Squash in pieces

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Senior Madison Miles returns the ball in a squash match. Courtesy of Ms. Allamargot

The stamina-fueled game of squash is played at a persistent and aggressive pace and requires speed and power. The craft and precision required to whack a ball in a confined area is a skill many Upper School student-athletes at Convent of the Sacred Heart are working to master.
With the addition of six squash courts to the new athletic facility, Sacred Heart also gained one of the most accomplished squash players in the world, Varsity Squash Coach Ms. Celia Allamargot.
Coach Allamargot established her career at Sacred Heart by initially giving squash lessons to a Sacred Heart faculty member. She had the opportunity to obtain the coaching position when the school needed a squash instructor for the recently added courts.
Coach Allamargot entered the National Training Center in the South of France when she was 16 years old. She competed on the Junior Tour in tournaments all over Europe, and in college and won the Individual and Team Nationals four years in a row. Coach Allamargot qualified to represent France at the World University Championships as a product of her success in college.
“To be part of such a big tournament, with students from all over the world, playing for their country was amazing,” Coach Allamargot said.
In the following years, she continued to play professional squash while entering tournaments in 25 countries.
Coach Allamargot’s continuous efforts to magnify the Sacred Heart squash team’s success have been apparent during the 2015-16 season.
Convent of the Sacred Heart hosted a tri-match against Rye Country Day School and Westminster School Saturday, January 30. The Sacred Heart squash team beat Rye Country Day School 6-1 and also beat Westminster School 7-0.
“These were great matches to build our team confidence and a good reminder that we can compete with all schools in the league,” senior and varsity squash team member Madison Miles said.
The Sacred Heart squash team previously lost to Rye Country Day School two weeks before, and lost to Westminster School last year.

Senior Madison Miles returns the ball in a squash match. Courtesy of Ms. Allamargot
Senior Madison Miles returns the ball in a squash match.
Courtesy of Ms. Celia Allamargot

“In the match against Rye Country Day School, I played Ashley Manning and lost in five games. I was okay with my loss because the week before I had lost in three games; its always a good feeling knowing that I left it all on the court and was able to change certain things to make it work in the next match,” Madison said.
The fairly new squash program at Sacred Heart has attracted and filled two teams of interested, athletic girls, according to Coach Allamargot. The art of the game is still undiscovered by many non-squash players due to its lack of popularity in the area.
According to Coach Allamargot, a player’s individual effort contributes notably to the team’s success in a full match. The top seven players’ results count in a team match. Usually, matches are played simultaneously on three or four courts. Players from opposite teams with the same rank compete against each other. A team would need at least four of their players to have won their individual matches in order to win the final encounter.
The sequence of events in a full squash match begins with the team warmups. Following the warmup, a player spins the racket to determine who will serve first, similar to flipping a coin in alternate sports.
To commence an individual match, the server must hit into a certain area of the court. A player must have at least one foot in the service box. The ball needs to hit the front wall between the service line and the outside line. With each won point, the server switches sides of the court. Competitors are required to win three games of 11 to win a match.
Squash is a sport that has an undetermined length of play and can continue for a long time at a fast pace. Madison stated the importance of being consistent as a squash player in order to outwork an opponent. 
“One way to combat a loss in focus is to mentally prepare off court for at least 20 minutes before a match. This can consist of reviewing your opponent’s technique with your coach or thinking about the things you need to work on—anything to get in the competitive zone,” Madison said.
Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays, the squash team completes 30 minutes of fitness and off-court training in the new fitness center. The squash team utilizes the fitness room to work on cardio while they use the yoga studio for core sessions. The team room allows for video analysis. 
A typical practice schedule for the team is 90 minutes of fitness mixed with squash drills and conditioning games. Cardio, core, circuit training, technical and moving drills, condition games, match play, and video analysis are incorporated in everyday practice in order to maximize and improve each player’s potential, according to Coach Allamargot. 
Coach Allamargot explains that a strong squash player must have talented reactive skills and physical and intellectual stamina. 
“Squash is like a chess game, it isn’t only physical as you need to think of your next move all the time,” Coach Allamargot said.
This development of skills in squash starts with the basics. Learning how to hold the racquet properly, positioning on the court, and the coordination of eye and ball are various aspects and abilities that will help  develop a player’s game.
“You need to be able to use both your physique and your brain to be a top squash player. You have to handle fast pace rallies but still be able to think and stay focused to be consistent and move your opponent around the court to put the ball away and finish the point,” Coach Allamargot said.
According to Coach Allamargot, training that involves getting the ball consistently in the same area will improve a player’s ball control. The slightest change in the wrist, or a turn in a player’s shoulders can make or break the way a shot finishes.
“After that you start learning more shots, from different angles and different areas of the court until you master it all,” Coach Allamargot said.
The team dynamic in squash is very different from most sports. There are challenging matches throughout the season that determine a ranking system for the girls on the squash ladder. The top eight players compete at the varsity level. During practice, the team trains as a whole because of the ladder fluidity. Squash captain and senior Catherine Keating explains that the coexistence of healthy competition and team chemistry among the squash team is crucial for success. 
“At the end of the day we respect each other’s strengths and ability to play. Playing against teammates creates this sense of pride and respect in my opinion,” Catherine said.
Eighth graders Katie Keller and Erin O’Connor are currently playing at the varsity level this year for the first time. Katie is seated second, followed by Erin, who claims the third rank. Both continue the game outside of school.
“Squash is an individual sport so it is a priority for me to make sure our individual players compete not for themselves, but for the team first,” Coach Allamargot said.
-Mae Briody, Staff Writer