James Moore Squash
James Moore Squash
James Moore Squash
James Moore Squash
Thirty Years of Blair Squash
James Moore, Hon. '93

It was a Sunday in March 1993, and the lights were on in newly built Tracy Hall, but no one was allowed in. The walls of the three original courts—four more were added in 2008—were blinding white, as yet unmarked by black balls. The floors, quartersawn unvarnished maple, smelled as if it had just been planed, and the shavings swept away. The building was ready for its intended purpose, the HVAC system humming away, but it was empty, because the town of Blairstown had not yet granted us a certificate of occupancy.  

At home in Hillside House, I took a call from Dennis Peachey ’62, the assistant headmaster. 

“Jimmy,” he said. Dennis was the only person in my life who has ever called me “Jimmy.” “Jimmy, get your stuff and meet me at the courts.”

“But, Dennis,” I said. “We’re not allowed…”

“Just get over there.”

Ten minutes later, Dennis and his son Derek ’93, current Trustee and, at the time, my advisee and English student, were waiting for me. “Go ahead,” Dennis said to me, pointing at Derek. “Teach him how to play squash.” 

And, so, in violation of the law, Derek and I stepped onto what is now the Schmeelk Court, and, thus, the Blair Academy squash program was born.

Over those past 30 years, squash has become part of the fabric of Blair Academy, not only as an opportunity for new players to learn the game, and a competitive program that has, at times, featured some of the best players in the country, but also as something to do for a few hours with a few friends on a Sunday afternoon or in that liminal space between dinner and study hall. Squash is a popular component of the Headmasters’ Societies Games in February. There’s a Blair Squash Facebook page for those of us old enough to still use that platform and a Blair Squash Instagram account for everyone else; it is a testament to the squash community we’ve developed among students, alumni, parents and friends that every post garners lots of “likes” and not a few comments. 

I am often asked, who is Blair’s best-ever squash player, which is like the “What’s your favorite book?” question I get once someone learns that I teach English. And, as I do with the book question, I have to hedge a bit, because there’s no clear answer. I can bring up names like Briggs Johnson ’97, ranked #3 in the United States his senior year, and his classmate, Laura Inkeles ’97, who was among the top 20; they both went on to distinguished college squash careers, Briggs at Hobart and Laura at Bowdoin. Darrius Campbell ’13 was named to the all-NESCAC first team his senior year at Bates College, as I believe Emilie (Slack) Rendall ’02 was when she played for Colby College. Recently, Omar Ali ’20 and Youssif Mostafa ’22 provided us with perhaps our strongest one-two punch ever and now play at the top of the lineups at Dickinson and Colby, respectively. A few years ago, Briggs asked me if Darrius would have beaten him when they were each at their best; I said I wouldn’t hazard a guess, but that I would have loved to referee that match.

More important than the quality of play, of course, is the quality of character, and it is a measure of our program’s emphasis on fair play, dignity and leadership that we have produced perhaps more than our share of college captains. In addition to Briggs at Hobart and Emilie at Colby, Andrew McCann ’98 (Navy), Tyler Horton ’99 (MIT), Henry Clutsam ’01 (Hobart), Ali Crevi ’07 (Colby), Andrew Litvin ’14 (Williams), Aya Sobhy ’17 (Dickinson), Griffin Fitzgerald ’17 (Fordham), Clio Bersani ’18 (Bowdoin), Luigi Pasquariello ’18 (Connecticut College), and Adham Sobhy ’18 (Bowdoin) have all led varsity college teams. Among the club team ranks—non-varsity teams that represent their college or university—there are almost as many captains, including Emma Moore ’12 (University of Rochester), Kendall Fitzgerald ’16 (Cal-Berkeley), Rose Mascarenhas ’18 (University of Richmond) and, currently, Kate Setteducate ’19 (Boston College). 

Finally, our program has produced alumni who, after college, have stayed in the game as administrators, instructors and team coaches. Manuela Perez ’12 is a program manager at the Squash and Education Alliance, the umbrella organization that oversees urban squash programs around the world. Eric Katerman ’98, who played college squash at Williams, is the coach of the Cal-Berkeley men’s team when he’s not directing big data projects. Henry Clutsam was a teaching professional at clubs in Montreal and Cincinnati for a decade and a half, as well as one of the U.S. Junior team coaches. Emma Moore directed the squash programs at independent schools in Connecticut and Georgia for five years, during which she actually coached against—and, on occasion, beat—her former team. 

It is easy, in a piece like this, to list too many names and, at the same time, run out of room before you tell the whole story. But how can I conclude without noting that Adam Berk ’95 was the first Blair player recruited to play at a college (U.S. Naval Academy)? Adam did so for two years before transferring to Cornell and, eventually, founding Grubhub. It’s important to mention that Boston College’s women boasted three Blair alums—Kate Setteducate, Alexa Setteducate ’19 and Abby Arturi ’17—in their starting lineup for two years running. Associate Head of School Ryan Pagotto ’97, whom I finally convinced to play his senior year, set the standard for players at the #7 spot on the ladder, winning 14 matches for one of the best teams we’ve ever had. Parents and alumni, like current Trustee Robin Scheman P’10 ’14 and Maura Fitzgerald P’16 ‘17, who coordinated and raised the Blair Squash Endowment, Robert Neff ’49, whose son Will ’08 served as captain, Bob Kiley ’51, and Peter McKinney ’52, and, most recently, David and Constance Kan P’24, have lent essential support to the program, not only in the early days, but even now as we continue to build on our decades of success. And I haven’t even mentioned the coaches who’ve served, from former Assistant Headmaster David Low who, in his retirement, still plays a couple of days a week on the Williams College courts, to Doug Compton, my consigliere, a former professional player who teaches English as superbly as he coaches squash. The list goes on, and I’m sure I’ll remember someone else important as soon as this piece is published.

In the fall of 1990, a few weeks after I joined the faculty, Blair’s 15th Head of School Chan Hardwick sent me to Valley Forge to meet with John C. Bogle ’47, then chairman of the Blair Board and such a keen squash player that he wielded a racquet in the full-page portrait of him that had appeared in a recent issue of Fortune. I didn’t know enough about Jack to be intimidated by his vast office, but when he came out from behind his desk, which may have been constructed of timbers from Royal Navy man o’ war, and boomed “So you’re our new squash coach,” I looked behind me to see if he was talking to someone else. I recovered quickly enough to say a few good things, but when I told him that we need three international courts instead of the narrower North American hardball courts, Jack’s face clouded. 

“What’s wrong with North American courts?” he demanded. 

“Well, nothing,” I said. “Except no one’s going to be playing hardball in five years. The colleges are shifting to the international game and we need to as well.” Jack thought about this for a bit and the conversation moved on to what kind of league we might form and where we might get our players. He dismissed me and I headed back to Blair.

A few days later, Dennis Peachey called me in and said Jack wanted to talk with me. We called from Dennis’ office. 

“You can have your international courts,” Jack said. I thanked him profusely. “But one thing,” he warned. “You better get this right. These things are expensive.”

The last time I saw Jack at the courts was before a match probably five or six years ago. Between the kids warming up on the courts and fans—yes, we have fans—in the bleachers, there were probably 100 people in Tracy Hall. “Well,” he said, looking around. “This turned out to be a pretty good investment, didn’t it?” 
 


About the Author

In addition to directing the Blair squash programs, Blair English department chair James Moore, Hon. ’93, is head coach of girls’ varsity squash and advises the School’s All-School Read Committee. Since joining the faculty in 1990, he has also taught microeconomics and served as dean of college counseling, ninth- and 11th-grade class monitor, dorm head of Insley Hall, director of capital giving, head coach of boys’ varsity squash and assistant coach of varsity baseball. He completed his undergraduate work in English at Cornell University in 1985 and has since studied literature at Georgetown University and Drew University and business at the University of Rochester. Jim is the father of Emma ’12 and Harrison ’17.

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