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Trinity College squash coach retires on top

After an illustrious 40-year career guiding the Trinity College Women’s Squash team, Coach Wendy Bartlett has decided to retire.
Michael T. Bello
Courtesy of Trinity College
After an illustrious 40-year career guiding the Trinity College Women’s Squash team, Coach Wendy Bartlett has decided to retire.

Hartford’s Trinity College squash team won its fourth national championship in March and its 17th consecutive New England Small College Athletic Conference title.

But now, Coach Wendy Bartlett has announced she is retiring this month after 40 years as the women’s squash coach.

Bartlett recently spoke with Connecticut Public Radio's Jeni Ahrens about her decision to call it a career from what she calls “the greatest job in the world.”

Jeni Ahrens: For someone who maybe knows tennis more, or pickleball, how is squash different when you're a player and you're playing it? Is it faster? Are you moving more?

Wendy Bartlett: Oh, yeah, that's why the people love to play it, because you're in a closed room and you don't have to hit the ball over the net. You can't hit it out, really. So the ball always comes back. And at a very basic fundamental level, if you can run and hit, you have a blast out there and you get a tremendous workout. Then as you get higher up, the strategy comes into play about the straight drives, keeping your opponent back, getting out in front, hitting attacking shots, making sure you volley; it becomes more strategic.

Ahrens: How have you been able to consistently field a competitive team? Because squash is not something that every kid plays growing up, and Trinity is a smaller school.

Bartlett: Right, exactly. When I got here the squash program was very good. I mean, we were always one of the top three teams and I think that's because Trinity attracted a lot of players from Philadelphia. And at that point, the Philadelphia area was very strong in squash as it is today, and so, that progression kept on for about 10 years. And then the game switched to the international game, which meant a wider court and a slower ball.

Fortunately, in 1997, Evan Dobelle was president of Trinity and he wanted to market Trinity internationally, and that's where the top players were, Egypt, Malaysia, Europe, Mexico and so we were very fortunate that we could start recruiting internationally. That's how we built up that powerhouse that we are today.

Ahrens: So with your record, you must have been courted by other programs and schools?

Bartlett: Yes, because I could [coach] both tennis and squash. But I love Trinity. I have always loved Trinity. I still love Trinity, and it's been my whole life, for 40 years, so I would never think of leaving Trinity.

Ahrens: What made you decide now is the time to retire?

Bartlett: Forty years I've been here and I do want to move on to the next chapter in my life. It's interesting because actually last year I was thinking of retiring, but then we had a devastating loss in the finals to Harvard. We lost by three points. It was just devastating. The same players were coming back, so I said, I'm going to stay another year and we're going to win the national championships and that we did. We beat Princeton in the finals this year.

Ahrens: Did your athletes on your team know that this was your last year going into the season?

Bartlett: No, I didn't want them to know. I didn't want them to be distracted by that.

Ahrens: What do you plan on doing next?

Bartlett: I am currently getting back to playing more tennis. My whole life has been, well let's say the last 20 years, has been squash, squash, squash. I was playing a lot of squash, coaching a lot of squash, and now I just want to get back to playing tennis and joining some leagues and competing on that level with tennis.

Ahrens: Have you tried pickleball? Apparently, everyone has to try pickleball.

Bartlett: Yes, of course, it's so much fun. It really is. I wouldn't want to be that the only sport I played, but it's certainly a lot of fun, and it's a great recreational game.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.
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