Squashing the competition

Every student-athlete must find a balance between academics and athletics. Sometimes, however, university even gives athletes newfound opportunities to compete and excel at both. Graeme Schnell, a squash player in fourth-year kinesiology at the Uniersity of Calgary, has been more than happy to take advantage of these opportunities. For the third time, Schnell won the Canadian University and Colleges Squash Championships.

At the 2011 Championships hosted by the University of Toronto from Mar. 4-6, Schnell once again made his way to the final where he beat Adrian Dudzicki of the University of Ottawa 3-0 (11-3, 11-9, 11-2).

Athletes qualify for the Canadian University and Colleges Squash Championships through provincial competitions. In Alberta, the top two athletes in men’s and women’s competition at the Alberta University Championships qualify for funding to attend the national games.

“I’ve won the Alberta University Champs I think four times now, ever since I started going here,” said Schnell.

Students must be enrolled in a minimum of three classes per semester in order to qualify.

Schnell won back-to-back Canadian University and Colleges Squash Championships in 2008 and 2009. Dudzicki won last year’s competition.

Schnell mostly competes at Alberta provincial tournaments and is currently ranked third in the province.

“I get a lot of the local events so I play the professional guys when they’re here locally, but I don’t actually travel around to play them because it’s too busy with school and university and stuff,” said Schnell.

Schnell doesn’t compete on the Professional Squash Association circuit and doesn’t see that changing in the future. He hopes to get a job related to his kinesiology degree.

Most of the top athletes in the PSA are between the ages of 23 and 30, with the best usually around 27 or 28 years old, said Schnell.

“You can be a squash pro until you’re like 35 and then you have to stop playing the circuit and you become a coach,” he said. “I don’t really want to be a squash coach, so I’d play kind of professionally for a year after my KNES degree, take a break, but then that would probably be it. I love sports and I love practicing. Training — I love it, how the body works and how it can be the best that it can be. Kinesiology seems to fit right in.”

Schnell trains every day for an hour, usually by playing matches against other squash players. His main training partner is his younger brother Andrew Schnell, who is currently ranked first in Alberta, competes on the PSA circuit and studies part-time at the U of C. He’s not enrolled in enough courses to play at university competitions.

“Since I only have an hour a day to train, I have to make the most of it,” Graeme Schnell said. “By me playing with my brother, who’s the best in Alberta, and I also play the number two guy in Alberta, I really maximize my hours on the court. It helps to bring my game up. It takes a long time and a lot of people think that they can become really good in like a year, but it doesn’t work that way.”


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