Dinerman's "A History Of Squash At Brunswick School” Released

Dateline December 28, 2020 ---- Rob Dinerman’s latest squash history book, A History Of Squash At Brunswick School, released late this past week, chronicles the half-century odyssey of squash at Brunswick School, an all-boys independent school in Greenwich, Connecticut. The 117-page manuscript, designed and produced by the Millennium Printing Corporation in suburban Boston, details the program’s ascent from virtually nothing to its current status as the dominant force in boys high school squash in the United States, having won the U. S. High School National Championship five times in the past six years, including the last three years in a row. As one pertinent comparative symbol of how far the program has progressed, the team’s first-ever overnight trip, back in December 1973, was such a disaster that it ended up with the coach quitting, most of the players suspended from school for a full week and the squash program discontinued for the remainder of the academic year. By contrast, the most recent overnight trip that the team took, to Hartford in February 2020 for the New England Interscholastic Squash Association (NEISA) Championships, wound up with an 18th NEISA crown (a record by a wide margin) coming atop an also-record fifth  U.S. National High School championship two weeks earlier, thereby culminating a season in which the program marked the 50th year of its existence in compelling fashion by shutting out every one of its dual-meet and tournament opponents 7-0.

   The text is liberally sprinkled with team photos and action shots, and it includes an Appendix of Brunswick squash statistics and a brief history of the school itself, which was founded in 1902 with 14 students and two faculty members and has grown to the point where it now has multiple campuses and more than 1,000 students. It fully describes the story of squash at Brunswick School, which is one of the gradual but inexorable evolution of the interest and success of the program from at best a bumbling, haphazard recreational activity to domination at first the regional and then the national level. Most of this massive improvement occurred during the 25-year period beginning in 1995-96, when the team won its first NEISA title after not even being allowed to enter a team in that event until the early 1990’s.

   What makes the accomplishments of Brunswick squash --- led by Coach Jim Stephens, a recipient of the 2014 U. S. Olympic Committee National Coach of the Year Award and an NEISA  2020 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree who retired this past spring after serving as Brunswick’s squash coach and middle-school Mathematics teacher from 1985-2020 ---  all the more remarkable is the fact that throughout the first three decades of the program’s existence prior to 2000, Brunswick School did not even have a squash facility, and its team therefore was forced to practice during off-peak hours in Greenwich-area clubs and to play all of its dual meets on enemy turf. The book is dedicated to Coach Stephens and was commissioned out of a universally held view throughout both the school and the greater Greenwich squash community that it should be written as an appropriate way of paying tribute to his legendary career.

  When asked to look back on his 35-year run and identify the overall theme of Brunswick squash within the full sweep of the program’s history, Stephens’s one-word response was “Unsquashable.” It happens to be the case that there is a racquet company of that name which is endorsed by Jahangir Khan, a record 10-time British Open champion. But the larger point that Stephens was making is that, no matter what challenges, obstacles or adversity the program confronted over the years --- whether it was not having any squash facilities on the school’s campus during his first 15 years as coach, or losing seven times in the High School Nationals final before breaking through for the first time in 2015, or the many times there was virtually no margin for error when an NEISA or national tournament entered its final stretch of matches --- the Brunswick squash program triumphed over all of them, and did so with style and class and grace under pressure. The Bruins won their first High School Nationals final in 2015 when David Yacobucci pulled off a huge upset win over Belmont Hill’s Timmy Brownell, the winner of the U.S. Junior Open title just two months earlier and the No. 1 ranked Junior player in the country. The following year, Brunswick defended its title on the strength of Max Finkelstein’s comeback win from two-love down against Haverford School’s Justin Shah. Finkelstein also won the clinching match in the 2018 final to jumpstart Brunswick’s current three-year streak. Other Brunswick stars over the years include Will Broadbent ’02, Brunswick’s only four-year first-team college All-American; his classmates Trevor Rees, later a college doubles champion (with Yale teammate Julian Illingworth) and member of two Ivy League champion teams, and Breck Bailey, the co-winner of the Skillman Award, college squash’s most prestigious honor; and eight High School All-Americans (Hayes Murphy ’14, Yacobucci ’16, Finkelstein ’18 and Class of 2020 members Nick Spizzirri, Brian Leonard, Dana Santry, Coulter Mackesy and David Beeson). No fewer than 33 Brunswick alumni subsequently became captains of their respective college teams, including Charlie Tashjian ’05 and Travis Judson ’07, both of whom held that role on Trinity College teams that won the Potter Cup, emblematic of the college national team championship.

   Dinerman’s previous books include Histories of squash at Harvard, Princeton, Episcopal Academy, Deerfield Academy and St. Paul’s School, as well as two squash-anthology volumes. He also has written Chasing The Lion, a prep-school memoir about his years at the Phillips Exeter Academy, and co-authored The Sheriff Of Squash: The Life And Times Of Sharif Khan, along with Sharif’s wife, Karen. Dinerman’s next book, A History Of Princeton Tennis, is scheduled to be released in early March.

    Anyone wishing to obtain one or more copies of A History Of Squash At Brunswick School should contact Libby Edwards of the school’s Alumni Department at ledwards@brunswickschool.org or send a $125 check per book made out to Brunswick School (writing “Brunswick squash book” in the memo line) to Ms. Edwards’s attention at Brunswick School, 1275 King Street, Greenwich, CT 06831, along with a note providing the mailing address that she should ship the book to.