I am spending the weekend bouncing back and forth between the two venues of the squash New Englands. The "A" tournament is at Phillips Exeter and the "B" division is at Brooks School, about a half-hour south. It's tremendously satisfying after a couple days of intensive effort (and weeks of prior planning) to see this event up and running.
Having run the New England prep school squash tournament for over twenty years now, I'm used to hearing some grumbling about seeding, draws, etc. It goes with the territory.
This year and last year, though, one particular school has made some less-than-subtle hints that the draws are always fixed to benefit my own team (which I don't even coach any more!), an accusation that clearly crosses the line. It is particularly galling this time around because it denigrates the efforts of the Choate players who really had a great final day of competition, winning matches against some tough opponents representing other schools finishing just a couple of points apart in the team scoring. The Wild Boars finished tied for fourth overall this year on the backs of these playoff and consolation wins--a bunch of them in five games--rather than through any advantage in the draw positions.
Moreover, the evidence of "a fix" was supposedly a favorable draw for the Choate #1 (a flight wherein the CRH player didn't win a single match for the second year in a row!). Last year the squad--when I WAS head coach--underperformed with a 10th-place finish! And each of the past two years, the team's captain has faced a top seed in the very first round. So if I'm "setting up" the draws, I must be doing a pretty lousy job of it.
Of course, what most of the critics don't understand is that the system is virtually corruption-proof. We have a five-member seeding committee reflecting geographic diversity that is elected by all coaches. Seeding is done by the group, the draws are made immediately by a computer program and posted on the Internet for all to review. It's about as transparent as we can make it, but I guess there always will be people taking cheap shots.
I am traveling through much of New England through some dodgy weather today. I drove to Suffield, Connecticut, to drop off materials for the boys' "C" squash tourney there before trekking up to Exeter, New Hampshire, to get the "A" event underway. (I actually had to stop for about 20 minutes for a conference call related to my presentation at the TABS Risk Management Conference in Delaware this June.) Now that play is winding down here, I will head out with the Choate team for a late supper before driving to West Springfield, Massachusetts, for a night in a motel. First thing in the morning, I get back on the Mass Pike for the trip to Salisbury, CT--the boys' "B" venue--and then back to Suffield before finally joining the Choate girls in Deerfield just after lunchtime; I'll be there through the end of play Sunday afternoon. Whew!
The Choate boys' tennis team is spending much of today in the Granite State. The Wild Boars just dispatched their Phillips Exeter Academy counterparts in a closer-than-expected 4-3 win and is heading over to Hampton Beach for a dip in the North Atlantic and a sampling of the local delicacy: fried dough!
I ran the summer tennis camps here at Phillips Exeter for a half-dozen or so years in the early 1990s, so I guess this campus qualifies as another of my old "stomping grounds." Good to be back in seacoast New Hampshire on a glorious (if windy) spring afternoon.