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Vol. LXII, No. 4
 
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
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FRESH PERSPECTIVE: Princeton University junior squash player Scott Callahan is happy to be back with the program. After spending a year in the working world, Callahan, a Princeton High alum, has gotten off to a 4-0 start for the Tigers.

With Perspective From Varied Experiences, Callahan Bringing Maturity to PU Men’s Squash

Bill Alden

For many years, Scott Callahan seemed destined to end up as a two-sport athlete at the college level.

Growing up in Princeton, Callahan joined the Princeton Soccer Association (PSA) as a youngster and ended up as a star for in its travel team program.

At Princeton High, Callahan became a key performer for the Little Tiger boys’ soccer team, starring in the midfield and helping the team to a sectional championship.

In the meantime, under the influence of his father, Bob Callahan, the head coach of the Princeton University men’s squash team, Callahan rose through the ranks of the junior squash world. By the end of high school, he had achieved a top five ranking nationally.

When it came time to make a college choice, Callahan ended up basing his decision on his ability to give both sports a shot.

“I really liked playing both sports; when I was looking at colleges I wanted to play both initially,” said Callahan.

“That was a big part of my decision to come to Princeton. I had gotten an agreement from both coaches (his father and soccer coach Jim Barlow) to let me try both and see how it worked out.”

During his freshman year at Princeton, things were going according to plan as Callahan trained with the Tiger men’s soccer team and sat on the bench for varsity games. But in November, he broke his ankle in a soccer scrimmage, setting him back in both sports.

By his sophomore year, Callahan decided that he had to focus on squash if he was going to achieve his potential in that sport and he quit soccer.

But in another twist, Callahan decided to take some time off from school after his sophomore year, working in Philadelphia and Melbourne, Australia.

Now Callahan is back in Princeton and his varied background on and off the court has helped him emerge as a valuable contributor in his junior season on the Tiger men’s squash team.

So far this season, Callahan is 4-0 for undefeated Princeton and is looking forward to earning more victories after the team returns from its exam break to play at perennial national champion Trinity on January 30.

With the experience gained from his year in the real world, Callahan has brought a different mindset to things upon his return.

“I loved my year off but I’ve enjoyed being back,” said Callahan. “I can approach things a little differently; I have a better perspective as to where I want to go with my future, what things are important and what isn’t important.”

Callahan has been able to apply that more mature perspective on the squash court. “I felt I had a very good shot to be in the top nine,” said Callahan.

“It was interesting coming back to a different set of players to work with and get to know. I have competed as best I can; I just want to enjoy it and do my very best.”

Playing soccer for most of his life helps Callahan bring out his best on the squash court. “I think the contrast between the two has helped me at both,” said Callahan.

“One is outdoors, one is indoors. One is a team sport, one is individual. One is in the mainstream and the other is a niche sport. I really enjoyed playing both and I think playing both has helped me at each.”

His lifelong love of soccer made it tough for him to give up his goal of being a two-sport performer.

“I decided to give soccer another try and see how things worked,” recalled Callahan.

“I went to preseason and had a pretty good time but as the year was coming around, I decided it was time to concentrate on one sport. The academic pressure was starting to build up; playing two sports is like having one extremely long season. It’s a lot of time to be missing around campus. It looked as though my chances of playing and my role on the squash team was greater than on the soccer team.”

Focusing on just on one sport, Callahan made progress in squash that season as he got on the court for several varsity matches.

But Callahan, a chemical engineering major, decided he needed to make more progress on the career front and he opted to spend a year away from school in the working world.

“I spent the first five months in Philadelphia working for a small biotech company,” said Callahan.

“They try to use antibodies and small molecular technology to develop cancer therapy and they were kind enough to let me help out with the chemistry on site.

After that, I decided to get out of the area and the country and I took a position in Melbourne, Australia. I worked at the University of Melbourne as a research assistant.”

While he was focused on his lab work during his year away from school, Callahan made time for squash and soccer.

“I was playing in a squash league once a week in Melbourne and I was practicing twice a week,” said Callahan.

“I didn’t fall off pace but I wasn’t getting any better. I played on a soccer team down there; I probably played more soccer than squash.”

While Callahan may have lost some sharpness on the squash court, he believes the break from the game will be a positive in the long run.

“It’s nice to take a break; it gives you a fresh start,” added Callahan. “I’d say I’m playing pretty well. I have very good control of the ball, I think my fitness is not up to the level of the other players.”

Callahan is having a good time being around his father on a daily basis.

“Playing for my dad is always positive,” said Callahan, whose twin brothers, Matt and Peter, are freshman performers for the team.

“It’s great to see him everyday. It’s a privilege that not many people have. We have a good time; we joke around a lot.”

Now that Coach Callahan is seeing his son on a daily basis, he has noticed how his year away changed him.

“It was one of those transformational years,” said Callahan, a Princeton squash star in the 1970s who has been guiding the program since 1981.

“He went to China, he went to Hong Kong, he went to Vietnam. It’s opened his eyes to the world around him. He has come back a more worldly and mature guy.”

That maturity has shown up on the squash court. “I think he’s a smarter player than he was before,” asserted Callahan.

“There is more variety in his game; he is quicker than he was before. He has grown into his body the last year.”

Callahan also thinks his son is having a good influence on the players around him.

“He’s disciplined, he’s a hard worker, and he’s very good with the team,” added Callahan, whose older sons, Greg and Tim, also played on the Tiger squash team.

“He’s done a nice job of helping the younger kids on the team. He is a natural leader with the group.”

The younger Callahan is looking to do a nice job on all fronts as he applies the lessons he has learned from his unique experiences.

“I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead in the next year and a half with academic work and sports,” said Callahan.

“I am much more motivated and excited by the prospects. I’m having a great time; I’m not in a rush to get out.”

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