A Frenchie in the USA!
Everything is different and everything is done in a much bigger/larger way than in France or even in Europe. The way of life is obviously a main topic but I will stick to squash as it’s why you’re probably reading this article.
Before moving to the US, I was expecting things to be similar to France: adult lessons during the week days and kids mostly on Wednesday afternoon and weekends for junior clinics. Well I quickly realized it was different. Here you mostly give lessons to kids which are mainly private lessons, and only a few adults are taking lessons on weekends or before starting work, which occasionally means 6 in the morning …!
This was my biggest nightmare, and still is actually! I have never been a morning person and when I saw the club full of people working out, I asked myself if I was really lazy or if they were out of their mind. Car park full, spinning room full, zumba packed, and all this while listening to loudest music I’ve ever heard. I was wondering how you could be that awake to do a physical activity at 6am … well, unfortunately I had to experience it myself on a squash court. What can I say?! You have to do it, so you do it. And then you go back to sleep J
We also have schools during the week in the afternoon. US middle and high school championships are big in the US, so they come and train during the season -from November to February- The kids are aiming to be part of their school team so you can see some rivalry sometimes but it also makes them improve a lot as they always want to do better than the others.
This has been a great experience for me, to be able to work with the schools, see their improvement through the season, and coach them. It brings something different to our sport which you don’t necessarily get from individual coaching.
US Junior Tour
For the kids playing competitively on the US junior tour, most of the tournaments are from October to March with the Nationals ending the season.
With the amount of players now playing in the country, US Squash has to organize three national championships. The US Nationals (closed) which group the top 32 players of each age group, then you have the US Silver Nationals for those ranked #33 or below, and then the US Bronze Nationals mostly for beginners.
This system allows all the kids to compete at their own level. But it also means a lot of coaching during weekends. Most of the tournaments are on the East Coast, although more are appearing on the West coast where it’s getting bigger. Thus a lot of travel!
As I’m still playing on the WSA tour, I have to travel for my own tournaments but still coach junior tournaments. Our program, FASSP Squash (Finesse, Accuracy, Strength, Speed, Perception) is big and we have loads of good players so every weekend it’s a minimum of 15 kids to coach all over the country.
So far I’ve been to most of the big cities on the East coast and this season I have experienced California with one tournament in San Diego and one in San Francisco. I still can’t believe that you can fly 6 hours and still be in the same country, distances in the US are way different!
If you look on the map where New York and Boston are it seems close-by, but as the US is so big it still takes 3 hours 40 minutes by train, whereas you could almost cross France from South to North in the same amount of time.
All these things are really different for me. I grew up on an island for most of my life (Reunion Island, you may have heard of it associated with Thierry Lincou), which could fit 3833 times in the US!!!! Even though I lived in France for a few years, the US is still 14 times bigger. So let’s just say that we don’t have the same perspective on distances… J
This experience has been truly enjoyable so far. You get to know the kids, and thus you can work with them the whole year, helping them to go through a lot of different emotions and states. Whichever level they are, they trust you and you want to give them the best to succeed. Most of them will go to college as soon as they’re done with high school. A lot of kids are training and playing squash to be able to enter college.
That’s the biggest difference with Europe. There, juniors would probably try to turn pro.
That’s the way it is here, squash is played more with an academic future in mind rather than a pro career. But at the end of the day, as my co-workers say, “we do it for the kids”!