U.S. College Squash Coaches Communicate Professionally!

The topic is how best to organize matches at U.S. College Squash Round Robins in a way that meets the competition needs of teams without overburdening tournament organizers with last minute requests and changes once the draw is done.  Smith College Coach Tim Bacon fired the first salvo and Middlebury’s John Illig has replied thoughtfully (John is an author of several books).  This ability to debate in a collegial manner is a key leadership skill, an essential part of moving the U.S. College Squash game forward. 

Please leave a comment in the “Comment” box at the bottom of the page.

Smith College’s Tim Bacon @ Monday – November 15, 2010 3:23 PM

Hi Everyone,

Personally I am happy with Smith’s schedule (we would love to play another two matches anytime on sat. or Sun. if anyone ends up being stuck).

My thoughts on organizing round robins:

I think it is reasonable for a coach to a) submit arrival and departure times with their entry; b) a list of desired opponents.

At that point (after the initial entry is submitted) – I think it is the polite and professional thing to withdraw from the process of getting involved in the scheduling of matches – especially once the “draw” has been made.

I long for the days of old when there was no micro-management of schedules by coaches, and the round robin schedules were the same from year to year and dual matches were simply flip-flopped.  I understand that teams can/have shifted their “grouping” within the rankings with time – but I think we have a duty to be “reasonable” with our requests.

I would like to single out Chip Fishback from William Smith as a coach who has never once (in 16 years of running the Smith/MHC Invitational) ever commented or complained about the schedule he has received (and I never have either, no matter what the strength of adversary, number of times played, or inconvenience of the hour of play/travel). (There may be others who I have missed).

Just my thoughts,


Hello Again (Monday – November 15, 2010 5:19 PM),

I just want to be clear that did not intend to single out any coach or team in particular – that my comments were addressed to ALL coaches on this e-mail (but I think could apply equally to all CSA members).

Also to be clear, my comments have come from observations over the last few years from tournaments that I have and have NOT been involved in (thanks to indiscriminate e-mails to the entire membership from certain organizers about their tournaments:) including the Howe Cup, our National Championship.

Again just my personal thoughts,


Middlebury Coach John Illig @ Monday – November 15, 2010 8:04 PM

Hi to Tim, and all,

Well, we all rely heavily on the round robins, that’s for sure.  And we all know how much time the host sites put into arranging the schedules, and we’re grateful for that.  In terms of micro-managing the schedules at the events, I feel like I’ve heard CSA’s powers-that-be specifically ask we coaches to attempt in the regular season to play matches against teams that are at around our same levels (ballpark) so that reliable info will exist when it comes time to placing each of our teams in the proper flights for men’s and women’s Team Nationals.

So, we carefully schedule a few key matches during the season that will pit us against same-level teams.  The rest of our schedules then fall into place around those 1-2-3-4 key “flight-determining” matches.  The flight-determining matches stand out on our schedules and we know what’s in store.  It then becomes rough to have one of those key matches added at a round robin when we weren’t expecting it and weren’t welcoming it. Another unwanted circumstance at a round robin is in the case of being asked to play a team that we might already run the risk of playing 3, 4 or 5 times in a single season (home, away, at a conference championship, at Team Nationals, and then again at a randomly-scheduled round robin). For those two reasons we coaches might wish to request of round robin organizers the teams that we desire NOT to play.  Determining who we want NOT to play can sometimes be more important to us than expressing who it is that we want to play.  Strange, right?

Certainly if we coaches micro-manage round robins, we can make life hell for the host organizer, and perhaps that’s not fair.  The beauty of having an exact round robin weekend schedule that meets our individual teams’ needs comes at what cost to the tournament host?  Our individual match needs are met at the Yale Invites, and perhaps part of the problem is that events like that have spoiled us (Yale has many courts at their disposal, and they can accommodate the various needs of many teams).  The CSA has geographically diverse institutions, and it’s difficult for outlying teams such as Navy, Denison, Stanford, Colby and the like to get in their full season schedules without the all-important round robins.

It might be polite and professional if we coaches simply give our arrival and departure times to the various round robin organizers and then just take the schedule as it comes, but the other side of that coin is that if we coaches feel that our needs aren’t met by any particular round robin, then the hosts run the risk of losing disgruntled teams in future years.  The Wesleyan Round Robin has always been a wonderful event, and I’ve looked forward to it and have counted on it as a staple on my schedule for the past 20 years.  I certainly look forward to it again this year.  The event has morphed from a women’s-team-only event played on 15 courts to a men’s and women’s event played on 8 courts.  The personality of events can change like that based on factors such as dual-team coaches and facility changes.

Athletic Directors and S.I.D.’s hate our sport when we have seemingly in-season fluid scheduling uncertainties (sometimes volleyball and tennis has this, too), and for the good of our intercollegiate squash game we should all try communicate well.  One question is whether consistency exists.  If Round Robin A’s philosophy has it that is everything is set in advance by coaches who dictate their exact needs (Yale’s RRs),  and Round Robin B’s philosophy has it that coaches submit arrival and departure times and then take the schedule as it comes, then we should recognize those differences and make our decisions accordingly.  Longing for days of old is fine, but the ball has changed, the court-size has changed, the scoring has changed, coaching staffs have changed, and the association is growing and is going through constant change.  Certainly none of us desire to put Shona through any extra strain in this.

Those are just some of my thoughts, and it’s not my attention to offend anyone!


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