Armed with a new coach, squash aims to maintain dominance

Quintin Campbell ’21 in a 9-0 win over Penn Charter, February 12, 2021 – Ethan Lee ’24

Mr. Alex Stait, the new squash coach, has operated at the upper level of his sport for quite some time. Born in England, Mr. Stait played professionally in the World Tour before he retired and started coaching. He coached at Agnes Irwin for seven years before Haverford, where he watched the team go from 31st in the country to second. 

     Mr. Stait also coaches the US men’s junior team in the world championships each year, an event in which he was able to coach many of Haverford squash players. As Mr. Stait adjusts to Haverford, he hopes to continue the team’s success while fostering a strong sense of unity. 

     “[Haverford] is one of the best teams in the country, which is a great thing, but also brings out other issues at times,” Mr. Stait said. “My role is really to make sure that [the competitiveness] doesn’t go over the top and to make sure that we’re all fighting together.”

     Indeed, the team has not only benefited from the extensive experience that Mr. Stait brings, but also from his leadership and team-building capabilities. His push for the team to “fight together” has transformed the culture from previous years.

     “Before, the team wasn’t that close together, but now, since Alex [Stait] and Coach Walters have come, we’ve really been able to become stronger as a team,” Sixth Form captain Matthew Wang said. 

     The team’s recent match against EA, which they won 9-0, is one example of the benefits of the team environment. 

     Wang said, “There were some tight matches [against EA], but that support that we’ve garnered together really pushes us to be an excellent team.”

     Still, team bonding alone does not win matches. Coach Stait wants the players to be at the top of their game, and one way he does this is by making sure they are physically the best they can be. 

     “In my opinion, there’s no excuse for not being fit. You might not be as good as your opponent—they might be better than you—but fitness and that sort of thing is just about hard work, and we won’t be losing matches because we haven’t worked hard enough,” Mr. Stait said. 

Andrew Minnis ’21 in a 9-0 win over Penn Charter, February 12, 2021 – Ethan Lee ’24

     Team members have embraced the drills and focus on fitness. 

     “I feel like [the drills and fitness] are really helping my game in general,” Fourth Form squash player Owen Yu said. “I feel like I’ve just been improving a lot more since school squash started.”

     In addition to coaching the upper school team, one of Mr. Stait’s more long-term goals is to make squash a more accessible sport. He described how, in England, squash is an inexpensive sport, with “a lot of different social demographics playing.” He said that it “couldn’t be any more different from here.” 

“I feel like I’ve just been improving a lot more since school squash started.”

Owen Yu ’23

     One reason for Haverford squash’s dominance is simply that we have access to squash courts and coaches while most schools around the country don’t. With US Squash, Mr. Stait is working to change that; one specific goal in the future is for the school team to partner with SquashSmarts, a free squash club in Philadelphia for public school students. 

     At Agnes Irwin, Mr. Stait was able to coach three girls who had never joined a private squash club and turn them into varsity players. He wishes to do the same here and hopes that students “who aren’t members of private clubs will be able to come here and play.”