Hartford, Conn. - It's funny how things can play out. Sometimes something that starts as a hobby can turn into a life-long passion. For Trinity College senior Affeeq Ismail, squash was just that. Ismail started playing when he was nine years old living in Malaysia.
"I started playing just for fun, and then I started getting really good. I became more motivated and worked really hard and made the national team when I was 13," Ismail says.
He continued to play on Malaysia's national team until he was 18 years old when he decided he wanted to play professionally. Unfortunately, playing professionally did not work out, so Ismail decided to quit playing squash and attend college.
"I was sad when I wasn't playing squash anymore. It was something I had been doing half my life. But if I wasn't able to play pro anymore, then that just wasn't good enough for me." Ismail says.
But after a year of college in Malaysia, Ismail received an e-mail from Trinity Men's Squash Head Coach Paul Assaiante stating that he was interested in Ismail playing for the Bantams. Assaiante gave Ismail the opportunity to revive his squash career.
Coach Assaiante only had positive things to say about Ismail. "He is a very interesting and quiet guy who leads by example, but when he does speak, he speaks from his heart, proud and profound. Affeeq has been a stellar player for Trinity. He is 12-0 this season and 67-9 in his career with us. He gets the job done and overall is a very special person to have on our team."
Ismail is captain of his team for the second year in a row. He explains," Being a captain is obviously an honor, but it is a lot of work. I have needed to be understanding. For example, younger players can get homesick, and they just need someone to talk to. As captain, I am in position to do that while also leading the team and managing my own time wisely."
Now that Ismail has had some college squash experience, he explained what the difference is in playing professionally versus playing at the college level. "Skill wise, the difference is not far at all from professional squash. But the intensity of squash at the professional level is higher because all we do is train and compete against the top players in the world. The time management is harder at the college level due to the academics that come into play. It's harder to have a social life when you need to worry about school and play squash at the same time."
Ismail is an engineering major and hopes to stay in the U.S. with a job in the engineering field. "I already have a couple of job options in the states, hopefully one where I can coach squash. I would love to possibly attend graduate school one day." Ismail says.
So far in 2017-17, the Bantam squashers are doing quite well with just one loss in 15 matches. Trinity won its 11th consecutive New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title over the weekend at Amherst, and Ismail went 3-0. Trinity still has much work to do, however, after missing the College Squash Association (CSA) National Finals for the first time since 1996 last winter. The Bantams visit top-ranked Harvard on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
"As of right now we are No. 2-ranked in the country which is great, but I think we still are not where we need to be to become the team everyone expects us to be. We have a great chance at winning Nationals, but it depends on how hard we work as a team," Ismail states.
written by Taylor Foy '20