Attempting to play an uncommon sport

April 2, 2018 — by Ava Hooman and Muthu Palaniappan

Two unexperienced reporters play squash for the first time.

Until middle school, both of us didn’t know the sport squash existed. To us, it was just another vegetable.

We learned about the sport from junior Esha Lakhotia, a friend who had been playing the sport competitively from an early age and had become a top-level player. It seemed that almost every month she would fly to the East Coast to participate in national squash tournaments.

Although we became good friends with a talented squash player, we still barely knew anything about the sport. That’s why we decided to try out the uncommon sport for the first time recently.

Here’s what we learned: The sport involves two players in an enclosed room. Their aim is to hit the small ball with a racket against the wall back and forth with each other. The game is fast paced and intense.

It’s also a tough one to play since there are few squash courts in the area. The local Bay Club in Cupertino is where we headed. At the gym, there are only four courts, which is why we could only find an opening for courts at 7 p.m. on a Sunday.

We soon felt like imposters. The rest of the people playing were wearing squash-specific clothing, while we were wearing baggy T-shirts and leggings. We had to borrow rackets and squash glasses from Esha, since we didn’t have any ourselves.

Esha ran onto the court and was clearly in her element. As she whacking the ball in what for her was a gentle warm-up, we stood still, scared of the ball she was casually hitting at a high speed, all the while encouraging us to play a round with her.

After a brief 10-minute lesson on the basics of the sport, it was finally time to pull down the glasses and play a game.

Having both played racket sports, we were able to quickly navigate the ball on the court and hit it, although we were not used to the speed of the ball. Squash balls can travel more than 100 miles per hour, a frightening sight for a new player in a small room.

At first, the sport confused Muthu, who had played tennis before. In tennis, the ball is usually hit after a bounce; however, in squash, hits mostly come after the bounce. Although squash balls do bounce and can be hit then, their path isn’t nearly as high as that of a tennis ball, creating an odd sensation for tennis players.

We started by just gently hitting the squash ball against the wall to each other. But Esha seemed bored, as we were playing like she probably had played in kindergarten.

After about an hour of practicing, we were finally getting a hang of the sport, at least at a basic level.

We tried to start an actual game, but it did not work out well. Both of us could hardly serve the ball or run around Esha to hit the ball back.  

Knowing that Esha practiced the sport for around two hours most days, our respect for her dedication and work ethic grew. On paper, saying she had to go to squash practice did not sound too straining. Yet just playing for a hour made us realize how much work she actually puts into the sport.  

As we left Bay Club, we were fill with joy and excitement as we finally learned  what Esha spends almost every day participating in.

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