Upper Canada College captured its fifth straight Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario Athletic Association (CISAA) varsity squash championship in February, and two of the team’s players and its longtime coach have been winning away from the school as well.
Brothers Neel and Nikhil Ismail represented Ontario in the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta. in February. Neel was the silver medalist in singles and he and Nikhil claimed gold in the team competition, with both of them going undefeated.
Nikhil won the U17 event and Neel finished second in the U19 event at the recent Ontario junior squash championships. Neel was recognized as the U19 player of the year, while Nikhil was runner-up. Neel also won the Jim Mason Fair Play Award.
Over his junior squash career, Neel has attained the number one ranking in Ontario and a top two ranking in Canada in every age category. He’s also won a provincial and national title.
Nikhil is a three-time national champion and four-time provincial champion who has represented Ontario and Canada in competitions. He’s currently ranked number one in Ontario and Canada and is one of the top 10 players in North America.
Meanwhile, Peter Frost, who’s volunteered to be UCC’s varsity squash coach for 25 years, was recently inducted into the Ontario Squash Hall of Fame.
Neel and Nikhil Ismail
The Ismail brothers have been playing squash for eight years, since their father enrolled them in a March break camp since he thought they’d enjoy the sport that he played in college.
“I remember my parents had to drag us off the courts after each day as the camp ended because we had so much fun playing,” says Neel, who’s in Year 12 at UCC.
“My future goals in squash are to continue the success I've had at the provincial and national levels,” says Nikhil, who’s in Year 11. “I am also currently on the world junior team and will represent Canada next year at the world championships.
“I also would like to continue representing Canada internationally at events like the Pan Am Games and possibly the Olympics in the future.”
Neel is trying to qualify for the squash team that will represent Canada at this summer’s Pan American Games in Peru, and he’s also looking to play some tournaments in Europe in July. He plans to continue to play squash competitively in university — and encourages all members of the UCC community to try it.
“It is an incredibly fun sport that tests your physical limits and can be played all year round.”
Frost taught squash to his brother Paul, who became a highly regarded squash pro, as well as several other family members and friends. He took a more roundabout way to become UCC’s squash coach.
His connection with the College came about from a conversation between his wife Maria and Old Boy and fellow squash champ Ed Bracht, who was the school’s bursar at the time.
“Maria mentioned that we had sold our house and were looking for short-term accommodation while we searched for a new one,” says Frost. “Ed suggested we might be interested in a townhouse on campus that was vacant because a teacher failed to show up at the last minute.
“This suited us very well, so I met with Ed and Doug Blakey, the principal, and agreed to help with tennis and squash coaching to fulfil the obligation of campus residents to volunteer in after-school activities. Thus began my 25-year career as a volunteer coach. Initially I worked with the junior teams, but eventually graduated to coaching the varsity squash team.”
In addition to the Ismail brothers, Frost named several other outstanding squash players he’s coached at UCC: Greg Huttner, Tim Livingston, Patrick Livingston, Ben Wheeler, Harris Lechtzier and James Flynn.
“As I look back at the accomplishments of all these players, I cannot in fairness rank them in any particular order,” says Frost. “Each was special and each was a dedicated team player and each brought all the elements to the game required of true champions.
“I always enjoyed coaching the boys. I believe as I got older the fact that, for several months of the year, I was directly involved with young, enthusiastic athletes kept me feeling younger.
“Furthermore, being engaged in the UCC school community, far removed from my daily work in the investment business, meant I always had a practice or a game to look forward to. That change of focus took my mind off the daily strains and pressures of the stock markets and brought some needed balance to my life.”
UCC squash players appreciate what Frost has done for them and the program at the school.
“Mr. Frost has been very important to me during my time at UCC,” says Nikhil. “He's coached me during my four years on the UCC squash team and has been a great leader and mentor for me.
“His commitment and dedication to the game, and just the overall success of the players and team, are amazing. He obviously has played the biggest role in our team winning five consecutive CISAA championships, and also helped me become the squash player I am today.”
Before turning to coaching, Frost was a top squash player for 25 years who won singles and doubles championships at the club, city, provincial, national and international levels. He was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in his late thirties, and his competitive career was over by age 40.
Frost joined the board of Squash Ontario in 1978 and served as its president in 1982 and 1983. He was later elected to the board of Squash Canada and served a number of years in various roles, including president from 1983 to 1985.
All of these accomplishments and contributions to Squash Canada earned Frost an induction into the Canadian Squash “Wall of Fame” in 1991. He was inducted into the Granite Club Sports Hall of Fame in 1995 for winning four Canadian squash championships.
Frost, however, claims he’s most proud of his recent induction to the Ontario Squash Hall of Fame in the builder category in recognition of his entire body of work over many years in various capacities within the squash community.