© Submitted photo
P.E.I.’s men’s squash team of Nicholas Trainor, left, Connor Jinks, Jordan Sampson and Brandon Higginbotham have made a name for themselves at the Canada Games competition this week.
It has been said that experience is the best teacher.
If that’s the case, then Week 1 of the Canada Winter Games has been a big lesson for P.E.I.’s men’s squash team.
The youngest team in the men’s tournament and, physically, the smallest, the Island squad lost to Ontario, Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Nova Scotia in round robin action and to the Yukon in a placement encounter to finish 10th.
But those connected to this upbeat young team, as well as many observers at the tournament, say that although the Island squad was in tough in every game, they were also in every game. And despite the scores, they displayed great sportsmanship, team support and a love of the game — taking what they learned in each encounter and moving on, building for the next Canada Games in 2015 and, in the process, becoming a fan favourite.
“To say that heads turned would be an understatement,” said team manager Cynthia Dunsford on Thursday. “We had the top player at the tournament and the coaches coming to watch our games and cheer these little guys on.
“They were just amazed by the way our players were keeping up with the big guys and playing with more heart than anyone in the tournament. I am biased, but that is what people were telling us.”
For Canada Games squash competition, the four athletes on each team are ranked one through four. For P.E.I., the No. 1 player is Nicholas Trainor, 15, followed by Connor Jinks, 12, Jordan Sampson, 13, and Brandon Higginbotham, 15. In an encounter between provinces, each player squares off against the same ranked player on the other team in a best of five match. Canada Games rules also say that each team has to have two players under 19 and two players under 17.
“So Connor, for example, who is our number two player, he would be playing against other number two players, who would be at least 18 years old,” says Dunsford. “They were twice his size. He was playing kids who were six foot two and he was able to compete. So it was pretty amazing.”
This young, determined Island team is a product of a plan started more than three years ago by Dunsford and coach Derek Lawther to build a team for the future. Through junior development, coaching, tournaments and the valuable experience gained at two junior national championships against players their own age, the team prepared for the Canada Games, going in with the goal of finishing at least one spot better than at the 2007 Canada Games.