is able to call on when needed.
In addition the conscious or ‘thinking’ mind suffers not only from a lack of speed in decision making but also the interference of emotion. If an athlete (or indeed a human being) uses the conscious mind to assess their ability to cope with a situation, the ‘thinking’ mind is subject to hesitation produced by emotional questions such as ‘whether or not’ the task can be successfully achieved. The subconscious mind is a-emotional and simply presents a menu of choices as to how to cope and then earmarks the best option. There is no discussion about the likelihood of success simply the presentation of the most efficient method.
This can be seen in situations such as a cyclist suddenly confronted by a truck coming in the opposite direction on a narrow road, deftly maneuvering to avoid a collision. Only later when the conscious mind catches up with the swift actions of the subconscious mind does shock and fear invade the system.
The truth is that the academics have harnessed the dubious capacity of the conscious mind more than ordinary folk, but in doing so they have neglected the subconscious which is more powerful than its feeble relative by a massive factor – perhaps the relationship is as disproportionate as that of the Sun to the Earth?
Whatever the case, we need both the ‘thinkers’ and the much more rapid ‘feelers’ for our success/ survival and until the ‘thinkers’ appreciate the importance of ‘feelers’ and show them some appreciation they will continue to promote the conscious mind and neglect the subconscious – which in the long term will weaken us all.
As an interesting note when on that winter day on the tram Albert Einstein suddenly understood his Special Theory of Relativity he later said that he couldn’t really explain it. He instinctively knew it was correct even though he couldn’t at that moment say why.
Could it be that he just ‘felt’ it? And how many ancestors of his survived by honing survival skills and automatic behavior in order to produce that ability to feel something so unique?
Mens Sana in corpore Sano.
We need both.

Squash Trivia Questions

1.Who has the longest unbeaten run in Squash history?

2. Who has won the most British Open titles?

3. Which is the oldest NGB in the Squash world?

4. What major team Squash event is Scheduled to take place in Charlottesville Virginia in October 2014?

5. Which former world number one took Gold at the World Masters Games in Turin in July of this year?

Are Women worth the same money as Men in Squash?

Before I give you my two cents worth on this so called ‘Debate’ that has somehow gained some traction on websites recently, I want to say ‘Hats off’ to Kevin Klipstein and US Squash.
Kevin and I don’t always see eye to eye, but in this matter, in my humble opinion, he and the association are streets ahead of the competition.

Now to the heart of the matter: are Women worth the same money as Men in Squash?

First of all, I assume this discussion – it’s hardly a debate – was triggered by one of the rising PSA players’s twitter comment.

It was certainly inflammatory. I don’t know if it was a serious comment based on thoughtful consideration, on weighing up all available evidence, on consideration of the effect of the remark. I rather think not. But I didn’t make the remark so I don’t know for sure.

What I do know is that Women exact every bit as much pain and effort from themselves as Men do in pursuit of excellence in our sport.

I have been coaching this sport Man and Boy since 1976 when as a high school player I started helping out other team mates and friends. In the intervening time I have been privileged to work in some capacity or other with the following players at some point in their development: Alex Cowie, Cassie Jackman, Omneya Abdel Kawy, Michelle Quibell, Louise Johnson, Amy Gross, Julia Beaver AND Chris Walker, Tony Hands, Del Harris, Mark Chaloner, Julian Illingworth, Paul Millington, Mark Heather, Robbie Lingashi, Ahmed Hamza, Josh Schwartz, Rishaad Pandole.

However long or short my interaction with these players was, I can guarantee you that there was no discernible difference in how hard they tried – everyone of them gave every last drop of effort that they could muster.

Every professional Squash player, whatever their gender, is contributing toward the development and success of this sport.

If you try and value one gender above the other you are failing to understand the intangible nature of the contributions that both are making to society – your society.

You may as well say that a good father is worth more than a good mother. Think about that for a moment.

If we don’t value the Women’s game as highly as the Men’s game we fail to understand our own origins.

As to the practicalities of the matter – well there is no doubt that it is much more practical for club coaches to show the average club player the game by using the WSA and the Women’s Professional tour as an example because the average club player can relate to what they see there.

Not many people can easily relate to what Ramy Ashour is doing – because at the moment he is pretty much the only one doing it. Even his opponents are having a hard time relating to it!

But this is not the point – the point is that we want Women and Men to be valued for their contributions. Their contributions are different – the proverbial Apple and Orange – but equally valuable and equally necessary.

But in the case of Squash – we want to equally reward those that are the best Apples in the world and those that are the best Oranges in the World.
So far as I am aware there is no standing competition where Apples compete against Oranges – nor should there be.

Without giving Women equal standing in society our societies fail. Consider the countries where war/persecution is still prevalent. Consider the countries where Women have parity. Then think about which societies you would prefer to live in.

Without the Women’s game, there is no Men’s game in the long run and even in the medium term – without the Women’s game, the Men’s game would degenerate into ugliness.

In all things balance – no Ying without Yang.

So either you support parity for Women, shouting ‘Vive la difference’ from the roof tops or give your mum a call, and see how she responds to your idea that she isn’t worth the same as your dad.

Yes we have no Olympics, we have no Olympics today.

So the day came and went and Wrestling – as undeserving as it clearly was when considered as a new sport – stole back the place that it had lost and returned to the fold that it had occupied since the games were held in Delphi.
Squash, played in just about every country in the world, with all its qualities of teaching life-skills, offering health benefits both in mind and body, advancing participants in their lives etcetera etcetera, returned to its uncertain position in the wilderness.
Why?
We may well ask.
Here are some thoughts on some of the things that we may well do to become more deserving of inclusion.
And by the way, before I begin, this is not intended as a purely denigratory piece. I love Squash and have been passionate about it all my working life. I have built successful programs in the UK, Holland and the USA. I have coached on four out of the six continents, and pending the arrival of Squash in the Antarctic , that just leaves me with Asia to go. I have been a national coach and the national director of performance, chair of the men’s national committee, a member of the executive committee of US Squash, a county captain, managing director, club owner, Cornell’s Head Coach, and a committed player. So I don’t think anyone can question my passion for this game.

But.

Having had all this experience I do feel that I am uniquely qualified to be self critical on behalf of the game that I am so inextricably linked to.

So here goes.

First of all, we are not a mainstream sport in enough places in the world.

Australia, New Zealand, the UK and one or two other places managed to get Squash into the mainstream for a while. Particularly in the late seventies and eighties.

But a lack of understanding of how to run Squash as a business has resulted in a boom becoming a bust in those countries to a greater or lesser extent.

In Australia, which arguably had the greatest talent pool per capita at one point, my understanding is that there has been wholesale closures of courts and that there is hardly a full time Squash coach that can earn a living.

In Britain the sport has been propped up by lottery funding but the National governing body has had little concept of how to help the sport to be financially viable, churning out any number of level one and two coaches to minister to less and less participants.

Clubs that once were numerous in Britain have seriously declined with inter-club league play – the lifeblood of the sport – almost entirely having disappeared in many areas.

The governing body is not entirely at fault as their personnel have no experience or training in the field of Sports Program Direction or Development and thus as administrators are sadly impotent when they have lost the participants that they seek to administrate.

New Zealand in some respects has managed to hold on to more of what they had, but I am sure even there many folks look back, teary-eyed, to ‘the good old days’ when Dardir El Bachary had something like 9 All Blacks in the world’s top 20 and club Squash was a bubbling exciting part of the vibrant sports life of the country.

In the USA, despite valiant attempts to start Urban programs, the game remains largely the bastion of the wealthy, with the Ivy League Universities and their immediate rivals, wealthy private schools, country clubs and businessmen’s club’s being the mainstays of the sport. And thank goodness for these institutions because without them Squash would be dead.
The governing body here does not have the benefit of the lottery system in the UK, but does have the benefit of the USA’s amazing number of millionaires and has very successfully cultivated and nurtured this group with resulting bountiful benefit.
However, it could be argued that the money spent on Urban Squash, while benefitting some deserving underprivileged children, might better have been spent developing Squash as a mainstream sport, building facilities that were accessible and affordable to all and that, in the fullness of time, would have brought the greater benefit to all participants as, once accepted as a mainstream sport, the accompanying notoriety would have helped the Olympic cause and the resultant insurgence of capital far more.

Rumors abound as to the IOC’s disaffection for the then USSRA after it is said that certain members of the association snubbed the IOC, but whether or not this is true our current challenge is to make Squash a mainstream sport the world over, so that the stigma of being a niche, upper crust game, is no longer a barrier to acceptance.

What are the issues at stake?

These of course vary nation by nation but have many similarities and need a cohesive approach from all concerned.

First of all we need to see the big picture. Right now we have so much parochial behavior that we we can’t get out of our own way.

England Squash and Racketball. This name is utterly crazy in terms of the big picture. In one fell swoop and without any research, England Squash alienated the biggest economy in the world – the USA.
No one in US Squash wants even a taint of the word Racketball or Racquetball, but because someone in the UK thought that the game of UK Racketball should be included – they changed the name. Even remedial questioning of someone in the US would have led to the discovery that this would be a barrier to the development of the sport – and by the way – the game that has the ridiculous name of UK Racketball – is a terrific sport that just might be the savior of Club Squash and participation numbers the world over.

Why not put a little more thought into it? Why not do the research?

I’ll tell you why. Because Squash doesn’t yet exist globally, it only exists nationally and as long as National Governing Bodies can only see the local picture, they will make decisions which are to the detriment of the the global picture.

If someone had had the presence of mind to call UK Racketball – Big ball Squash – and bring it under the Squash umbrella, then all of this nonsense could have been avoided and England Squash could have continued as England Squash, the wonderful game known as UK Racketball would have been branded as Squash and would have been embrace the world over – particularly in the USA where it could have helped make the sport a mainstream sport, and thousands of Squash players who feel that their aged knees/hips could no longer stand Squash and so are relegated to the golf course, would have continued to play – because there is little or no joint stress in Big Ball Squash as I like to call it ( UK Racketball).

But no.

Now we have egos invested in UK Racketball and England Squash and Racketball’s name and in US Squash’s abhorrence of all things Racketball and in US Racquetball’s abhorrence of all things Squash and through the usual lack of international communication, the whole things is a balls up of disastrous proportions, with the World Squash federation avoiding the whole thing, even though the director of World Squash and one of the senior executives play both versions and love them.

This of course is just the tip of the iceberg. The pride of one National Governing body in attempting to do what they think is best for their nation getting in the way of dialogue to ascertain if their decision making will be good for the Sport as a whole.

And this is the view of Squash that the rest of the world and the IOC are presented with.

This is just a typical example.

In the USA we need to find a way of building cheaper facilities which are accessible to Mom and Pop and Main Street, USA.

Our national governing body prides itself on having developed participation numbers – but who are the people that we have caught in Squash’s net? The top two or three per cent of the wealthy?

What message does this send to the IOC?

In my research I have discovered that you can build a basic Squash court for about $5000 ( three thousand three hundred british pounds) out of basic materials available at any Home Decorating/ Do it yourself store.

In a city like Philadelphia which has a wonderful Squash tradition, there is almost nowhere for Main Street America to play -even if we put some effort into developing the sport.

My friend Dominic Hughes’s Club Berwyn Squash and Fitness, just outside Philly helps local public schools to play. But that is the exception – not the rule.

I don’t want to exclude the top 2 per cent – they offer us fantastic support. But we have to do something about the other 98 per cent.

Until Squash can be spoken about at least in the same vein as Tennis and preferably as T-Ball and Soccer – how can the IOC ever take us seriously?

We have other issues too.

National Governing Bodies have got to admit their lack of competence in the area of professional Program Direction and Development.

It is simply hopeless to continue churning out qualified coaches in the hopes that someone might show up to take lessons.

We need properly trained Sports Program Directors who know how to recruit, animate, train and retain participants.

England S and R are under perennial threat of losing their lottery funding if they don’t achieve participation figures.

Instead of blindly carrying on with the same futile administrative policies and hoping that by some miracle people decide to start playing Squash, get help from someone that knows how to train young people to be Program Directors and Developer. People that are trained to go out into the community, into schools and colleges, police stations and fire stations, doctors offices and community centers, evening classes etc and who can sell Squash to them.

Administrators don’t sell. It’s not their job. They administrate. Get a properly trained sales force in place. One that has excellent after sales service.

Otherwise kiss your funding goodbye.

In the US put money into Main st. There are so many opportunities and so many potential funding sources. We will help the sport and a lot more people by bringing the sport to the mainstream as well as trying to continuously reap the low hanging fruit. And if we reap much more low hanging fruit we will kill the fruit trees.

I think you can see the point I am making here.

Globally, local Squash has got to do a better job of considering decisions in light of the affect those decisions will have on the game as a whole.

I know it’s not easy. Local problems are immediate and seem urgent. But it’s no good putting a bandaid on a problem that is systemic. And we have amazing knowledge and resources world-wide.

As the saying goes: ‘ Think Globally – act locally”.

That way everyone will benefit.

Richard Millman
Friday Oct 4th 2013

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