Friday, February 25, 2011


And no, not the gourd. Yesterday I got to play the game again for the first time since high school!!

Squash, if you were wondering, is an indoor racket sport much like racquetball but with a smaller, less bouncy ball and different court boundaries. Basically you and your opponent face the same wall and try to hit the ball against that front wall and then back to one another (well, keeping in mind that you actually score points by hitting shots that your opponent won't be able to retrieve!). It's super fast-paced and a great workout, both mentally and physically.

(I don't have any photos of me playing, so here are some other folks)

It's not played very widely in America (I think New England is about it, and even then it's pretty uncommon outside of prep school), but it's pretty common in the UK and nearly every college at Oxford, it turns out, has its own courts. I played throughout my time in high school, and though I failed to ever develop as a very competitive player, I got an almost immoderate amount of enjoyment from every season. It's just not like any other athletic activity I've ever done: with both riding and running, at the end of the day you're only ever competing against yourself and your own standards of perfection. In squash, when push comes to shove you can be as scrappy and ragged as you want, but if you can hustle and keep the ball in play longer than your opponent you're going to win the match. It was a mentality that I never quite cottoned on to fully (hence why I was never super competitive) and am still struggling with now in polo (which is quite similar in the need for scrappiness), but even the small amount that I could put myself into that mindset was incredibly helpful for the rest of my daily life.

(Cool black court squash where the ball is white!)

Now, I'd heard that there was squash at Oxford and so had optimistically brought my racket (and my tatty old shoes, straight from junior year of high school!) along with me. It wasn't until yesterday, though, that I finally got to play.

And it was awesome!!! I was super worried that I would have forgotten everything and wouldn't even be able to make contact with the ball (my hand-eye coordination was never something that came naturally to me), but miraculously it all for the most part came back. Muscle memory is so cool!! I played with a friend from the Stanford House who was certainly better than I was but not so much so that the game was totally lopsided, which was nice. We hit the ball around, played a game which I lost gamely (9-7, not a bad way to go down the first time out in four years!), and then hit the ball around some more. I was so out of shape that I was literally dripping sweat by the time we finished, but also couldn't stop smiling because I'd had SO MUCH FUN.

I hope I can get back and play a few more times before the term is out, because the person I played with is going back to Stanford for the spring and I don't know if I'll have another partner after him! Plus, it was a seriously nice change of pace to get to take out a small fraction of my pent up academic stress on hitting a small rubber ball as hard as I possibly could, and one that I'll probably be needing again as the term races to a close =)

Today I'm taking a break from schoolwork and going out to visit author CS Lewis' house, The Kilns, which is about an hour's walk away in Headington. I was a HUGE CS Lewis fan growing up and have read pretty much everything he's ever written, from the entire Narnia series multiple times right down to his published letters and essays on religion. He taught at Magdalen College, the place where I played squash yesterday, for over 29 years and called Oxford his home for the majority of his life. The Kilns is supposed to be super beautiful, and even though the forecast is for rain and gloomy skies, I couldn't be more excited.

(The Kilns in sunshine - aka NOT how I'm going to see it today!)


  1. It's so funny that you blogged about this today because I actually went over to Harvard earlier to watch the mens' national competition. I've started playing again too (not seriously though...teaching my housemates how, but they're all athletic boys so they catch on pretty quickly and give me a good match) but I had forgotten how intense the competition is at the collegiate was really stressing me out just being there at the match haha

  2. ooh that must have been so fun! But yes, high-level squash = soooo intense. It was St George's day yesterday so my dad was giving me the final recap on the JV Girls' season - ahhh memories.