US SQUASH

William T. Ketcham Jr. Award for Most Improved Player Announced

The William T. Ketcham Jr. Award for Most Improved Player and Most Improved Honorable Mention Awards have been announced for the 2019-2020 junior squash season.

The Ketcham awards are traditionally presented during recognition ceremonies at the end-of-season junior championship events, however, with the postponement of these events due to the COVID-19 epidemic US Squash is announcing the awardees online to recognize them for their meaningful accomplishments.

The William T. Ketcham Jr. Award for Most Improved Player recognizes those who have demonstrated complete dedication to the sport by significantly raising the level of their game. The boy and girl in each division who displayed the largest increase in ranking from March 20, 2019 to February 26, 2020 and were set to compete in the 2020 U.S. Junior Championships received the Award.

2020 William T. Ketcham Jr. Award Recipients:
GU19:
Emily Schuster (Improved 29 positions)
BU19:
Nick Wilkinson (48 positions)
GU17:
Melanie Wang (88 positions)
BU17:
John Ho (94 positions)
GU15:
Alexandra Jaffe (89 positions)
BU15:
Artemy Mukhin (60 positions)
GU13:
Calla Yim (102 positions)
BU13:
Maximus Slattery (84 positions)
GU11:
Vivienne Sze (49 positions)
BU11:
John Russell (94 positions)

The William T. Ketcham Jr. Honorable Mention Award is given to players who displayed the largest ranking increase from March 20, 2019 to February 26, 2020, and were set to compete in the U.S. Junior Silver Championships.

William T. Ketcham Jr. Most Improved Award Honorable Mention Recipients:
GU19:
Isabelle Lee (Improved 59 positions)
BU19:
Vivek Sunkam (77 positions)
GU17:
Kylie Kim (84 positions)
BU17:
Alexander Scott (136 positions)
GU15:
Henriette Schminke (141 positions)
BU15:
Ronak Nagar (167 positions)
GU13:
Margaret Ruger (116 positions)
BU13:
Christian Keng (144 positions)
GU11:
Eloise Oakley (77 positions)
BU11:
Mattias Liem (90 positions)

US Squash congratulates all award recipients. Though these awards could not be presented in person, it does not diminish the hard work and dedication to squash demonstrated by each player. Please read below for reactions submitted by many of these student-athletes.

Nick Wilkinson (BU19):
Winning this award shows me that all my hard work this season has paid off. It’s hard to realize that I’ve improved a lot because I’m playing all the time so I don’t notice much difference day to day, but the award shows me that I have made a lot of improvement over the season. In addition to training with partners and my coach, Leroy Leong, I put time in on my own. I focused on my movement and speed by doing as much ghosting and lifting as I could.

Emily Schuster (GU19):
I’m proud of this award because it shows that I’m still working hard and improving. I think my best squash is still ahead, and I am super excited to play in college! A special thanks to Lefika, Mo, my Mom, Dad, sisters, and all my friends in junior squash who have made this journey so awesome!!!

Vivienne Sze (GU11):
Winning this award to me means to me working hard and having fun! And I love playing squash! The best part of squash is getting better and practicing. A change I made with my coach was keeping an open face on my forehand. I am grateful to everyone I know who has supported my love for squash.

Calla Yim (GU13):
Winning this award means a lot to me. Six months ago, I signed up for a silver tournament. I was especially excited for this tournament, since I was confident that I would win. I had trained so hard to win a silver tournament, for it had been a big goal for a long time back then. Everything was planned, until something unexpected happened. I had to get an emergency surgery, which meant that I had cancel my upcoming tournaments. I was devastated because I felt prepared for this silver tournament. The day after my surgery, I signed up for another upcoming silver tournament. This had motivated me to work harder because I wanted to come back strong from the surgery. I knew I had to do well and redeem myself from my surgery, and I ended up winning the tournament. That day was the day I realized to always work hard, and that my goals are not too far to achieve if I just keep pushing myself. Winning this award really shows how much my hard work has paid off throughout this season. I am very appreciative that US Squash is recognizing me as a squash player and this motivates me to work even harder this upcoming season. Thank you so much!

Melanie Wang (GU17):
Receiving this award means a great deal because it’s shown my growth as a player this past season. It’s also motivated me to continue to make progress. All the little improvements I’ve made have accumulated up, and I feel like my hard work has paid off. This year, I’ve been focusing a lot on strategy which led to my major improvement. I’d like to thank all the people who have helped me improve — my family, coaches, and all the people that I’ve played with in this past year. I’ve learned something from each and every one of them. Without their support and guidance, I would never had made so much progress. Additionally, I hope everyone can stay healthy and motivated during this time of great uncertainty. Stay safe!

Artemy Mukhin (BU15)
Winning this award makes me very happy! It is easy to lose track of my own progress, because I am pretty self-critical. This award allows me to step back and see myself through the eyes of US Squash and Junior players. Thank you for acknowledging my progress! I have two main passions in my life – Music and Squash. Keeping up with both of them at a high level can be difficult and even discouraging at times. Award for the Most Improved BU15 Player showed to me that with some dedication and discipline I can achieve balance between Squash and Music. One major change this season was that last year I graduated from Mannes Prep music school that kept me busy every Saturday. Because of that, I could play only a limited number of tournaments in 2016-2019, and my ranking didn’t increase as much as I would like. But in the current season I was able to focus on squash a lot more. I also started playing with adults and joined the NY Squash League. I played many local adult tournaments in NYC and found them to be great practice for junior tournaments. Finally, I started to focus more on my physical fitness with weekly running and training. I did ghosting and solo drills every morning before school. I watch Squash TV regularly and try to learn from professionals.

Maximus Slattery (BU13):
This award means an incredible amount to me, and I feel that it shows how much the squash training program at S2 Squash has done for me. I feel that this award represents all of the hard work and dedication that I’ve put into squash, and that it also symbolizes just how far hard work, effort, and determination can take you. One major element that helped my ranking improve was enrolling in the elite training programs at S2. I also upped my training hours at the academy, and even though there were some moments of strife, such as where I had an injury, the amazing academy and incredible training partners helped me to stay strong and persevere. Without my outstanding coaches (Paul Frank and Lyall Paterson) and friends that I train with, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to receive this award. Another thing that helped me to achieve this award was my family. From the very beginning of my squash tournament journey, just over two years ago, my family helped me every step of the way. They’ve always supported my goals, and have done anything and everything in their power to help me in my journey. They’re always loving and supporting, and will help to inspire me or boost me with confidence when needed. They’ve always been there for me after a tough loss, and then they make me put my mental mindset onto the next match. Whenever I have a victory, they help to keep me from becoming too excited, and remind me that I still have the rest of the tournament to complete. Without my parents, coaches, and friends I truly wouldn’t have been able to achieve this award.

Vivek Sunkam (BU19 Honorable Mention):
Winning this award is special as through my U17 career I played through several injuries which held me back from playing the squash I knew I was capable of, but my investment into my fitness has allowed me to massively improve my game. As a player who was once before very highly ranked I always held myself to a high standard and not being able to last matches for my lack of fitness was very frustating for the longest time. But by working with my coaches and seeing the results of the process I am more now more driven and focused than ever to keep improving so I can be the best version of myself. This award definitely means very much to me, but I see this as an opportunity for further motivation to keep training harder and harder. Thanks to everyone who got me here I would not be here without the support of my team and parents.

Alexander Scott (BU17 Honorable Mention):
I started playing squash 4 years ago just for fun, but didn’t really take it seriously until moving from the UK to Louisville three years ago. Since arriving in America I have trained regularly with the Zenith Squash Academy, under the coaching of my Dad, Lee Scott. Winning this award has made all of that hard work worthwhile and really shown me my improvement. It also encourages me to continue with the hard work to improve my ranking and rating, hopefully, leading to the chance to play college squash. I would like to thank my Dad for all the hard work, support, and encouragement that he has given me. I would also like to thank US squash for the recognition of my hard work, with the William T. Ketcham Jr Award.

Ronak Nagar (BU15 Honorable Mention):
Winning this award means a lot to me as I have been working towards this degree of improvement for a long time. The element that led to my great improvement was focus and my passion for the sport. Once I was able to maintain a calm state of mind, I was able to focus on the accuracy and consistency of my technique. I still have a lot of room for improvement which I hope to achieve in the near future.

Henriette Schminke (GU15 Honorable Mention):
Winning this award means so much to me because it reflects the amount of work, I have put into improving this season 2019/2020. It also shows that it is never too late to start as I just started playing squash competitively less than a year and a half ago in September 2018. This last season I have worked specifically on improving my technique and my footwork along with raising my overall game. I would like to thank Alex Stait (Agnes Irwin), Lyall Patterson (S2), the whole S2 squash coaching team and all of their players, and my family because I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did during this year without all of them.

Maggie Ruger (GU13 Honorable Mention):

Winning this award means a lot to me. These past few months I have worked very hard to improve my game and it feels great to be recognized for that. I have focused especially on movement back to the T, being quicker and more reactive so I can get to the T faster. Since I came from tennis, I was so used to hanging back on the baseline and being able to see my opponent at all times. I had a tendency to hang back in the court, because that was where I felt most comfortable, and my opponent could just hit the ball short and I would have to sprint to get it if I could get it at all. I had to work really hard to get rid of that habit, and it was very uncomfortable at times, but the results have been rewarding so far. I am pretty small for my age, so using height was a game-changer. Once I realized that hitting the ball hard and low, although it is helpful sometimes, isn’t necessarily the best strategy, using height was helpful to throw off my opponents, change up the pace and help me get back to the T.

Christian Keng (BU13 Honorable Mention):

I am extremely honored to win this prestigious award. In October 2018, I started playing squash seriously. I had limited squash court awareness and was basically playing tennis on a squash court. In December 2018, I entered my first ever Junior Bronze squash tournament. To my surprise, I won it and exceeded my own expectations. I loved playing tennis, but I really loved playing squash. My game really started to takeoff once I started taking private lessons with Coach Omar and Ronny, playing in club round robins, and playing in Junior Bronze, Silver and Gold tournaments. I want to thank US Squash for organizing all of these wonderful tournaments. I want to thank Squash on Fire for providing me with a state of the art practice facility and access to world class coaches. I want to thank Coach Ronny for taking my game to the next level and beyond. I want to thank my dad for practicing with me, taking me to practices and tournaments, preparing my squash equipment, and coaching me. Finally, I want to thank the rest of my family for cheering me on and providing me with social and emotional support.

Mattias Liem (BU11 Honorable Mention):
Winning this award means so much to me. I am honored and feel very proud of myself. I am grateful to my coaches Greg, Karim, Andy, Ben, Afiq, and Marwan and everyone at TOG for helping me to get better over the past year. I feel my improvement comes from hard work and going to practice many times a week. It also comes from playing with kids above my skill level. It was also very helpful to play in tournaments which allowed me to play with other kids from different states who I don’t get to play with on an everyday basis. Thank you so much US Squash for everything you do and I hope that I can keep getting better.

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