As members of the Andover Girls Squash team during their time at Andover, Head Coach Jennifer Elliott ’94, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students, and Assistant Coach Midori Ishizuka ’11 came back as faculty members and have been coaching the team together for the past two years.
Fourth-seed Charlotte Toogood ’20 said, “Both Ms. Ishizuka and Mrs. Elliott have been incredible coaches for my last two squash seasons at Andover. They come to practice everyday with an encouraging attitude and a structured plan for practice. They strike an excellent balance between creating a very fun, but also very productive, environment to train and compete in.”
What’s your favorite part of coaching Girls Squash?
Coach Elliott: “My favorite part about coaching [Girls Squash] is forging relationships with the players. I’m so proud of my girls, and it’s such a treat to be able to watch them grow so much as athletes, as teammates, and as humans. And on such a small team, it’s really fun to get to know them so well over four years—watching them support each other, I love it. It’s been one of my favorite parts about being able to work at Andover, being back in the squash programs, since it was a big part of my life since I was a student here in the ’90s.”
Coach Ishizuka: “My favorite part of coaching the team is definitely just bonding with the girls, seeing them every day at practice, seeing them enjoy practice, especially after long days. [And] obviously matches, anytime we win a match is an amazing experience. Just in general, getting to see them consistently is really nice.”
How do you work well with each other and complement each other’s coaching styles?
Coach Elliott: “I love coaching with Coach Ishizuka. She is a master at the mental game, and she’s really perceptive and empathetic, and I think she does a great job of seeing what our girls need. She sees things that I miss, so she often shares insights into how kids are doing both on the court and off the court, which is really helpful for trying our best to support them as players. She’s also super fun, which is great, and she loves workouts, so she’s been an awesome addition to our training program.”
Coach Ishizuka: “It’s great working with [Coach Elliott]. I think the best thing about us working together is that, obviously, [Coach Elliott] has so much experience; she was my squash coach when I was a player. My Senior year, she was my coach, [and] I think that was the first time in many years that we went to Nationals. So I’ve just known her for a very long time, but I think what’s even better is that now just working together. She obviously has so much experience; she’s really good at giving technical advice because she was such a high level squash player. Squash was not my first sport, so I am there to give mental conditioning advice to the girls, and I try to play my role in that way, because I defer to her for all the valuable technical advice. I think we’re able to play off each other really well in terms of coaching the girls with different angles. So I think that’s where we work best together.”
What’s the most challenging part of coaching the team?
Coach Ishizuka: “The heartbreaking losses are pretty challenging. I think just seeing the disappointment and feeling disappointed as well, but also trying to be supportive of the girls. Having everyone come together after hard losses can be the most shocking, I think.”
What are your goals for the team this season?
Coach Elliott: “This is a really strong team this year, and I love watching the girls push each other at practice and also delight in playing and getting better. We had a really tough loss against Choate–we knew they were going to be a tough team, and we’re looking forward to seeing them again. It would be awesome to do better the next time we play them. I’m hoping we’re going to make it into Division 1 for US High School Nationals and into the top bracket for New Englands at the end of the season; those are concrete goals, but I’m really hoping our players can stay healthy and can continue to support each other with such positivity and enthusiasm and generosity. I really, really hope my girls go on to play beyond Andover, whether officially in a college program, or start their own club program, or get involved in urban squash programs, but just remain engaged in the game for years to come. This next week, I’m going to be at a big fundraiser for urban squash programs celebrating 25 years of urban squash programs in New York, and I’m going to be able to be with former players, former teammates, and former coaches. It’s going to be really fun and I just wish that for my girls— that they remain involved in the game for a really long time.”