The Harvard and the Ivy

Over the last couple of months, I have had a completely new training programme due to moving to Harvard in Boston. Unlike my junior years there have not been regular tournaments most weekends. Instead, our official season only really starts in December. Therefore, I have only competed for Harvard in the Ivy scrimmages, which is a friendly tournament involving all the Ivy Universities. This was a good start to the season as we beat the University of Pennsylvania in the final. Since then we have only played Dartmouth. We won 9-0.

Because our season only officially started in December, we have had an intense couple of months of training so that by the start of the season we were in the fittest and strongest state as possible! Playing at Harvard has been extremely beneficial to my squash since I am paying with some of the best former juniors in the world and the facilities and resources available are exceptional. We train as a team six times a week and play challenge matches every week. After every match there is video review which enables me to analyse my matches in detail. This has helped my game significantly as I can clearly identify the weaknesses and strengths of my game and can monitor my progress. I am currently number four in the team. I have regular pair sessions with the Head coach in order to work on the tactical aspect of my game. Furthermore, there is an impressive strength and conditioning programme at Harvard; I have two sessions a week with a specialist conditioning coach. Over the last couple of months my strength results have improved significantly which has had a positive impact on my game. For example, my movement had improved so that I am now more balanced and controlled when hitting the ball which improves the quality of my shots. Moreover, I have regular massages and physio sessions so that my body feels a lot more tuned in during training!

Not only does Harvard squash athletic programme offer exceptional training for the physical and tactical aspect of the game, but it also offers extensive psychological training. We have had nine hours of psychology sessions with Lorenzo Beltrame who has worked with a number of professional athletes, for example Jim Courier (former number one tennis player in the world 1992). These sessions were extremely informative and there are now a number of psychological things that I am working on to improve my game! I spend 20 minutes every day reflecting on my performance and training that day and write goals for the next day. I have already started to notice the difference especially in my challenge matches as I am now more focused and calm. I am hoping to continue experimenting with this aspect of my game as I know that it is not one of strengths.

Over the Christmas break I am going to have a couple more weeks of intense training at home before I go back on 8th January when we will play our hardest matches, especially University Pennsylvania and Trinity. I will be travelling to Gloucestershire to train at a squad with my former coach and to London for a number of squads. I am also travelling with the Harvard team to California on the 14th January to play Stanford and have a couple days of training. In the following months I will be extremely busy as our season gets properly underway and therefore will be packed full of competitive matches. I am very excited for the season to start properly!

I will be coming home at the start of April and I am hoping to play in a number of PSL tournaments to help improve my World ranking. I am also hoping to participate in the England Academy squads in Manchester which is for the top players in England that are transitioning to the professional squash circuit.

The funding has been especially beneficial over the last couple months due to the great expense of University in America. I am very grateful for all the help that Kent Youth Trust have given me and it enables me to fund my squash training, equipment, clothing and travel.

Amelia Henley, Young Athlete Ambassador


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