My Road to the US Junior Open
My Road to the US Junior Open01 Mar 2022
By Valerie Huang
One thing that has remained by my side through my late childhood and teenage years is my love for squash. I had never thought of myself as an athlete until I stepped onto a squash court for the very first time when I was 9. It is ironic how squash now consumes my every thought and has taken on a significant role in my life. I like to think of it as a lighthouse that has guided me through turbulence on stormy days. The sport has taught me numerous life lessons that I otherwise would never first handedly experience.
As cheesy as it may sound, I would not be where I am today without the support of many people. I was fortunate enough to have been shaped and nurtured under the hands of my coaches, who in return had the misfortune of training a very stubborn player (just kidding). Squash has allowed me to establish friendships that are not necessarily confined within the sport. Through international tournaments, I have also created long lasting memories that I will cherish forever.
Participating in the US Junior Squash Open Championships was definitely one of the most fruitful and rewarding experiences in my squash career. Amidst Covid-19, my family and I had a difficult time deciding on whether to attend or not, since there was huge risk and uncertainty. To embark on this adventure was not for the lighthearted as we knew that many sacrifices had to be made just to be present. Yet, opportunities do not come often, and I was ambitious and extremely determined to win. After long, sleepless nights of evaluation and internal conflict, we finally decided to set our worries aside and fully committed to the decision.
I came with a mission, and that was to play the best squash I possibly could, which hopefully led to desirable results. I put in one hundred percent of my effort in every match and pushed aside the nervousness that came with the immense pressure to do well. At times when I doubted myself, I remembered the years of training that led up to this moment, as well as the opportunity cost of this trip, which urged me to focus on performance rather than result. The best part about the tournament was competing against players from around the world because players from each country had their own styles. I thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of testing my opponents, making observations and devising plans on the spot. I equally enjoyed watching the best players in the globe play against one another, from which I learned a lot myself.
Standing on the podium during the prize presentation ceremony was certainly one of the most glorious moments of my life. I’m extremely proud of myself for getting third place in the biggest junior tournament, and it is something that no one can take away from me. I have come to the realization that there is only one person we have to prove our worth to, and that is ourselves. Behind every medal, every trophy, is hours of relentless work - sometimes even pain. There is no need to justify ourselves to others. Rather, athletes should strive to seek personal growth and improvement. Achievements and ranks cannot and will never define one’s worth; respect yourself, then others will learn to respect
Another note to future athletes is that hard work does pay off. Yes, some people are born with innate talent, but talent only determines a small portion of our future. I am definitely not in any way naturally gifted at squash, but I learned to turn my passion into acquired talent. It is the satisfaction of redemption and accomplishment that I find most exhilarating - that feeling when you work hard for something that finally pays off when it is achieved - that is the real reward. I have poured my heart and soul into squash, making many sacrifices in academics and leisure. Frankly, I despise running and any form of fitness practice, but I know it is a crucial part of squash that cannot be ignored. By overcoming weaknesses like laziness, I can finally reap the rewards of hard work. The road was bumpy, but I am very proud of how far I have come.