It was my second year of playing squash seriously. ‘Seriously‘ doesn’t mean I was any good yet. I was at that rookie stage of a squasher’s evolution when I was constantly looking for easy winners (read “low percentage drop shots or optimistic boasts”). I had signed up for a squash tourney at the Santa Cruz squash club.
I have little recollection of the two games I played – quick embarrassing losses I’m sure.
On the bright side, I got to watch several great games. The standout memory (and the trigger for this post) was the matchup between the club pro (Alex) and a sturdily built bloke (let’s call him Blake since I don’t know him).
There was no danger of Blake being picked from a which one of these is a squash player lineup. This is not to say that he was unfit.
As the players warmed up with rails and crosses (and the occasional boast), it was evident that Blake had talent. There was an elegance and efficiency to his on-court movements that belied one’s cursory examination of his physical profile. But my money was still on the athletic squash pro Alex.
Game 1 score: 9-5
The game was close for the first 2-3 minutes. Blake had gotten Alex’s measure by then and started putting him through his paces. An array of accurately deep rails laced with a perfect blend of drop and boast winners. This was a pattern he oft repeated. And as though to remind Alex that this wasn’t his full armoury, he’d throw in a clinically precise edge smash winner… seemingly at will.
I watched Blake as he nonchalantly took his break, changed to a new tee and entered the court before Alex.
“Let the ass kicking begin”
This was the message on the back of his game#2 tee!!
The programmer in me wondered whether he had different tee shirts ready based on whether he won the first game.
I concluded that this was the perfectly appropriate”mind games” message to an opponent in both scenarios.
If it was a close first game that he had lost, the taunt could have inserted a doubt in his opponent’s mind.
In this case, however, Blake was openly taunting Alex.. just getting warmed up buddy. I’ll now wipe the floor with you.
Blake then proceeded to do just that. Game 2 score was either 9-2 or 9-3.
Beyond the cheekiness and mind game evoked by Blake’s tee that day, the message stayed in my consciousness.
Strangely my runner persona can relate to that message.
Like many amateur runners who will never be podium finishes (in the open category), my ‘opponent’ is me. The current me is constantly competing with the previous me.
If I ran an FM in 3:48, great. Let the ass kicking begin.. to get to the 3:30 to 3:45 quadrant.
If I’ve run 75k multiple times, great. Let the ass kicking begin for a hilly 80k or a 24 hour ultra.
If Dr. George Sheehan can get his PB at 60 years, surely I can try my darnedest in my late 40’s.