The INFINITUM Squash Community Series - A Conversation With Michael Davis
Key to INFINITUM Squash experience is the community of squash players who we are proud to say make our club their home. These folks come from a variety of professions, backgrounds and playing levels, bound by a shared love for the game. In the coming months, we will be chatting with a number of them, sharing their experiences with the game of squash and how it has shaped their lives.
In this first interview, INFINITUM Squash founder, Chessin Gertler sits down with Michael Davis, an Associate Vice President at Northeastern University and squash fanatic. A consistent presence at our courts, Mike was one of our first members at INFINITUM and is a regular at our twice-weekly coached drop-in sessions.
Michael Davis - My name is Michael Davis. I’m an Associate Vice President at Northeastern University and I’ve been playing squash since 2000. I was a municipal police chief for 5 ½ years before I was recruited to apply for the job. I accepted the offer in 2013 and my family and I moved from Minnesota.
Before I moved to the area, I had been to Boston a few times. I was part of a select group of public safety professionals that were part of the Harvard Executive Session on policing and public safety in 2010-2014 and had been here a number of times for that project so I was familiar with the city.
Chessin Gertler - Did you like Boston immediately?
M - It grows on you. I had been to DC several times. I had been to New York Several times. Boston’s got this distinct feel; I like the fact that it’s this convergence of professionals from around the world. You do feel the intellectual brainpower when you’re in the city.
C - Red Sox fan yet?
M - No. Not at all.
C - Ok. Moving on… [laughs]
M - I’m not a baseball fan either…
C - Ok, we’ll table this area of the interview for now. How did you get into squash? What brought you to the game?
M - I was a racquetball player from high school. I played racquetball for 12 years or so - from about the ages of 17 to 30. At my club in Minnesota, there were two hardball courts next to the racquetball courts. I saw some guys playing there and a guy by the name of David Steel gave me like a 150g Black Knight racket and said “go out there and give it a shot!” so I tried playing and I got hooked right away. So, I’ve pretty much been a convert since 2000.
C - Did you like squash immediately?
M - Immediately. I was a decent racquetball player but as I got better, the game got less exciting for me. In racquetball, the distinction is that the better you are, the shorter the rallies become and squash is the exact opposite - both in regards to the workout and the mental challenge. Furthermore, in squash, quite frankly, another major distinction is with the people you meet. I mean, in Minnesota, there’s a small squash community and from within that community, I was meeting people from all over the world. That really opened me up to what the sport could bring not just as a means of maintaining my fitness, but also as a means of meeting new people. Racquetball is an american game and squash is a world-wide sport more than anything else.
My eyes have been opened lately. I was kind of a hack squash player for the longest time - I was one of those guys who just got out there and swung the racket for exercise but I’ve just discovered recently how inexhaustible the game is mentally and all the different dimensions and different levels there are to it. It engages you in every which way and I think as much as you’re willing to devote to the game, the game is willing to take from you. That’s what really interests me and what I really love about the game.
C - What brought you to INFINITUM?
M - When I first moved to the Boston suburbs, I couldn’t really find squash courts and a good community out here, with the exception of the ones located either in Boston proper or at universities in the area - and actually, I had visited the club complex that INFINITUM is now located at and it didn’t have squash at the time. I had been waiting for it and finally, out of nowhere, I saw the advertisement for the Nick Taylor and Nick Matthew exhibition and so that was it. I came to the exhibition match and joined the day after. I know I was Lesson One for Nick… If not Member One, then definitely Lesson One. [Smiles]
C - For your general fitness, do you do things other than squash? How does squash fit into your social, athletic, professional life. You’re someone who has been athletic for a long time but came upon squash as an adult.
M - Well, I mean I’m 47. There’s a need for me to do multiple things. I have to maintain my structural integrity, so I do still lift weights to try to maintain my skeletal mass, but in addition to that, it’s pretty much just squash and all the dimensions of it. I try to play about four times a week.
C - No orthopedic issues?
M - No. Thank goodness. I really attribute that to - well obviously, genetics for one thing; some people are just genetically fragile and I’m not - but secondly: I’ve really trained my body. I’ve never stopped since high school and a lot of time with older men, you really get these lapses: “well, I took 5 years off” or “I took 10 years off.” I didn’t do that.
C - Squash goals?
M - My Superbowl, World Series, NBA Finals is the Massachusetts State League. I want to be more competitive. I really didn’t have any competitive squash experience until last year. I mean, it’s a whole different mental-physical challenge to walk into a club and play people you’ve never played before on courts that you’ve never played on before. So my squash simply wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I understand that’s development and maturity, but my goal really is to be competitive and to test it in the O45s in the state tournament for March of next year.
C - Good luck.
M - Thank you.