On hearing the word ‘squash’ one might automatically think of the elongated, yellowish pear-shaped relative to the pumpkin that is commonly seen on those cooking television shows. For Mandela and Nku Patrick, two students of Naparima College, the word ‘squash’ has them alert, focused and ready with their racquets in hand. For those who are unfamiliar with the sport, squash is quite similar to tennis, except that it is played in an enclosure that has four walls. These walls have horizontal markings on them creating segmentations. Each segment represents an area to gain points or to lose points. Each game goes up to a total of 11 points. The game demands full attention, excellent hand-eye coordination, as well as a faithful marriage to discipline. Describing themselves as diligent and enthusiastic, Mandela (age 16) and Nku (age 15) have claimed a relentless love for the sport of squash since the tender age of seven. This love for the sport came from their father Raymond Patrick who is currently the President of the Trinidad and Tobago Squash Association. “Ever since they were able to hold a racquet, I got them involved in the sport,” Mr. Patrick related to gieMAGAZINE. Today his boys have done him very proud, both of them being the youngest to ever be selected to represent Trinidad and Tobago alongside the senior Squash Team.
“It is a very energetic sport and you gain a lot of skills from it,” said Nku excitedly. Mandela shared similar sentiments but appreciated the competitive spirit that comes with the sport. He also expressed the joy of having his brother alongside him which makes for a better game. Apart from representing Trinidad and Tobago with the Squash Association, Mandela and Nku are affiliated with the Petrotrin Pointe-a-Pierre Club. When asked how they balance their school work alongside this lively sport, they stated that their practice times are usually limited during school, but during the vacation they can have up to five sessions per week, with each session lasting two to three hours but they are still able to strike a balance. These dedicated training sessions have taken the boys to the United States Squash Open in 2009, with their most recent international venture being the London Open in 2011. According to Raymond Patrick, the London Open is considered the Olympics of Squash, and for his sons to be there, he was indeed very proud. Indeed, the boys come from a versatile sporting background, having represented Naparima College at the Under 14 and Under 16 Intercol football games. They have also touched in the areas of cricket as well as badminton and tennis. What may appear quite shocking is that these boys have an artistic background. They are young Soca and Calypso singers with remarkable accomplishments to prove their proficiency in this musical arena. Nku has qualified for the Junior Soca Monarch finals this year 2012 with his composition “We Mas”. The song, according to Nku, represents how we feel around Carnival time.
With the multitude of activities you would think that these boys have given up on their academic pursuits, however, this is not the case. Mandela, who is currently in Form 5 and taking on a whopping ten subjects for CXC, has never settled for anything less than placing first in examinations for the past 13 academic terms in high school. His brother, Nku is still in Form 4 and is currently pursing nine subjects for his CXC exams next year. What is the motto that these guys stand by? As they disclosed - “Hard work pays off!” The Trinidad and Tobago Squash Association has been making milestones, especially with their young players. Mandela and Nku spoke very highly of Charlotte Knaggs, a 16-year-old student of St Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain who won the scholar athlete trophy for Squash (2011) which is awarded by former national coach and player Ryan Abraham. So what advice would these two young men like to offer to other youths of this country? “Put your faith in God” they insisted. They have both accomplished many things in life, but nothing could have been possible without their faith in God.