University of Calgary psychology student Andrew Schnell has been dominating the squash courts for most of his waking life. Schnell is the second-ranked squash player in Canada and 94th in the world. Most recently he won the men’s open at the Canadian University and College Squash Championships.
Schnell experienced success early on in his squash career. He won a national title at the age of 14, which Schnell confesses was the perfect positive reinforcement he needed to continue playing.
“It was the best feeling,” said Schnell. “That is what gets you going after that because once you win a big title that you worked for, and when you succeed at doing what you love, you just want that feeling over and over, and that is what drives me to succeed.”
However, Schnell believes that a ranking is more indicative of where you are as an athlete and does not define who you are.
“Rankings are important — they are definitely a side effect because you cannot control them,” said Schnell. “Obviously you want your ranking to go up and that is your outcome goal. But in terms of a process goal, you cannot think of that on a day-to-day basis. You can only think of improving and developing your game and the ranking will follow.”
Schnell said that one of the perks of being a top-ranked player in the country is that you get to represent Canada on the national stage — an opportunity he feels has been one of the high points in his career.
“Anytime when you are competing on behalf of Team Canada instead of competing for just yourself it’s pretty big,” said Schnell. “I competed in a couple of world junior championships and one time I was team captain and we won bronze at the games, which was the best that Canadian junior squash had ever accomplished.”
Schnell has been playing squash with his older brother Graeme since the age of seven. Schnell attributes much of his own success in squash to his older brother, who is currently ranked third in Canada.
“He has been the biggest reason why I am as good as I am,” said Schnell. “I would like to think that I am a big contributor to his skill development as well because we have trained, competed and coached each other throughout our lives. So if it were not for him, I would not even be close to as good as I am now.”
Despite his close relationship with his older brother — who has won five Canadian national titles himself — Schnell still maintains his competitive edge when competing against him.
“We have had some battles,” said Schnell. “We have played each other so many times and in a competition it is kind of a no-win situation because I want him to do well, but I also want to win. Plus, people always want to see you get in a battle with your brother so it’s tough that way.”
Despite all of Schnell’s success, no athlete’s career is complete without pitfalls. For Schnell, it was losing a semifinal match in the under-13 nationals to an athlete who cheated.
“When you are young you think that everything is about the love of the game and life is perfect,” said Schnell. “I played this guy in the semifinals and to win the match he cheated. Afterward, he told me that he knew I won the match and he cheated, but he did not apologize. He went on to win the title.”
This experience gave Schnell a new perspective on his sport.
“That was tough especially from a 12-year-old’s perspective,” said Schnell. “From that age your first reaction is that you want to quit because the game is not fair anymore. I thought about quitting squash, and then my parents asked me why I play this game. Was it just to win, or do I love playing squash? Even though I was 12, I realized that I just love playing squash.”
Occasionally, some professional athletes like to take time off and celebrate after winning accolades. For Schnell, he believes that working towards his next goal is his first priority after any win.
“I train more because the title itself is its biggest reward,” said Schnell. “For me it’s also about remaining humble because after you win a big title you think you’re the best guy in the world. I am only ranked 94th in the world, and I have to get that up higher. Part of it is just trying to get my game in stride and work up towards the next goal.”