Yale University and Trinity College stood even at 4-4, and Head Coach John Roberts’s match was tied 2-2. Roberts was about to make Yale history. For the previous 13 years, Trinity College had a record of 252 wins and zero losses. Withstanding the pressure and definitively winning the match, Roberts ended the longest unbeaten streak in any intercollegiate sport in the nation’s history. Roberts’s win made headlines and earned him and his team an article in “The New York Times.”
Coach Roberts began playing squash seriously when he was ten years old because his father played squash.
Roberts said, “We would all come down to the squash club with him and knock around on the court ourselves, and when we were about age ten, we started to take it more seriously. It’s just kind of ended up that we were in an environment where our school was close to our house, and our club was very close to our house as well, so we were able to walk to and from and play as much as we wanted.”
Roberts went on to represent Ireland at the Junior Europeans and entered Yale University as one of the highest-recruited players in Ireland. While at Yale, Roberts was elected captain and played third, fourth, and fifth seed on the team at different times.
Currently, to supplement his coaching at Andover, Roberts continues to play in professional doubles tournaments to satisfy his competitive nature.
Having coached summer camps, private and group lessons, and teams, Roberts not only brings first hand experience of what it means to be a college player but also a wealth of coaching experience to Andover.
Roberts said, “Definitely the team coaching and the school coaching is [the] part that I am the most passionate about because I like working with kids that are at that stage in their life — when they’re trying to balance their academics, the squash side of things, the social side of things. It’s definitely a very interesting time in their lives, and it’s great to be a part of.”
Roberts’s experience has helped inspire the players on the team. In the first two weeks of the season, the team has developed respect for him and look up to him for advice, according to Alex Bernhard ’19.
Bernhard said, “Coach has been incredible; he played competitively in college and beyond and knows a lot about the game. He’s brought a much more hands-on feel to the game, helping us with our technique and even hitting with the guys occasionally.”
Captain David Tsai ’18 said, “The most important thing I have personally learned from Coach Roberts is how to control the mental side of the game. He has taught me to remember that squash is just a game and can be played at a much higher level if you have control of your mind. The wisdom he has gained throughout his years of playing high school and competitive squash have been extremely helpful to our boys.”
Roberts said, “On the squash court I tend to try to teach them to become a little bit more disciplined and patient throughout rallies and matches.”
Roberts has also applied his knowledge of game play to the team and taught the players many applicable game strategies.
Sean Kim ’18 said, “Coach Roberts has taught us that in high school squash, it is less about the attacking shots but more about your overall game plan and your willingness to win. With the pressure of winning for your team, it is much… safer to play a safe game with less errors and focus more on moving the opponent around rather than ending points. He has been tremendously helpful in explaining to us not only what we need to do, but how to do it.”
According to Roberts, immense support from one’s teammates, whether it be in playing, training, or off the court, is what makes high school and college squash so special.
Roberts added, “I definitely hope they learn a lot, but most importantly, I think it is important for them to have fun and really enjoy the experience from competing in high school squash and the camaraderie. The whole aspect of being on a team is definitely so special, and I really hope they enjoy their four years of high school squash and hopefully move on to college squash where they’ll have a similar experience.”
Roberts hopes Andover Boys Squash will improve on an individual basis and that it will qualify for the B Division of High School Nationals. Furthermore, he hopes the team will play well throughout the tournament and finish the season as one of the top 20 in the country.