NEW CANAAN — The sound of a squash ball being smashed against the wall, the ground and smacked by the racket itself is sometimes deafening in the first floor of the St. Luke’s School athletic building.
To Brian Mathias, 42, and Lucia Cantarini, 35, it might as well be the sound of their heartbeat. Combined, the couple has played squash for more than 40 years.
“I was always interested in teaching, so right after college I got offered a job in a club in Brooklyn and stuck with it and loved it,” Mathias said of his early coaching days.
Mathias, also the founder of SquashRx, another coaching service in New York City, has been at St. Luke’s School for four years as the director of squash and boys varsity coach, along with his wife, who coaches the girls varsity team.
“I love working with kids and helping them develop into better players,” Mathias said. “Some of my students have gone on to play in college themselves.”
Italy native Cantarini boasts a strong career, representing her home country in international competitions, and as a member of the Women’s International Squash Professional Association.
Though the club practices in St. Luke’s School, no affiliation with the school is necessary for people to sign up — something Mathias and Cantarini want anyone interested in squash to know.
“We really want to let people know we’re here,” Cantarini said. “And that anyone can join.”
Cantarini wants to increase enrollment in the club and is hoping more women and younger children join.
“My goal would be to create a bigger program for women,” Cantarini said. “I still play in tournaments and compete, and would like to get more women involved and also focus on programs for children ages 4 and up.”
People began to trickle in to practice on Aug. 30, including two 12-year-olds, who started warming up on the squash court.
“I’ve had my children in the program for about a year now,” Howard Huberty said. “They love the program. It’s very accommodating and focused on technique.”
Not only teenagers and children are part of the program. Ned Monaghan, a squash player ranked second nationwide in the adult male 75-and-over age group according to U.S. Squash, is coached by Mathias.
“He’s an excellent coach,” said Monaghan, who has known Mathias for four years. “Everyone knows each other in this small, but tight-knit community.”
According to Cantarini, there are about 35 individuals who are not affiliated with the school, but are members of the independent squash club.
The squash genes seem to have been passed on to their two children, Ellis James (EJ) and Emily. EJ picked up a racket and sunglasses before running off onto the court with a ball, asking his parents if they would play with him.
“We’re excited for the programs to start in September,” Mathias said.
To learn more about St. Luke’s Squash Club, visit slsquash.org.