Picking up the sport shortly before coming to Andover, four-year member of Boys Squash Erik Wang ’21 is serving as a Co-Captain for the 2020-2021 season. According to Co-Captain Siddhant Sinha ’21, Wang inspires his teammates through his diligence and passion for the sport. Sinha said, “[Wang] is very dedicated and committed, and that kind of rubs off on the other people on the team as well… When we see him put his 100 percent on the court, we get that motivation to do it ourselves as well.”
When and why did you start playing squash?
I started playing squash when I was around [the age of] 14, in sixth or seventh grade, but was actually really into soccer at the time. Because of that, my transition into squash was definitely a bit different for me. I know this is kind of cliche, but the first time I got into the court, it was so amazing for me; [it was] like falling in love with the sport. My brother actually told me to get involved because my old school in Atlanta was the only school in the southeast to have a squash team, so I started to try to play competitively and it just took off from there.
Are there any coaches or teammates you take inspiration from or look up to?
Our coach John Roberts has been a huge mentor and role model for me. He’s a really laid back guy, but at the same time, his expertise and wisdom in the game is pretty unparalleled, and he’s just a really great guy overall. He’s a really supportive figure and adult figure, so he’s definitely been a big part of my time at Andover, both on the court and off the court. Someone else who’s definitely been a role model for me was David Tsai [’18]… he was the captain of the squash team when I was a [Junior], and he sort of took me under his wing and was a big role model for me.
What are some things you do to help motivate yourself and the team in high-pressure situations?
Something special about our team at Andover is that we have an awesome team culture and that sort of makes these tense matchups a lot more enjoyable. I think every athlete knows that when everything is always high stakes and high pressure, it’s not necessarily enjoyable or as fun as when you’re playing relaxed, and I think the team culture really makes squash and the season in general just fun. Even if it’s 3-3, a tiebreaker, and everyone is cheering, clapping, and encouraging each other on the sidelines, we have that support, and I think that makes a big difference mentally and psychologically, so the team spirit that we have has played a huge role in the close relationships and bonds we have as a team.
The squash team placed 18th at the 2019 HEAD U.S. High School Team Squash Championships and jumped to 11th in the 2020 season. What are some things the team has done to achieve this success?
I think this is largely in part due to Coach Roberts and his training and playing philosophy. I’d say that we’re all pretty aggressive players on the team, but something he’s been working with us a lot over the past few years is to slow the pace down and play more consistently, more patiently, hit tight shots, and play more strategically, making sure that we’re the fittest people to wear out our opponents. That’s been really instrumental in our improvement over the past few years, because especially last year, we had three Seniors and [Siddhant] and I, so we were sort of like the veterans on the team, and I think our improvement over the years was really visible because we were taking out people that we lost to our [Junior] and [Lower] years, and we were beating them last year in our regular season matchup and during nationals. I think Coach Roberts’ training and our overall maturing as a team in terms of our playing strategy and general gameplay has contributed to that a lot.
How has your time at Andover made you a better player and leader?
Through Andover, I’ve met a lot of people who have been amazing role models for me—David Tsai, Coach Roberts, and also people off the court. Over these years, I’ve tried to emulate the characteristics that I’ve found inspiring from them, and I think that’s made me a better player but also captain and leader on the team. David Tsai was, again, a huge role model for me. The captain title doesn’t really mean much, it’s sort of as a player just part of your responsibility to be a good team player, be selfless and put your teammates before yourself, and that’s something I’ve tried hard to work on as a player throughout my years at Andover. I think that’s something I’m confident the younger kids on our team will work on and assimilate as they grow older and become captains of the team in the future.
As you move on from Andover, what are some of the key lessons you have learned from being on the squash team?
One of them is definitely resilience, or grit, sort of bouncing back from defeat because in sports especially, losses are inevitable. You’re going to lose at some point, you’re inevitably going to fail at some point, and I think having the resilience, having the grit and courage to bounce back and not only bounce back but learn from your mistakes and improve from them so you don’t make the same mistakes in the future is a huge part of sports in general and my time on the squash team. Something else I’ve taken from Coach Roberts in particular is to try to take things less seriously. Sometimes you can get so caught up in your own mind that it’s not necessarily healthy. I think squash over these past few years has helped me gain perspective, that nothing is that important, and more importantly, we compete as athletes because we enjoy it. Some of us, we might like winning a lot, we might like the team culture, but ultimately, we play sports to enjoy them and grow as people, and I think that’s something I’ve gained [during] my time at Andover.