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Defining Leadership: Through Peace in the Sport of Squash

By Alan Gao, V Form 

Defining Leadership: Through Peace in the Sport of Squash

Recently, when I was playing squash with my partner, we both felt exhausted after an hour of intense training. Seeing that there were still a few more minutes before dinner, we decided to relax a bit instead of playing competitively. We came up with the idea of “peace-squash,” and its purpose is to play the game at ease and develop a social relationship. Each player needed to serve the ball as much as they can to the other’s position, allowing him or her to move less. The one who fails to “serve” the other loses the game.

At the very beginning, we found peace-squash relaxing. We stood there casually and hit the ball to the wall. To many outsiders, the way we played the game was seemed foreign, as we didn’t intend to win the game. Gradually, the extra minutes allowed me to have the Zen moment and reflect how squash players come together as a community. Sometimes the ball is hard to catch, like near a wall or in a corner, yet we try our best to return the ball to the position where the other players feels comfortable to reach, no matter where the other is. It is pretty challenging, and as the game continues, there are often occasions where one fails to catch the ball. When that happens, the person who hit the ball previously apologizes immediately.

Through this simple game, I pondered the concept of service. This might seem absurd — “He missed the ball! Why should I apologize! It is such a easy ball!” — one might complain. True, there may be multiple factors contributing to this, but is anyone totally faultless? No matter what happens, I will always reflect on myself — “I should serve him better; I should return the ball to somewhere that is ‘more’ easy for him to catch.” In peace-squash, we introspect ourselves, apologize to each other, and try to improve our shortcomings. We also ask each other for a “rating”: if it is a “five-star service”, we would express our gratitude and try to continue the “good service”; if it’s lower than five, we would ask for opinions modestly and reflect on ourselves. “Service is joy.” I remember this quote from a chapel talk. Indeed, it does feel like joy when I that my service helps others.

To me, being a leader does not mean making decisions in a tiny room or leading a meeting. It means to be a civil servant, to serve and help the whole school or community. I would try to further carry out the concept of service and bring this concept more to the Monitor leadership team. I will proactively reach out to those who have troubles and I will listen to the quietest voices. For those who might feel constrained or afraid, I will try to be their listening ear and messenger. I hope everyone can live comfortably and freely and construct an environment of service and gratitude.

Alan Gao is a V Form boarding student from Shanghai, China. He likes history and plays squash.

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