My Maple Court Journey
by Andrew Stiles

My Maple Court Journey Begins
A few years ago, my older brother, Herb, died at the age of 56. A combination of a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating and some bad habits contributed to his high blood pressure and the eventual stroke that would take him out unexpectedly one morning. To say it shook me up is an understatement. I knew what the doctors were telling me; I needed to lose weight and regain a grip on my blood pressure. I began looking at my own life and lifestyle. I, who had once been a professional golfer, was now entering my 50's overweight and on the cusp of having to take blood pressure medicine. I needed to change. I was willing to change, but I wasn't that motivated to change. I didn't want the mundane fitness schedule of the Premcor or stationary bike.

Enter my wife's two friends, Jackie McMillian and Lynne De Wet, who asked if I would be willing to house a pro squash player for an upcoming squash tournament at the athletic club, where they are members. I agreed, without knowing that these visitors were about to change my life.

A Passion for the Game
As fate would have it, the player they asked me to host was Chris Gordon. He happens to be the number one squash player in the United States. He was polite, friendly and what started as me politely listening to him talk about squash soon became more. His passion for the game reminded me of myself as a young golfer. Soon, I wasn't so much listening anymore but pumping him for more information about the sport of squash. I drove him to and from the tournament, watched him play and discussed the nuances of the game and his strategies over dinner at my house. By the time the tournament was over, I knew this was a game I wanted to get into.

After I dropped Chris off at the airport, I drove straight to the Atlantic Coast Athletic Club, Richmond, Virginia and joined. Next stop was back to the Westwood club to watch more pros practicing. There I bought a squash racquet, goggles and balls and was ready at 5:00 a.m. the next morning to give this sport a whirl.

Needless to say, I was very sore the next day. It was no easy feat hitting balls with only the instruction I'd gotten from watching Nick Matthew's instructional videos on You Tube about a hundred times. I went back to Westwood to eagerly watch more squash, in hopes that somehow, by osmosis or sheer luck, these guys skill might rub off on me.

After a few hours, I was recruited to wipe the courts for the remainder of the tournament since someone had to leave and the position was vacant. There was no pay, but I got a behind-the-scenes view of pro squash that really intrigued me. When I met Nick Matthew and told him I was practicing off his videos, he actually looked surprised and happy and thanked me for watching.

58 Times in 60 Days
After the tournament packed up and left the city of Richmond, I kept playing, knowing in the back of my mind I was searching for a sport from which I could get good health results and, maybe just maybe, bring back that competitive drive that had once motivated me when I played golf. For the next two months, I started arriving at the squash court every day at 5:00 a. m. to begin a ritual of hitting by myself, practicing drop, volley and drive drills. One morning, I stopped by the front desk to enquire how many times I had been to the courts and there it was - the truth. When the desk clerk keyed me into the computer, it came up that I had been there 58 times in 60 days! Wow, I was hooked on a game I hadn't even played with another person, let alone won a single match.

Over the next two and a half years I have gotten a lot of instruction and have been on the court with some of the top coaches and players in the world. Since I was currently an Adjunct Professor teaching Fly Fishing at three different colleges in the area my love of teaching and instruction has lead me to receive both my Level I and Level II US Squash coaching certificates. Through this I have been able to spread my passion of teaching beginners and curious racquet sport players at all levels the game of squash.

I created Fit4Squash to help people incorporate it into their fitness routines and create variety in their own workouts.

Squash 4 Life
I decided to write this blog for two reasons: 1.) to document my incredible journey through the sport of squash, and most importantly, 2.) to show how this sport can change your health and change your life and incorporate it into your weekly fitness program.

Squash is a wonderful sport and I hope you'll follow me on my way to making Squash4Life a reality.

I would not be at the level I am without the following people who have helped me in my quest to learn and share my love of this great game to others:

Andrea Stiles, my loving wife who has helped make this all possible. With her love and patience, I could have never had the opportunities to succeed. My sister Lisa Stiles Nance who has helped me in all my blogs and writing, and editing.

Jackie McMillian, Lynne and Bruce De Wet, Chris Gordon, Gary Whitbeck, Gus Cook and the entire Total Squash Camps staff, Patrick Chifunda, Catalina Paleaz, Stephen O'Dwyer, Brian O'Horo, Hill Marks, Mark Allen, David Palmer, Mike Way, Dent Wilkens, Luke Longwood, Craig Thorpe-Clark, John Musto, Ranil Goonesekaera, Virginia Squash Racquets Association, Ted Price, Winston Price and Gary Whitbeck.

Wow, what patience all of these fine folks have had for me and I truly say Thank You and Tight Rails!