I’ve never played Squash the sport and I barely eat squash the vegetable which is why I felt 100% confident in my ability to pick up Squash…the sport. My confidence was firmly rooted in the handful of tennis lessons I had as a kid and one ill-fated modeling class I took when I was ten which required me to model with a tennis racket. Tennis rackets are EXCELLENT modeling companions.
Where does one play squash in Washington, D.C.? There aren’t a ton of options. You can’t just find any ol’ wall and start hitting balls against it. For one thing you actually need three walls, but we’ll get to that later. Equinox Gym on 22nd Street is the current home to Squash on Fire but they are getting their own facility right across the street which opens this Spring. For now they have four courts in the very fancy Equinox gym whose restrooms offers Kiehl’s products.
I was told my instructor, Elroy Leong, is one of the best! Good. I have a pretty strict policy about learning from the best. Elroy comes from a long line of squash players, a Squash Dynasty if you will. He hails from Malaysia where his father was a police officer/casual Squash player. They had Squash courts near his home which is where his father started playing. Soon after, Elroy and his sister followed. His sister went on to become a world champion Squash player! No pressure, but Elroy absolutely knew what he was doing. A small amount of performance anxiety set in. Traditionally I’m very bad at being bad at things and have a tendency to give up quickly if I don’t immediately excel at something. Elroy, however, is a patient and positive coach who at no point makes you feel like a fool for not being born with inherent knowledge of Squash.
First you have to learn how to hold the Squash racket. It’s kind of like shaking hands if hands were handles. So it’s like shaking handles. You bring the racket back until it’s ear level and tilt your wrist up. Elroy started me off with some simple requests, hit the ball where he tells me. As with all sports Squash has its own set of rules but this first lesson is really all about the basics: grip the racket correctly, control the ball when you hit it, oh and BACKHAND. I’m not very good at backhand but I cheered myself on nonetheless. It’s kind of insane how good you feel simply by making contact with the ball, any ball, regardless of where it goes. You have to look for life’s little victories I suppose.
Squash is extremely fun. It’s way more fun than the tennis lessons I took 26 years ago (weird that means I took them when I was a newborn because I am NOT 36). It’s a high energy workout that you will 100% feel after the fact but not during which is important. Before you know it you’ve burned a thousand calories in one hour and you had a good time doing it. Plus it really helps get your aggression out and I’m fairly certain that’s a necessity over the next 4 years (just chose an arbitrary number there, 4 has no real significance, nope). Plus you get to wear cool protective glasses and make all the references you want to that scene in Big where Tom Hanks plays handball. You can’t lose! Unless you do.