Is it possible to describe something as both global and local at the same time?
If any team can claim this paradox, it certainly has to be Penn squash. Together, the men’s and women’s teams compose potentially the most diverse binary of any group on this campus.
On one hand, 11 of the 14 players on the men’s team are from the northeastern United States; on the other, eight of the 14 women’s players are international students, representing countries like Malaysia, France, Egypt and Canada. Only four are from the east coast of the U.S.
But why such an odd geographic spread?
Originally a British sport, squash spread worldwide as the British Navy spread its reach across the globe, landing in all four corners of the world and bringing the game with it. So from U.S. prep schools to the Pacific Islands, squash can certainly be called a global sport.
“What makes our recruiting extraordinary is that we have to look both domestically and internationally,” men’s and women’s head coach Jack Wyant said. “Squash is played by 20 million people in 80 different countries, so for us to try to be competitive in the league, we have to recruit internationally.
“Over the past five or six years we’ve been to Poland, India, Egypt, Portugal, Czech Republic, Canada, Holland, Argentina, England — so we’ve been all over the world in our search to bring the best and brightest student-athletes here.”
This spread among recruiting bases allows there to be a wealth of different stories from the student-athletes about how they ended up at Penn.
For example, Yan Xin Tan, the women’s senior captain, took up squash at the age of 8, taking after her father. After playing the sport for a few years, she joined the national team for Malaysia, her native country, and began to compete in worldwide tournaments featuring the best players from around the globe. And eventually found her connection to the Red and Blue.
“It was actually at the World Juniors when I was 14 that I met Jack, and then again when I was 16 I met him in India for the same tournament, so I’ve been committed to Penn since I was about 16,” Tan added.
For athletes from the United States, however, the process seems to begin a bit later. Tan was able to start connecting with college coaches as early as the age of 14, whereas women’s senior captain Camille Lanier and men’s senior captains Augie Frank and Liam Quinn, all from the United States, didn’t start on the official recruiting trail until they were a couple of years into high school.
“Coaches aren’t allowed to officially reach out to you until summer going into your senior year, so you have to flaunt your skills in as many tournaments as possible and make a name for yourself by beating higher-ranked players,” Lanier said.
“The biggest thing for me was that I finished second at Nationals my junior year, so the summer after that is really when I started talking to coaches a bunch,” Frank added. “I had talked with some coaches a little before that, but after that tournament I started talking to Jack and Gilly [Lane, assistant coach] a ton, and that’s when I realized I wanted to come here.”
So although Penn squash may have a wide spread geographically, it certainly is not spread thin on talent. And although the players have taken many different roads to get to Penn, the team really becomes a unit once everyone is here.
“Everything is different here — the food, the culture — literally everything is different,” Tan laughed. “It was tough coming here from Malaysia, but it helps to have the team around. You have a group of girls here that are like a support system. For me, the team is like my second family away from home.”
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