Lyons of the Squash Court
Meet the Rhodes squash team -- lone second-year student, Brooks Lyons.
Squash, says Brooks Lyons, is “tennis on steroids.”
The fast-paced racquet sport, played on an enclosed court, requires perpetual motion, the ability to think on your feet and an adroit hand-eye coordination.
“It’s an unbelievably grueling sport. It’s extreme,” says Lyons, a second-year student from Fishers Island, NY. “It’s a passion of mine.”
It became a passion when Lyons was a student at Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, MA, and switched from tennis to squash. He found squash faster than racquet ball and a sport in which he excelled.
He vaulted from seventh as a sophomore to third as a junior and to the No. 1 player as a senior. When he went to London’s Harrow School, where squash was founded in the early 1800s, he was No. 1.
Playing in three tournaments as a first-year at Rhodes, Lyons was undefeated (9-0). He searches the Internet for tournaments and pays his own way.
It was his junior year at Deerfield when he learned what it takes to win. He rallied from two matches down to defeat an opponent from Groton.
“It’s a resilience kind of thing. That translates vocationally and any aspect of your life. If you know what it takes to get the job done, then you can achieve your goals,” says Lyons, a business major.
While at Harrow, Lyons played England’s third-ranked junior. Although Lyons lost in three straight games, “I played my heart out and played my best three games I’ve ever played.”
Lyons competes in tournaments in the 4.5 to 5.0 level. Professionals play at 6.0 to 6.5. Skill levels increase by increments of .5. The lowest level is 2.0.
Pros and college players play to 15 with a point scored on every play. In high school, players play to 9 with only the server scoring.
Lyons scores with his speed and with what squash partner Eddie Murphy describes as a “wonderful forehand.” He is working to improve shot selection and his backhand drop shot.
“Brooks is as good as anybody I play with, if not better,” said Murphy, 42, a senior vice president with First Tennessee Bank. Murphy began playing in 1986.
Lyons also competes with Rhodes faculty members Shubho Banerjee, physics, and political science’s Steve Wirls and Daniel Cullen.
Murphy says Lyons is strong in every facet of play.
“You’re not going to out-work him or out-hustle him. The only thing I’ve got on him is experience and that is going away every time I play him. He just gets better.”
Most college squash teams are in the Northeast with Ivy League schools and “Little Ivys” (Amherst, Williams, Bowdoin) among the nation’s best.
“He should be playing at Harvard or Yale,” says Murphy. “I’ve played squash against guys at Harvard and he’s better than those guys.”
Lyons (5-8, 150) is the Rhodes squash team. “I am the student body,” he jokes.
He is promoting the sport with an eye toward possibly fielding squash on the club level.
Lyons, who plays five times a week, says he’s in the game for the long haul.
“It’s a lifetime sport. You can play it until the day you die.”
Rhodes Does Crew
Rhodes Crew team is rowin’ on the river
Never does the Rhodes crew team sing, “Row, row, row your boat.”
While it wouldn’t be on the list to sing anyway, “I don’t think I’d have enough breath to sing while I’m rowing,” said Mills Ramsay ’04, who this year is studying in Rhodes’ M.S. in Accounting program and serving as unofficial crew team coach.
Maintaining cardiovascular strength is crucial to success for the sport.
“No other sport tests your endurance and mental discipline as much as crew,” said 2004-05 crew club president Andrew Romeo, a third-year from Birmingham.
Ramsay, from Highlands, NC, said, “I love it because it’s the ultimate teamwork exercise.”
Founded in 2000 as a club sport, Rhodes’ crew team has 25 active members and is getting into the mainstream of competition.
At a regatta in St. Louis fall 2002, the team won its first gold medal. It was the Lynx’ second race ever.
The win, under coach Ben Cavazos, was a turning point because it marked the transition from a recreational and exercise club to a competitive club. At the Chattahoochee Regatta in Gainesville, GA, in November 2004, the Lynx finished 12th out of 32 teams in novice competition. They defeated “A” teams from Baylor, Tennessee and Alabama.
“That’s not bad for being one of the smallest programs in the Southeast,” said Ramsay.
Crew consists of four to eight rowers in a boat rowing in unison to race a distance of three miles in the fall (called “head” races) or 1.25 miles in the spring (“sprint” races). A coxswain, the team’s captain on the water, controls the rudder and shouts instructions. James Die, a second-year from Missouri City, TX, Julie Pasch, a first-year from Lake Zurich, IL, and Cori Anderson, a second-year from Smyrna, TN, are coxswains.
“Without unison of motion, the boat goes off balance,” said Ramsay.
A club sport, crew is organized and run by students. The team was able to buy a new $13,600 shell in fall 2003. The team has three other shells, the long, thin boat used in rowing. The shells are stored downtown on the Mud Island Marina with practice on the Mud Island Channel and the Wolf River.
Typically known as an Ivy League sport (Harvard and Princeton are crew meccas), Rhodes has one of the few teams in the Mid-South. Murray State, Vanderbilt and the University of Alabama-Huntsville, also have crew.
“Rowing in the Southeast is a relatively new phenomenon. You don’t hear about it on (ESPN) Sports Center,” said Ramsay.
Few high schools field teams because of the expense and many Rhodes crew members are just getting their feet wet.
“That’s why we have novice events,” said Ramsay.
Brice Blanton, a third-year from Princeton, NJ, and Die are the only members with high school experience. While studying abroad in France in spring 2004, Calvert Tooley, a fourth-year from Sherman, TX, rowed.
Those who have joined have been driven by “sheer curiosity,” said Ramsay. “I didn’t know anything about it.”
The team has tried to get the word out on campus through articles in the Sou’wester, T-shirts and an erg-a-thon, a fund-raiser on ergs, machines that simulate rowing.
A challenge for some prospective students is the practice schedule that begins at 5:30 a.m. Land and water practice can be six days a week.
In April, Rhodes will compete in the Southern Intercollegiate Rowing Association regatta in Oak Ridge, TN, the largest regatta in the Southeast.
“I’ve still got my eyes on the prize—medals,” said Ramsay. Medals are awarded the top three finishers.
“Every day you are pushing yourself,” said Romeo. “It really is a test.”
Said Ramsay, “It’s so rewarding because it’s so difficult. It’s one of the most difficult sports in the world. It’s about toughness both physically and mentally.”