Timothy “Connor” Denis ’13 has always enjoyed playing squash, but until now, he has not had that chance while at Roanoke.
Squash was a sport that was familiar to Denis, who grew up in Connecticut. However, in some areas of the south, such as Roanoke, this sport does not have the same popularity. So this year, Denis decided to introduce squash to Roanoke College by starting a club team.
After generating interest, recruiting members and designing a team logo, Roanoke’s squash club has started practicing at the Carter Center at North Cross School in Roanoke County.
Recently, the new club team played in its first eventÂ Six players competed in a squash charity tournament to benefit the Martha Jefferson Hospital’s Breast Cancer treatment centerÂ in Charlottesville, Va.
â€œIt was a great way to get the ball rolling,â€ said Denis.Â The squash team donated $300 to the cause and gained valuable experience in its first tournament.
Denis has been in contact with teams around Virginia, including the University of Virginia, to schedule other tournaments. The Roanoke team will have its first round robin college tournament in the beginning of November, in which the students will compete against such schools as Washington & Lee University and Notre Dame University.
We recently spoke with Denis about squash and the new club team at Roanoke.
RC News Blog: Why did you want to bring a squash club to Roanoke College?
Connor Denis: With so many people at this school coming from the north, New England, Maryland, New York, there are so many people that are familiar and are even very talented at this sport. They got here and have abandoned that passion because it seemed as though it was impossible to follow and to practice. And so I decided over this past summer, especially once I found out about the North Cross court in Roanoke [County], that it was going to happen and that I was going to bring a squash team to Roanoke College.
RC News Blog: What has the process been like to start a club sport at Roanoke? Did you have any help from other students?
Connor Denis: My roommate, who is actually a really good friend of mine, played squash in high school. We were just sitting around wasting time one day and started talking about squash. Then we thought, â€˜Why isn’t there a squash team? Why don’t we make the team?’ It just went from there and bumped around in my head for a while.
I was here for summer classes, so I had class for three or four hours a day, but the rest of my time was so free. That allowed me time to get things going. I discussed it with my roommate Bryan Lepczyk, who is a junior founder of the team, as well as another friend of ours, Thornley Hart, who played a lot in high school. We tried to figure out what it would take to get things going, and that is when I took it to Bryan Ryberg [Roanoke's director of intramurals and recreation).
He was extremely supportive. It had never been done before here, but there was clearly a population of students who were familiar [with the sport] and wanted to play. Once I saw the smile on his face, I knew that I actually had something.
RC News Blog: What exactly is squash?
Connor Denis: Squash is a racquet sport that was developed in England. It basically derives from whacking a ball against a wall, in simplest terms. People that are familiar with racquetball or handball quickly pick it up. You hit the ball in a room, and it has to hit against the far facing wall. Then it obviously bounces off [the wall], and then the opponent can hit it.
Racquetballs remind me of super bouncy balls. This [squash] ball has slightly different characteristics. It’s what they call dead.Â So it doesn’t have any real kickback. Its smaller profile also allows it to go faster, and it needs to actually heat up with play in order to really get any kind of bounce that you are looking for.
RC News Blog: How difficult is it for someone who has never played squash to learn how to play?
Connor Denis: The fundamentals are very easy to pick up. It’s a one-bounce game. It’s like if you tried to explain tennis to someone. Because the fundamentals are easy, hit the ball over the net or hit the ball against the wall. But like any kind of sport, when you get into the more particular aspects of certain types of shots and different strategies and terminologies, that’s what will take some practice. But it’s not a sport that would take anyone more than a day to learn.
RC News Blog: What are your goals for the squash club?
Connor Denis: My number one goal is to get together a group of individuals that we can look at and see as a team. I want to have a group of guys and girls that can rock our jerseys, go out there, and are excited to say that they are a part of the squash team.
Once that happens, we will be able to take on other schools. We will be able to put up numbers and ultimately, get the interest on campus both from students and faculty. My ultimate goal is to get two of the four racquetball courts [at Roanoke] changed over into squash courts, because I want to open up the sport to people that are curious, that are interested. They want to learn it. They may not love it, they may not even come back to it. It’s not for everybody. I want that resource to be there so that anyone who wants to can take a go at it.
For more information, check out the Roanoke squash team’s Facebook page.