Elected as a Lower to be Captain for the 2018-2019 season, Skyler Spaulding’s ’20 commitment to encouraging her teammates and facilitating a welcoming team environment are important qualities of her leadership, according to her teammates.
“I adore Skyler, and I am grateful that she is such a reliable, effective, and inspiring leader for her teammates. Skyler is dedicated and determined — she makes us all work harder,” wrote Head Coach Jennifer Elliott ’94 in an email to The Phillipian.
Charlotte Toogood ’20 said, “Last year, Skyler was very welcoming towards me as a new player. She was always smiling and very encouraging for me like always inviting me on the court to play with her in the beginning and eventually we became really close friends over the course of the season.”
Spaulding picked up squash after watching her brother play in college when she was eight years old. She traveled to play competitively in tournaments where she was able to better her playing abilities, as there were not many opportunities in her hometown of Portland, Maine. When she came to Andover, Spaulding was able to be on a team for the first time, which she appreciated.
“I’ve definitely improved because I am playing a lot more people my age and my level, because in Portland, there’s not a lot of kids. It’s just relatively new programs in Portland, so not a lot of skilled players yet, but it’s getting there. Just playing every day has helped a lot,” said Spaulding.
Spaulding has competed in tournaments such as the Italian Junior Open and the Portuguese Junior Open, according to teammate Mariam Elkheshen ’21. According to Elkheshen, Spaulding is a respectful opponent and an encouraging presence on the court.
Elkheshen said, “She is a really good opponent to play with. We both enjoy playing with each other because there is a good game going on and even if you’re feeling down, she’ll just try to talk to you, saying like, ‘It’s a bad day, everyone has bad days’ and like ‘you’ll be better tomorrow.’ So she just tries to work it through and help you with it so you feel much better than feeling disappointed and down.”
“Every day she’s super pumped up for training, she always has a smile on her face, always encouraging people during warmup, during their games, during practice. She always has some good advice to tell us before a game or before practice. She’s really good at helping out some of the new players with technique and general positivity and helping them get accustomed to the Varsity team and what to expect and stuff. She’s done a really really good job, and it’s been awesome to see her take on this leadership role because I think she’s really thriving as a leader of the team, and it’s going to be a really fun season I think,” said Toogood.
Elliott wrote, “She respects her opponent, herself, and the rules of the game. All of the while, Skyler makes practice, road trips, and matches fun. Skyler is kind and thoughtful, and she seeks ways to support her teammates on and off the court.”
Spaulding prioritizes cheering for her teammates during their matches and has set other team goals for the season, such as forming friendships and fully competing against other teams.
“So far everyone has been really nice and really supportive of each other and always has a really good attitude when they’re coming to practice, so I’m really excited to see how the relationships are going to build… I am trying really hard to make sure everybody goes to team dinner because that is really important. And it’s really important to, at all the matches, for when you’re not on, to go to other people’s matches and make sure to cheer them on and not just worry about your own because even though it is individual, it helps a lot when you know you have your teammates supporting you, so down to the last match is important to make sure that everyone goes and supports each other,” said Spaulding.
Spaulding continued, “I definitely just want to be able to put up a good fight against all of those teams like Deerfield, mainly. I guess just bonding-wise I hope that… everyone gets really close by the end of the season and that everyone can feel really comfortable seeing each other on the path and just being able to hang out outside of squash and not just have to be together during practice but genuinely become friends.”
According to her teammates, Spaulding’s attitude is always positive during practices and games.
“She is super motivated, and she has tons of grit in her. She’ll give it her all no matter what. You’ll never see her giving up in a match. She’ll go as hard as she can for as long as she can in order to win, which is one of the best qualities of an athlete. She’s not willing to give up. Even if it’s just a friendly match that doesn’t count, she’ll give it her all, which I think it’s really fun to watch a player like that because you can just tell how much she’s having while she’s playing the sport, and she’s also very fair while playing. I especially saw that yesterday at the Groton Invitational Tournament, even though the matches were just for fun, she was very sportsmanlike, played very fairly as expected, and overall a very fun competitor and teammate,” said Toogood.
Elkheshen said, “She has a really good attitude during games. She never gets mad or throws her racquet or whatever, which is really good for a squash player. She’s always calm. She tries to run and get every single ball, which is really good because even if you don’t get the ball, you’re going to get it next time, which is what a squash player needs. She has a good spirit. If she loses, she just says, ‘well-played’ or whatever; she’s still happy about it, as long as she did her best. She tries really hard to do her best which is really good.”
Spaulding says she believes that the composure of a squash player is evident throughout the game. Her commitment to being a respectful opponent is evident to her teammates.
“Squash is overall a really intimate sport because it’s usually just you and someone else on a court and you get to learn a lot about someone by just you and them on a court and playing and just seeing what their personality is like and how they handle certain situations,” said Spaulding.
“Skyler does a terrific job balancing her commitment to her own game and her commitment to her teammates’ progress and our team’s progress — she compartmentalizes well. Skyler also comes to practice and is able to focus entirely at the work at hand. She models for all of us how to put all of our other worries and stressors aside and concentrate on what we can control right in front of us,” wrote Elliott.