So you want to come out for the 2014-15 Smith College Squash Team?

September 14, 2012

2013.14.Team Photo

Squash is the only non-endurance sport at Smith College where someone can participate without actually having played before – what a great opportunity to experience an important part of college life – intercollegiate athletics (50% of congress peeps played a varsity sport at college:).

Squash Burns More Calories/hr. Than Any Fitness Activity!

  • Squash 748
  • Running (10 mph)  612
  • Spinning 508
  • Tennis 476
  • Aerobics 374
  • Pilates/Power Yoga 245
  • Weight Training

Squash Burns More Calories/hr. Than Any Other Sport!

  • Squash 1034
  • Soccer 862
  • Cross-Country Running 776
  • Basketball 689

*Actually cross-country skiing burns more than squash – but who likes the cold?

Squash is the World’s Healthiest Sport (Forbes Magazine)!

The Smith College squash program is designed to develop smart, fit players as quickly as possible – the team does this better than any other college in the United States.  Smith team members have won the Ann Wetzel Award more than any other team (two years ago Clair won the Award). The team has also been the top academic team both in the CSA and at Smith for the last several years:  The average athlete GPA at Smith is higher than the GPA of non-athletes – there is something about participating in Athletics that allows students to do better academically.

What are the Steps to Come out for the Team?

Step 1:  Show up and play at the Recreation Department’s Racquet Sports Night – it is held Wednesday evenings from 7-8:30 p.m.  and this year is run by the squash team’s Carly Melillo.  You can show up and leave at any time – you can play for 10 minutes or 2 hours.  This is not a Smith Squash Team organized event – however, the facilitators are members of the team, and they can provide you with basic instruction (e.g., how to hold the racquet properly) that will allow you to progress to the point where you can tryout for the team.  Your first step to learning how to play squash is to become competent at British Racketball – attempting squash before becoming good at racketball is actually detrimental to your development and will hinder your attempts to play for the team.

Step 2:  After 2-3 visits to Racquet Sports Night, you may email coach Tim Bacon to express interest in coming out for the team.  Tim will arrange to come down and watch you play/practice and will let you know if it will be realistic for you tryout – or whether you need more development.

Step 3:  As mentioned above, squash is a very physical game and you need to be in shape.  What sort of shape? The level of fitness required depends on your squash ability – the newer you are to the game, the fitter you have to be:

  • be able to run for 30 min. at a minimum 10 min./mile pace – ideally, you should be able to run 3 mi./5K in about 24-25 minutes.
  • be able to to do a set of 12-20 lunges per leg with perfect form – both forward lunges and lateral lunges.
  • be able to hold the plank position for a minimum of 30 sec. – both front and side.

The squash team’s pre-season workouts can be found here.  Ideally, if you intend to come out for the team you need to be doing this training before joining the team.

Step 4.  After you been approved by Tim to tryout for the team, you will need to complete some administrative forms before you can practice with the team.  You must have had a full medical physical by a doctor in the previous six months, and provide written proof (i.e., a letter from your doctor mailed or faced to the Athletic Department).

Step 5. Squash practices start the week of October 28th:  Monday to Thursday 4:30 to 6:45, and Fridays 4-6.  After two weeks of “trying out” the team, you will be asked if you want to “commit” to the team for the the of the season.  The season runs from Oct. 28th to December 10th, and then from Jan. 6th (interterm practices twice a day) to Feb.23rd.  Attendance at all practices is mandatory except if you have an academic class – in which case you will make up the time by attending Racquet Sports night.  Here is the link to last year’s schedule – this year’s will be similar competition schedule for the 2012-13 season.

Questions?  Contact squash coach Tim Bacon @

Happy Squashing!

Boys at Smith College – Episode #7!

April 26, 2012

Only 5-14% of U.S. High School girls will consider a women’s college. At Smith College there are many opportunities to meet boys – in class and out! There are 10,000 male 5-College students close to Smith College – Tim Loftus, a student from UMASS Amherst, who we see here in ESS110 – Intro to Sports Coaching, is one of them.

If  you play squash and are considering a top academic college, why not choose the best of both worlds?  Studies show that academic and leadership opportunities are great at a women’s college:  at Smith you can also socialize with males!

More “Boys at Smith” Episodes:

26 of 30 N.B.A. Teams use the TRX – And the Smith College Squash Team!

March 22, 2012

The TRX by Fitness Anywhere is one of the latest and hottest training tools in use by professional athletes and teams – including 26 of the 30 N.B.A. teams!  Thanks to a donation of several sets of TRXs from one of the father’s of a Smith student – he is VP of Marketing – the Smith Squash team has been using them to get fit and strong for the last two seasons.

The team’s sessions are supervised by Head Coach Tim Bacon, the only U.S. College coach who is a Certified Strength & Training Specialist.  Tim has purchased and uses his own TRX Tactical Force Suspension trainer, and has given TRX workshops for both coaches and students.  According to Bacon “The TRX saves our student-athletes so much time.  Instead of having to make a trip up the the gym we just wrap our TRX around our squash court pillars and get to work!”.

Smith College Squash’ Clair Oblamski Wins CSA 2011 Ann Wetzel Award!

February 29, 2012

The CSA Ann Wetzel Award was given on Saturday to the women’s college player who started playing squash at college – not even a single lesson or game is allowed in order to qualify for the award – Smith college’s Clair Oblamski!

Clair only actually played for two and a half semesters, making her achievement even more remarkable.  She beat last year’s winner, Amherst’s Mimi Bell 3-0 just before her junior semester abroad in Denmark (where she had no access to squash courts). A captain on both the Smith College Tennis and Squash teams, Clair played won her first match at the #7 spot in the fall of 2009, and her last match at the #2 spot, leading her team to a 5-4 win over William Smith in the 2012 CSA Epps Cup final at Harvard University on February 26, 2012.  More specific details on her progress can be found here.  Here is a short interview with Clair after her first college squash match – at the end of her first week of squash:

Clair had beaten the second place nominee, Mount Holyoke College’s Marie Ozanne 3-1 at the Wesleyan Invitational in early December 2011.

Clair interned at StreetSquash in the summer of 2011, and although she is a CSA Scholar-Athlete and a double major in Neuroscience and Psychology, following graduation, she will be seeking a position with one of the NUSEA programs.

A historical note that Smith College has had more Ann Wetzel winners than any other college in the CSA since its inception in 1995:

  • 1998: Karen Carniol (Wesleyan College)**
  • 1999: Kanta Murali (Smith College)
  • 2005: Ashley Kilgore (Smith College)
  • 2006: Jennifer Recht (Smith College)
  • 2012: Clair Oblamski (Smith College)

**Note that Smith’s Patty Jang, a 1998 nominee, did in fact beat the 1998  Wetzel Award winner according to CSA Ranking Rules (2-1 overall having won the most recent match), was a three-year co-captain of the squash team, and an exemplary sport with excellent technique (shot-maker style of play).**

Smith Squash Upsets William Smith 5-4 to Win 2012 Epps Cup!

February 29, 2012

Heading to Harvard by van on Thursday night, the Smith Squash team knew it was going to be a tough battle to win their Division at the 2012 CSA National Championships – the goal was to win the Epps Division and finish with a national ranking of 15.

The University of Virginia was first up at 11:00 a.m. on Friday – thankfully the match had been moved at the last minute from the 9:00 a.m. slot – nobody likes to get up at 6:00 in the morning! UVA fought hard but lost to a superior technical team.  Smith #2 Clair Oblamski fought gamely to lose 11-2 in the fifth (we told her to lie down when it was clear we had won the match but she wouldn’t!), but could not overcome what turned out to be a severe chest and double ear infection:  Smith 8 UVA 1.  Both #7 Catie Blunt and #8 Elena Plesco came through to take their solid opponents in four games.

The Smith Squash Team had met Vassar College on three occasions prior to the Epps Semi-final at 9:00 in the morning on Saturday the 25th.  The team’s last 5-4 win three weeks prior, featured seven matches that went four or five games and really could have gone either way.  As in the last match it was the bottom of Smith’s line-up that saved the day – in particular #8 Elena Plesco’s reversal of her Seven Sister’s result with a gutsy 11-9 finish in the 5th!  Clair was still struggling with breathing and #3 Krain almost cracked her opponent with a narrow 12-10 loss in the third:  Smith 6 Vassar 3 – a reversal of the team’s opening result way back in November at the Guy Fawkes Challenge held at Vassar.

William Smith had won their last encounter with the Smith Squash Team by a score of 6-3 – but with four of the William Smith victories coming in four or five tough games – so the team definitely had a chance.  The middle of William Smith’s line-up had changed with #6 Anne Habecker moving up to the #3 spot, and #4 and #5 shifting down.  Habecker had beaten Smith #6 Jaimi Inskeep 3-1 at the Smith invitational, but she could not withstand the cool, tactical play of #4 Eunice Zhao who calmly stuck to her game plan to take the deciding ninth match in four games.  A great win for Eunice as she had lost at the #4 spot to now #5 Leous Courtney in a very tight 8-11, 12-10, 11-7, 12-10 match – Courtney took Smith’s #5 Queenan (bad heel bruise) in 4 games in this final.

The second key match that turned the tide was Co-Captain #9 Szilvi Kiss’ match in the first round of play.  With William Smith’s former #9 out of their line-up and WS’  Molly Doran moved up to replace her (Szilvi had lost to Molly earlier in the season), Szilvi came back from losing the first game to take it 3-1.

Highlights of this Year’s Howe Cup:

  • 15th National ranking (Division III)! Up two spots from last year.
  • 6 CSA Scholar-Athletes – more than any other team.
  • Clair Oblamski wins the Ann Wetzel Award – best college player who started squash at college.
  • Reversal of two prior losses: Vassar and William Smith.
  • Eight alums came to support – a team record!

2012 CSA Scholar Athletes: Smith College Squash 6 – Ivy’s 4!

February 28, 2012

For the second consecutive year (and also narrowly losing out to Brown in 2009-10) Smith College Squash is the top academic team in the CSA – this year with six scholar-athletes to the nearest opponent’s four (Brown, Harvard, Yale).  To top it off, Smith College also won the Epps Division and their #2 player Clair Oblamski (also a CSA Scholar-Athlete) won the Ann Wetzel Award which goes to the top college player who started playing squash in college.

This is not surprising as Smith College girls came out #1 in the College Prowlers rankings of “smartest college girls” and Smith College leads all U.S. Colleges (including the Ivy’s) in Fulbright Scholars.  The advantages of a women-only education on academic achievement have been well documented, and are described in this post.

Congratulations to all six:

Catie Blunt ’12

Jaimi Inskeep ’12

Szilvi Kiss ’11

Clair Oblamksi ’12

Elena Plesco ’12

Xizhu Zhao ’12

Both Catie and Xizhu have already been accepted to Harvard Graduate School (Chemistry and Engineering respectively) and Jami to Arizona State University (Environmental Science).

Just because you are smart and pretty good at squash does not mean you can’t have fun. Here is the team warming up with Dodgeball 5 min. before their Epps Division Final with William Smith (and yes – the eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted William Smith’s Ryan “MicroChip” Fishback).

Division III Women’s Squash Team Rankings – February 27, 2012 (Final Rankings)

February 28, 2012

This is the third and final publication of the Division III Women’s Squash Team rankings for the 2011-12 season. You can find the CSA Howe Cup final placing here and the rationale for publishing separate Division III rankings here.

A number of schools improved their end-of-season ranking by one position.  A special shout-out to Wesleyan University (#10 to #8) and Williams College (#4 to #2) for moving up two spots by virtue of their play at the 2012 CSA Howe Cup Championships!  All three of the CSA’s women-only colleges improved their ranking by one position during post-season play: Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Wellesley Colleges.

  1. Trinity College (1)
  2. Williams (4)
  3. Middlebury College (2)
  4. Bates College (3)
  5. Mount Holyoke College (6)
  6. Franklin and Marshall College (7)
  7. Hamilton College (6)
  8. Wesleyan University (10)
  9. Amherst College (9)
  10. Bowdoin College (8)
  11. Colby College (11)
  12. Tufts University (13)
  13. Wellesley College (14)
  14. Connecticut College (12)
  15. Smith College (16)
  16. William Smith College (15)
  17. Vassar College (17)
  18. St. Lawrence University (18)
  19. Haverford College (19)
  20. Johns Hopkins University (20)
  21. Rochester, University of (21)

College Squash 2012 Howe Cup Preview

February 28, 2012

The Smith College Squash Team heads into the 2012 Howe Cup with several formidable challenges:

Tough Opponents.  Seconded seeded Smith (ranked 16th in the country) has a very tough path to the Epps Cup Championship to be held at Harvard University this coming weekend, February 24-26, 2012.  Club teams are always an unknown quantity as their rankings are notoriously inaccurate due to few matches played – the team was blindsided in the second round last year by eventual winner Georgetown – this year’s first round opponent is the University of Virginia.

If the team gets past UVA they will play Seven Sister’s opponent Vassar.  Smith lost their season opener to Vassar 6-3, and squeaked by a very tough squad on February 4th at the Seven Sister’s Squash Championship by the narrowest of margins: 5-4.  Here is the score card from that match – note that eight of the matches went four or five games:

If the Smith team gets by Vassar in the semi-finals on Saturday, they will probably face #1 seed William Smith in the Finals.  Smith beat WS by a score of 7-2 at the Wesleyan Invitational in early December, but they had added four players into their line-up (most from Junior Semester abroad) by the time they beat Smith 6-3 at the Smith Invitational on January 28.  The team will have to play their best to reverse this score.  Here is the score card from that match – note that four of the WS wins went the full five games – as did Jen Krain’s win at the #3 position:

Injuries & Sickness

Most teams have minor injuries and sickness at this point in the season – and the Smith Squash team is no exception:

  • Senior #7 Catie Blunt is recovering from a vertebral fracture (two cortisone shots in January) and so has seen only limited practice time and is under strict instructions not to run for the ball!
  • #5 sophomore Helen Queenan has had a bad heel calcaneous bruise since Seven Sisters and has also seen limited practice (but lots of bike intervals);
  • 2012 CSA Wetzel nominee (best player who started at College) Senior Co-Captain #2 Clair Oblamski just picked up a severe chest and painful ear infection and will be a doubtful starter for Friday morning.

Last year the team defeated Wellesley 5-4 in the 3rd/4th playoff on Sunday – despite the challenges the team is hoping to go all the way and improve to take first in the Epps Division (for a 15th Division III National ranking).

Smith Squash’ Clair Oblamski Nominated for CSA 2012 Ann Wetzel Award!

February 24, 2012

The College Squash Association’s Ann Wetzel Award goes to the best female college squash player who started playing squash at college:  each nominee must provide an attestation that they did not even hit for a few minutes during high school.  The criteria for the Award are:

  • Outstanding growth technically as a player (records and results);
  • A sound understanding of the rules of squash;
  • Positive on-court poise and demeanor.

Clair started playing squash during her second year at Smith College in November 2009 – a member (and currently a Captain) of the tennis team, Clair came out for her first squash practice on Monday, November 2, 2009 – and played in her first match six days later.  Clair’s tennis skills got her to the number 7 spot on the Smith Varsity Ladder for the team’s first match against Wellesley College – Clair won 11-6, 11-2, 11-5 against Lindsay Rico in helping her team win the season opener by a score of 7-2.

Two and a half years later,  her last regular season college match was also a win against Wellesley on February 4, 2012 at the number 2 position, an extremely tough 11-9, 10-12, 11-7, 12-14, 11-9 against Emma Haley at the 2012 Seven Sisters Squash Championship at Vassar College. Although Clair has played at the #2 spot for most of the 2011-12 season, she does have two wins playing at the #1 position:  a 3-0 over William Smith’s Caroline Moxley at the Smith Invitational, and a win over Haverford’s #1 Caroline Nightingale at the 2012 Pioneer Valley Invitational on January 20th (3-2).  Video of this match is available was taken by CSA Executive Director Michael Bello.

This progression from being the weakest player on the team during her first practice, all the way to playing in the number 1 position in her final year is all the more amazing when one considers that she did not play in the Spring semester of the 2010-11 season as she was abroad studying in Denmark – so only 2.5 seasons worth of squash!

In addition to improving her playing effectiveness, Clair has also made great strides with her technique as evidenced by video and photos from each part of her career.  As recently as January 2010, Clair was still working on her squash wrist and cocked wrist position as seen in the photo below.

Her continuing hard work has paid off, and at the end of her college career, her technique, including her grip and backhand wrist position, is extremely solid. In the video below Clair demonstrates a great cocked wrist and open face playing difficult balls off the backwall (January, 2012):

There are two key matches that clearly demonstrate Clair’s growth as a player.  The first is her match against Mount Holyoke College’s #7 Marie Ozanne, the second Ann Wetzel nominee for 2012.  In an extremely sporting gesture, MHC Coach Allen Fitzsimmons suggested that Clair and Marie play at the number 10 exhibition spot since they would be unlikely to meet during regular season play.  In a very hard fought and sporting match, Clair won in four (8-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-8).  In this and other video of Clair her positive on-court poise and demeanor are clear – she turns away quickly from mistakes, accepts officials’ decisions quickly without dispute, and generally has an upbeat attitude throughout a match:

The second key match is from December 2010 in a dual match against Amherst College.  Amherst Coach Robson, in a sporting gesture, sat a couple of players from the top of his line-up, so Clair, playing at #2 got to play the 2011 Ann Wetzel Award winner Mimi Bell (usually #4-#6) – Clair won the match 3-0.  Here is the some video from the final game:

Here is the first match video available of Clair – another match against Wellesley in December 2009 at the Wesleyan Invitational (match information to be confirmed):

Here is the first stroke analysis video available for Clair from mid-November 2009 – racquet face pretty flat on both sides, and definitely not a cocked wrist on the backhand:

Here is Clair’s college squash playing record – note the improvement in both playing position and winning record:

Clair’s knowledge of the rules is excellent – as a #2, she has officiated the #1 players for the past two seasons without a complaint.  It is evident from the videos of her play that she is clear on when to ask for a let and when not to.  In her match with Ozanne one can observe her break a string and then simply reach outside the door without leaving the court to pick up her second racquet – resuming play immediately.

In addition to the Ann Wetzel criteria Clair has grown as leader on the squash team and in the squash community.  despite being away from the team for her Junior Spring semester Clair was appointed Senior Co-Captain and has done a great job assuming leadership of the team.  She is also a great role model on the academic side with a GPA qualifying her as a CSA Scholar-Athlete.

She spent the summer of 2011 as a non-paid intern at StreetSquash, and is hoping to obtain a position with a NUSEA program upon graduation.

To sum up – Clair Oblamski is a very worthy candidate for the CSA 2012 Ann Wetzel Award.


Division III Women’s Team Squash Rankings – February 12, 2012

February 18, 2012

Here is the second published ranking for Division III Women’s Squash Teams (click here for the CSA combined Division I and III rankings).  Click here to read the rational for publishing a separate ranking for squash-playing Division III schools. Bates dropping to #2 from #3 is the main change.

  1. Trinity College
  2. Middlebury College
  3. Bates College
  4. Williams College
  5. Mount Holyoke College
  6. Hamilton College
  7. Franklin and Marshall College
  8. Bowdoin College
  9. Amherst College
  10. Wesleyan University
  11. Colby College
  12. Connecticut College
  13. Tufts University
  14. Wellesley College
  15. William Smith College
  16. Smith College
  17. Vassar College
  18. St. Lawrence University
  19. Haverford College
  20. Johns Hopkins University
  21. Rochester, University of