Little America

Earlier this month, the squash world, it seemed, gathered in New York for a celebratory weekend. It was the end of the Tournament of Champions, national Century Doubles tournament, a JCT nearby in Connecticut, college matches in the city and the Squash + Education Alliance’s 25th Jubilee.

At that moment, Apple TV+ released an eight-episode show, Little America. Episode Two, “The Jaguar,” is a fictionalized, compressed version of Reyna Pacheco’s experience with Access Youth Academy in San Diego. The timing was amazing: five years earlier at SEA’s 20th Jubilee, Pacheco had been the keynote speaker. For more on Pacheco, listen to her own story in her own words in an Outside The Glass podcast

“The Jaguar” has received glowing reviews around the world:

The Rocky of Squash: Little America

The half-hour episode features quite a lot of on-court action. “We’re here for the squash… thing?” says the Pacheco character, Marisol, played by Jearnest Corchado, as she walks into the squash club. There are some quirky, if expected inexactitudes. The urban squash movement, particularly Access Youth Academy, is distilled into something called the “Urban Squash League.” (In the epilogue, it says that Reyna is “now on the board of the Urban Squash League” which is true—she’s on the Professionals Board for SEA.) Marisol plays in the “2009 Ivy Squash Classic” (with its $25 entry fee). In the climatic match, the referee has no iPad or clipboard.

Marisol’s coach, the fictionalized Renato Paiva, is played by John Ortiz. He issues brilliant aphorisms. “Hitting hard will not make you win,” he says. “Winning is a series of good decisions….The ball always comes back and when it does, just make a different decision.”

Perhaps the best is his wonderful ode to ball scuff. “No matter where you play, ” Ortiz says, as he shows Marisol the right side wall, “you must know everything about the court, every angle, every wall. Every one of these marks is a different decision. If you listen, you can hear their stories.”

It has been eleven years since I got to blog about ball scuff, so I am thrilled to return to that font of literary genius:

At the same time, the squash in “The Jaguar” is realistic. Corchado might not have smooth strokes but she makes up for it with grit and determination, much as you’d expect from a hungary, novice player. Her main squash rival in the episode, Charlotte, is played by Jamie Pawlik Gore.

Wonder why Gore’s strokes are so good, how she can smack backhands and figure eight with such ease? She grew up in Baltimore, playing squash at Bryn Mawr School and was ranked in the top thirty nationally; then she played varsity squash at Columbia. Gore knows about urban squash: she volunteers at StreetSquash, and her teammate for three years at Columbia was Reyna Pacheco.