Following in the footsteps of her mom and aunt, Andover Girls Squash Captain Mafi Pinot ’22 began playing squash at eight years old at a local sports club. In addition to leading Andover Girls Squash, Pinot has recently represented Guatemala at the 2021 Junior Pan American Games, where she claimed bronze in the women’s doubles.
According to Pinot, her love for squash comes naturally, and for her, the sport serves as an outlet in times of boredom, social stress, or emotional struggle.
“I think motivation just comes easily because I have tournaments to look up to, big competitions always coming up. I love the game so much that it’s just like what I do instead of a chore or something that’s really hard. It just kind of flows,” said Pinot.
Pinot doesn’t take her natural talent for granted. Rather, she pairs her passion with an intense work ethic that inspires her teammates to do the same, according to Head Coach Jennifer Elliott.
“I’ve had captains who are the best players on the team because of their talent. I would say Mafi combines both of those qualities; there’s [no one] who works harder than Mafi and I think everyone knows that. They try to work to aspire to be like her that way,” said Coach Elliott ’94.
According to Karen Wang ’23, Pinot’s work ethic persists even during the more mundane parts of practice, her enthusiasm contagious amongst the team.
“After squash, we have an ab circle where we do ab exercises together, and before the game we have warmups. I remember Mafi would always go above and beyond everything we’re doing. We even joke about her having her own fitness channel too. Everyone else was struggling with the exercises and she was just doing them so effortlessly and it looked really cool,” said Wang.
Although Pinot’s dedication and rigor may seem intimidating, she remains open and in communication with her teammates, according to Cathy Cho ’22.
“I thought she was someone I could never talk to because she’s all the way up in #1 seed and I’m struggling to be at the bottom. She’s so human; she’s so relatable. I think that’s one quality that makes her so liked and respected,” said Cho.
With teammates often challenging each other to achieve a higher seed within the team, Pinot prioritizes the team as a whole over the individual and competitive nature of squash.
“I don’t want challenge matches to feel like us as players against each other. It’s just us as a team trying to be the best version before a match either on Wednesday [or] Saturday, not really to create tension between the players,” said Pinot.
In charge of setting the example, Pinot hopes to nurture an inclusive team environment this season, especially with newer members on the team.
“We’re starting and building a brand [new] team. A lot of [my old] teammates and a lot of my friends graduated. We didn’t really get a last season with them, but I’m really excited because it’s an opportunity to start from scratch. I think the most important thing for me is that everyone feels welcomed like they really belong to the team. I just want them to feel safe on and off the court,” said Pinot.
Caring for her teammates and playing high-level squash at the same time requires maturity and poise, according to Coach Elliott.
“It’s really hard to tell whether she’s winning or losing when you walk up to her court. She just has tremendous composure on the court and I can trust that she is going to compete in a way that she’s proud of, that she represents our school and our team, and the program that we’re really proud of. I think that Mafi combines a lot of the best qualities of a lot of our captains that have come before. She’s really, really special,” said Coach Elliott.