It was interesting to chat with novice to PSA players this past weekend at the Edmonton Open and find out what drives players to play this game and to gain some insight into the minds of squash players and varying levels.
Being the first tourney of the year to implement a strict rankings based seeding system, the Ed Open promised closer competition. There were a few hiccups, but essentially it did what it was supposed to. The players who were supposed to win, won and the players who were supposed to lose, lost.
At the heart of every tournament are the C and D events, where players are still motivated by huge steps in progress and improvement and although the competition aspect of squash is still keen, players are often competing against themselves and challenged by lapses in technique and strategy. Emotions still run high if not higher in these events due to frustration regarding inability and not playing better than perhaps one perceives themselves. Don't get me wrong, this happens at every level of squash, but it more prevalent at the beginning stages of a players development.
In the more practiced levels of A and B squash, there was close competition and varying degrees of disgruntled apathy towards how divisions were set. Both men's and women's divisions were led by players who could have played a division up and reared by players who could have been relegated down a division. With a handful of the players in each division using tactics unbecoming of squash players, such as pushing off, fishing for strokes, stalling for time, being belligerent and obnoxious, initiating unnessary contact and arguing with opponents and referees. It's fair to say none of these players won at any division.
At every division there were 2 common denominators of each champion, hard work and skill. Ian Laycock the winner of the Men's Open division worked hard against Nathan Hall who had as much determination to win and may be bigger, stronger and fitter than Ian, but Ian's skill level proved to be too much for Nathan. On the women's side Susie King defeated Micaala Seth who impressed with incredible shot making and quick hands and efficient movement. Micaala had Susie falling into the splits and turning the wrong way countless times, but although her skills may have been stronger, Seth couldn't keep up with King's physicality on court.
When asked what was going thru their heads, the Women's D champion was just happy to playing again and enjoyed the game for a fun way to stay fit... and of course winning always makes it more fun. The Men's C champion Gene Marshall of Calgary changed his perspective on the game after winning 3 consolation draws coming into this tourney and finally knocking out the No.1 seed in the first round. Gene's drive to come on top of 32 started with making sure that he was focused before each point. He focused on his strength of playing hard and fast and pummeling opponents into submission, he didn't get drawn into slow squash and found success in his gameplan. The Mens and Ladies B champions were both juniors, focused and arrogant, listening to music and arguing with refs. They focused on just playing simple clean up and down the wall classic junior style squash, no mistakes keep the ball in play and force the opponent to go for too much...boring!!!!
Allan took the Men's A and his focus was to win every point. Thea won the ladies A and again a classically trained player with decent shots and fitness.
In the PSA, Shawn Delierre definately drew energy from the crowd and was loving every minute of it. He mentioned after the match that, when he got down or felt drained after losing a rally or even during a point where he was getting worked, he tried to remind himself that he loves this game and by convincing himself that he enjoyed the exhaustion and abuse of making another get, it made it easier to keep going and ultimately win the PSA title.
For me, I had a great first match with Aleem, I may have still been drunk, but we had fun. My second match not so much fun, but I played well so I was happy. My third match was awesome, most fun I've had on court in a long time.
So there you have it, play to win, play for fun or both, it's really up to you, but consider that if you play to win and you have to move up a division, it may be a while before you remember why you play.
I haven't proofed this post so it probly makes no sense. I may revise it.