Having lost about half of their players from the 2020-21 season, Girls Varsity Squash has many on the team who have barely played before, some joining straight from Beginners Squash in the fall. These new players not only bring changes to daily practices but also the team dynamic.
Co-captains Audrey Zhang ’22 and Gigi McIntosh ’23 enjoy meeting underclassmen and teaching them more basic skill sets to get ready for games. While being on a varsity team that plays competitively can be very daunting for new players, Gigi explains, “We understand that and [we work a lot] on making sure that we’re keeping the team calm, setting a sense of ‘just try your best and do what you can.’ […] Being an upperclassman and on a sports team can connect you to underclassmen, and it’s really cool to take on a mentor role to show them the ropes of not only the sport but being on a team.”
Though each player plays an individual match with one player from another team, Audrey and Gigi emphasize having a team spirit. The team has to rank all players through challenge matches for players to play with opponents of similar skill levels and for the game to be fair for both schools. This does not mean the number one seed is more valued than others. The top three seeds can all lose while the team still wins, so everybody on the team counts. Furthermore, Gigi shares, “It’s not a way to measure within ourselves; it’s a way to measure against the other team.” Holding new players to the same standard as a number one player who has been on the team for three years is just unfair. “Challenge matches can get pretty competitive but it’s just a thing of pushing yourself and we really do make a point, [as well as] the coaches, to play just as hard in your challenge matches as you would in your regular matches.” The game ultimately is a collective effort.
The captains are planning captain practices and cool psychs to build up team spirit. Gigi says, “I’m really excited for men in black (suits) or something movie-themed. We have an entire notes app of things we want to do.” Some ideas shared include Boss Baby, dad psych, dress up as your coach, and dressing up as different holidays from different countries.
Audrey adds, “We want to [get] everyone excited about the psychs. It’s not like ‘I have to do the psych’ or ‘I need to find something to wear’ but something to do with the team, to look ridiculous collectively. We also have captain practices, where Gigi and I get to plan the stuff we do and the drills that we have all the members do as well. [Both] Gigi and I are excited about having an opportunity to give a lot of individualized feedback to different players [and] having close relationships where especially underclassmen feel like ‘They’re not scary. I can ask them for help.’”
When asked about her favorite aspect of playing squash, Audrey answers, “I personally like the strategy aspect of it. Having those four walls around you creates so many more opportunities for where the ball can go. It’s fun when you hit a really nice shot that you know it’s nice and the other person is too far away to get it.”
On the other hand, the captains’ favorite memory of being on the squash team is Secret Santa with Boys Squash on Valentine’s Day. The two teams also split into boy-girl pairs to play round-robin. The captains describe, “It’s usually a lot more than [the day] feeling like practice. And it’s one of the few chances, if not the only chance, that we get to interact with the boys’ team.”
Though Girls Varsity Squash lost their first two games 2-5, the team is still developing, coming into February strong. Their ultimate goal is to be ready and get excited for the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) tournament, which can be scary, but the captains are well prepared to bring the team mentally together. In the meantime, come out to the girls’ home game in the Student Health and Athletic Center (SHAC) against Buckingham Browne & Nichols School (BB&N) at 4 p.m. on February 9!