Balls to the Wall: Squashi-rella
by Alan Stapleton



March 12, 2015

Once upon a time, (when parents gave their children strange names,) there lived a sporting family who lived a sporty life in suburbia. Dad, was a good tennis player and Mom, a top hockey player so,  daughter, Squashi-rella, had been blessed with a wonderful eye for any ball-sport. Tragically, one day, Mom, running first wave for a short corner, was struck on the head, and died. Dad and Squashi-rella were left wife and mother- less. Dad later re- married a rich divorcee who lived in a castle. She had 3 daughters and would do anything for her beloved children. When they started playing squash, she transformed the torture cells in the castle’s dungeon into a squash court. A different type of torture cell, one might say.

The daughters were all similar but very different. Perfectricia was a tall, beautiful girl who sought perfection in everything she did, and when things didn’t go her way, she would become petulant, and unpleasant. Competalisa, was an organised amiable soul. But when she took to the court, a schizophrenic competitive shroud dropped over her, and winning-at-all-costs became the name-of-the game. Annalasia, was super- talented, but also spoiled and lazy. A great friendly player, but put her into competitive situations, and her mind would go moggily agog.

Everybody moved into the castle, and Squashi-rella, who had never played squash before, started playing but problems soon began as she started competing and sometimes almost beating the sisters. Jealousy set in and Squashi-rella was stopped from playing.

So Squashi-rella, whose room was next to the courts, carried on with her other sports and when the courts were quiet, she would sneak in and practise on her own. Using disciplines she had learned through other sports, she developed her skills to such an extent that her racquet, an old 170g, fat, multi-gripped monster became a wand in her hand. Always a fighter, she also developed a calm mental toughness and through her “hockeyed” peripheral awareness, she was tactically, very astute.

One day, a tournament was announced where the opportunity to play and travel overseas was on offer. Entries poured in and even Annalasia, practised madly to prepare. Maybe too hard, as on the day before the tournament, she tripped, and tore her Achilles tendon. Ever-ambitious for her daughters, Mother had involved herself on the tournament committee, and to prevent another talented player from entering, she  schemed, and  knowing  Squashi-rella’s  unknown ability, she hoped that  she  could  cause some upsets to ease the path for her daughters.

Squashi-rella   was delighted to play, but also had a hockey match on the 1st day of the tournament. Very much a team-player, she played and then hailed a pumpkin-coloured taxi and made it just in time, to rush on court to take on the No 1 seed, wearing her hockey skirt, rolled-down socks and dangerously…..No  Eyewear! Within minutes, she had lost the first game .Everyone was asking, "Who is this girl? ", “Why is she wasting everyone's time?” But as the match progressed, the crowd became quieter as Squashi-rella overcame her nerves and volleying deep and taking the ball early, she forced her opponent into errors to win 3-2.
The tournament rushed by with Squashi-rella causing upsets and gaining the admiration of all with her smiley, calm disposition. Perfectricia and Competalisa were also winning and a showdown in the semis, between Competalisa and Squashi-rella beckoned. Mother and daughters feared the worst. Plans were put in place and every opportunity was taken to make life difficult for Squashi-rella. Breakfast was forgotten, extra chores ordered and dad delayed, resulting in another mad rush to the courts. Bewildered, Squashi-rella found herself 0-2 down. Quietly, she sat in the break, trying to compose herself. Mysteriously, out of the crowds, a handsome young coach emerged, and whispered advice in Squashi-rella’s ear. Back on court, she slowed her game and looped everything into the backhand corner, gradually, clawing herself back to 2-2. Again, the handsome coach appeared with more words of wisdom. The 5th was an 11-0 white-wash!

 Perfectricia, was nigh- perfect in her semi to set up a tantalizing final against her unseeded stepsister. The crowd, whose hearts had been stolen by Squashi-rella’s sporting personality, buzzed with anticipation. Na´ve to the nerves of a final, she settled into her stride and Perfectricia, with everything to lose, errored herself into a 5-11 loss.

Ordered by officials to wear glasses, Mother had given Squashi-rella a pair that were cracked, ill-fitting and misted up during play. With Squashi-rella having to constantly stop, clean, and re-align the glasses, Perfectricia complained about time-wasting and the inexperienced Referee asked Squashi-rella to continue without the glasses.

By now, Perfectricia had found her rhythm and it all seemed a bridge-too-far for the waif-like Squashi-rella. Down 1-2, she sat disconsolate, trying to fathom a plan to counter her step-sister’s power. Again, the handsome coach appeared, and whispered something to Squashi-rella.  Mixing up her game, and varying her pace, she rushed into an 8-3 lead. The match hovered in the balance. Then…. disaster struck.

From a looping Squashi-rella lob, Perfectricia, now desperate, attempted a volleyed reverse angle. THWACK !  The ball speared into Squashi-rella's eye. She crumbled. Within seconds, her eye had swelled into a red-blue blood-gelled lump. She was rushed to hospital where sadly the doctors could do nothing to save her eye. Her sporting future lay in one-eyed darkness.

But all was not lost. The mysterious handsome coach, so taken by Squashi-rella, visited her daily and as she recovered, he offered to teach her to coach. Gradually, she gained acclaim as an astute tactical coach who understood the individual psyche of her players. The step-sisters continued with their squash, with moderate success and Step-mom, realizing that maybe Squashi-rella held the key to her daughters’ progress, asked her to take over as step-sisters’ coach.

Squashi-rella jumped at the opportunity, and working at the mental side of their games, amazingly, within months, their games were transformed.  Perfectricia, went on to become a world-ranked player, Competalisa , competed provincially, then became a respected administrator and referee, and Annalasia, also started coaching at beginner level - encouraging all to play for the love of the game.  Step-mother filled with guilt, poured her riches into establishing a world-wide drive for the legislation of squash eyewear and the development of a fashionable all-purpose range of glasses, labelled, Squash-Eye. Squashi-rella? She became The Face of the Squash-Eye Brand. Together, she and her mysteriously handsome coach travelled the world, coaching and promoting Squash and their brand.

One day, they made a mistake, had to get married, but they did live happily ever after.


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Alan Stapleton – a passionate sports-mad squashaholic , who was introduced to the game by bribery of chips and Coke while his father dabbled with dobbly trickle boasts, and then converted at a clinic held by the legendary Jonah Barrington. While never reaching dizzy heights as a player, he did play representative/provincial and 1st league squash, and via a combination of playing, and coaching at all levels , and administering, he has become addicted to the beautiful highs that this amazing sport can take one to, day, or night, without fear of rain, wind, heat, hail or snow, and irrespective of the level of skill. Now, through his love of writing, he tries to “spread the word” and some nuggets of wisdom gleaned from his squash journey. Married with 2 children, this former teacher, now Marketing Manager, lives in Port Elizabeth, South  Africa.