This winter, the sound of racquet swooshes and squeaking sneakers will once again echo through the squash courts at Berkshire School’s Soffer Athletic Center. At the center of it all—former world No. 1 player Nick Matthew.
Matthew, for all his accolades as one of the world’s premier squash players, has carved out a special relationship with Berkshire and its coaches and student-athletes, serving as the boarding school’s Squash Ambassador. The appellation, in fact, gets Matthew’s juices flowing nearly as rapidly as a high-stakes match on the world stage.
“Berkshire is a special place,” says Matthew. “I try to spread my enthusiasm for squash across the school, and if I can plant a seed for the love of squash across an extra ten or 15 players, regardless of their level, I have done my job.”
A native, coincidentally, of Sheffield, England, Matthew first landed in Sheffield, Mass. in the summer of 2018, on the heels of the opening of the School’s new squash center, recognized as one of the premier facilities among boarding schools. Berkshire and The Nick Matthew Academy were the perfect fit for strong squash players to take their game to the next level, Matthew thought. After that promising summer start, Matthew soon joined the boys and girls squash programs in the winter campaign. “The Wolf,” his nom-de-squash coined to reflect Matthew’s relentless style of play, leveraged the talent that carried him to three world championships with the insightfulness imparted by his own past coaches.
“Nick’s impact was instantaneous and far-reaching,” says A.J. Kohlhepp, girls varsity head coach. “He got the Bears fired up to come to practice and he helped them reach new heights as individual athletes and competitive teams.”
Kohlhepp and boys varsity head coach Chris Perkins have welcomed Matthew with open arms, sharing a vision to build a program to suit Berkshire’s spectacular facilities. Recent successes include a NEISA Class C title in 2016 for the girls’ team; a 2018 Div. IV national championship for the boys’ team; and an individual New England championship for Kiro Manoharan ’22 in 2020.
Manoharan, who will play for Columbia University beginning in the fall of 2022, praised Matthew for remaining a positive influence on the squash teams through a tough year -- unable to come to campus, Matthew contributed to the Bears’ training via Zoom -- and said players are looking forward to his return to campus. “There’s so much anticipation for him, for the season,” she confides. “He is one of the easiest people to talk to, that’s what draws you to him. The more you get to know him, the more he creates this space where everyone feels they can be involved in the process.”
Matthew will join the Bears on campus in early December for a week of in-season training and will travel with the Bears to events during the squash season and playoffs. Matthew will also continue to work closely with student-athletes interested in playing squash at the next level by tapping into his contacts within college squash circles. “It’s not about winning,” Matthew says. “The goal is to fully maximize a student-athlete’s potential across the board, including academics and their social life, something which is achievable for each individual if they put their mind to it and give it their all.”
"Working with Nick was the highlight of my Berkshire squash experience,” says Peter Koenigsbauer '19, a current member of Bates College’s squash team. “He identified key areas of my game that I could improve upon which have helped me become better at attacking on the volley.”
While Matthew’s focus is on the upcoming winter season at Berkshire, he can’t help but look ahead to the summer of 2022, when the summer camp that started it all will reopen on the School’s campus, paving the way for the next round of squash players to learn from one of the best to ever hold a racquet. “Squash is a great vehicle to learn more about yourself,” Matthew says. “And Berkshire School is a great place to pursue that objective.”