Andover Girls Squash Head Coach Jennifer Elliott ’94, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students, focuses on fostering a tight-knit team as it competes competitively for the first time in two years. Beginning her squash career when she was eight years old, she played with her brothers and father. Eventually playing for Andover, she continued to play squash at Dartmouth College.
Elliott said, “I really enjoyed my squash at Andover and college much more than I did prior to high school when it was more of an individual sport. The team aspect of it was really compelling to me.”
As a coach at Andover, Elliott strives to coach the team in the same way she teaches her students in a classroom. Specifically, she emphasized the importance of a strong understanding of the players, both as athletes and as individuals.
“I coach a little bit like I teach, which is that I think it’s really important to know your players in order to be a good coach for them. It is important for me to know what matters to my kids on and off the court and what interests they have, about what things they’re curious about… what’s really frustrating, and help them through their frustrations, [etc.]. Squash can be a really frustrating sport, so trying to help them understand and push through that frustration, I think about that a lot in teaching. In order for me to do that well, I really need to know my kids. And I’m lucky that way to have a pretty small team, so that way I can get to know my players pretty well.” Elliott said.
To her players, Elliott hopes to engrain the value of not only winning but also losing with honor.
“For me, we talk a lot about deserving to win, we talk a lot about respecting ourselves and the rules of the game and our opponent, and winning with integrity and losing with integrity. But, I also think hard work is really important, so I think that’s true to my priorities as an athlete and also as a coach,” said Elliott.
According to Cathy Cho ’22, Elliott’s desire to get to know her players has really allowed her to be an inspiration for the players on the team. Further, Cho stated that Elliott’s coaching style makes her a more easy-to-approach and reliable coach.
“Getting closer to her and talking to her more on a personal level just makes me feel more inspired. [Do] you know how your superheroes can be your mom or the closest to you? She felt like some figure like that. At first, she seemed like an Iron Man, but after getting to know her, I was more inspired because she’s human, everyone’s human. As a coach, she really values personal character over technique. That’s what really stuck with me.” Cho said.
According to Karen Wang ’23 and Cho, Elliott’s extensive experience as a player and emphasis on sportsmanship makes her a better coach. In particular, she is able to offer specific advice for each player while emphasizing the importance of character in any match.
Wang added, “Because she knows so much about squash and has coached so many people before us as well, she’s able to tell me exactly what I need to work on, [which] sort of ties [in with her precision as a coach].”
Cho said, “[Coach Elliott] gives you constructive criticism, she gives you feedback, but also she never gets mad or never lets her emotions get in the way of her coaching. She acknowledges that things happen and things are unfair, and she doesn’t talk bad about that. She discourages the team from talking badly or showing bad sportsmanship… The fact that she puts sportsmanship first and cooperation, collaboration before winning, I find that really inspiring and it just made me more comfortable playing. She made me feel like if I’m a good person or if I show good sportsmanship then it doesn’t matter if I win or lose. Sure, it might be great if I win, but I’ve been a good player and that’s all that matters.”
Editor’s Note: Karen Wang ’23 is a Graphic Associate for The Phillipian.