It was another spectacular Jimmy Dunn weekend just before Thanksgiving. One hundred and sixty-eight players came to the Racquet Club of Philadelphia to play in one or more of the five draws (squash singles, squash doubles, racquets singles, racquets doubles and court tennis doubles).I entered four of them, everything but my oldest sport, squash singles—I didn't do it mostly because being in five draws is a scheduling nightmare, especially if you end up winning a match or two, which wasn't likely but you never know. In the tennis, my partner Jon Crowell and I played mediocrely and lost our two matches. The two RCOP (my wife likes to call the club "our cop") pros, Barney Tanfield & Rob Whitehouse, won the open division for the third straight year, a remarkable feat. In the racquets, Jack Shields, a young Pommie, again won the doubles draw, called the Jock Soutar after the former RCOP pro. Last year, he won the Soutar with Alcicia Turner, making it the first time in racquets history, we believe, that a woman won a racquets tournament. This year he took it in a very exciting five-gamer with Tim Proctor. Because of that extended final, my semi-final in the 40+ squash dubs was delayed about an hour. But Proctor gracefully came next door and he and I won 3-1 and then an hour later won our finals, also 3-1. Three shirts and three wins for Proctor. That is par for the course at the Jimmy Dunn—a lot of laundry. And some looks of "of course" as everyone saw the Proctor & Zug team at the far right of the draw, but thought of Tim's brother and my father. Speaking of national squash doubles champions, how about the ageless Rich Sheppard? Rob Whitehouse & the young Todd Ruth lost in the finals of the squash dubs open draw 3-1 to Imran Khan & Sheppard. Shep won his first of two national titles in 1987. I was in high school then and now am in the 40+ draw. The Jimmy Dunn tournament was begun in 1980, while the fiery Irishman was still in the midst of his half-century reign as the pro at RCOP. It was originally a pro-am tennis tourney. A dozen years ago, Whitehouse absorbed the Racquet Club Invitational, a squash dubs touney, and started the Soutar. At 168, this was the largest Dunn weekend yet, and with a black-tie stag dinner and a black-tie dinner-dance, it managed to be quite a busy social weekend. Like always, some of the talk off-court returned to Dunn himself. As he said to one overly confident neophyte tennis player, with a Camel cigarette dangling from his mouth, "Done? I'm Dunn. You just got started. You won't be finished learning the game for years. Now get outta here."
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Run to the Roar: Coaching to Overcome Fear. By Paul Assaiante and James Zug. 239 pages. Portfolio/Penguin. $29.95.
One of the country’s top coaches teams up with an award-winning journalist to write a book about the successes of the Trinity men’s squash team.
For a sport rarely given the media time it deserves, a book on a victorious squash match between Princeton University and Trinity College comes with life lessons that exceed expectations for sports and non-sports fans alike. Then again, it could also be the fact that Coach Paul Assaiante takes the time to learn about his players, their fears, and how to tackle them on and off the squash court. “I don’t care about your goals,” he writes in the book, “I want to know what you are afraid of. What are your anxieties, your doubts? What holds you back? What holds us back? Let’s confront your fears. Let’s run to the roar.” The book is divided into several stories focusing on the team’s players, who hail from all over the world. Each chapter is inevitably a life lesson. As Michael Bramberger of Sports Illustrated writes, “The genius of Paul Assaiante is not what he understands about squash… but what he understands about people. Reading this book… will make you better at something. Maybe squash. Luckily life.”
This week’s hot reads on The Daily Beast include our new book Run to the Roar.
Last Saturday in New York, the Racquet & Tennis Club hosted the world racquets championship. It was the first leg of a Atlantic-bestriding event, with the second leg being played at Queen's Club in London this Saturday. The current world champion, James Stout hammered the challenger, Alex Titchener-Barrett, 15-11, 15-7, 15-6, 15-9. It could be a long reign for the Bermudian bomber, who is just twenty-six.The world championship is pretty cool in that it is the oldest continuously contested world sporting title (officially since 1820, though practically only since 1860). I wrote about the sport recently for Vanity Fair: http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2009/04/play-surviving-a-racquets-tournament.html. The Silver Racquets weekend at the R&T was typically amazing. Huge draws. Some new faces: Goose Detter and Baset Ashfaq (two of the young guys featured in my new book http://runtoroar.com/) played in the squash doubles tournament. Some upsets: Pat Winthrop won the tennis singles over Alexis Hombrecher. Four hundred and forty people came to the dinner dance. A maxed out affair, the club had to turn away about a hundred people because there was no room. Why the interest? Well, perhaps they heard it is the most romantic way to fall in love. After all, it was on a blind date at the Silver Racquet dinner dance in 1999 that I met my wife.