Psychologist plays squash among best

Photo courtesy of Dr. John Velasquez


All the tennis classes were full when future psychologist John Velasquez needed to take a physical education class at the University of Texas at Austin, so he chose squash.

And he’s been swinging a mean squash raquet ever since on the court. Dr. Velasquez, an associate professor of psychology at the University of the Incarnate Word, is ranked No. 1 in San Antonio and 31st nationwide.

Originally taking the squash class on a whim, Velasquez not only received knowledge of a new sport, but also he found a new niche, and his permanent “doubles” partner, his wife, Katherine.

Velasquez competed for UT on the club team and on the varsity squash team against such competition as the University of California at Berkeley, San Diego State University, Air Force Academy and Colorado College. After graduation, he coached the UT team. He and his wife organized more than 50 tournaments for UT students to compete in, including the Texas Open.

As an individual player, Velasquez has been playing more than 25 years, competing in national tournaments in Texas as well as New York, Connecticut, Colorado and California.

Mostly on weekends, Velasquez is driving to Houston and back where he’s active in the Houston Squash Racquets Association and participating in tournaments from which he’s accumulated some trophies.

Although making the drive so often takes a lot out of him, Velasquez said, he prefers the HSRA over playing locally because they are “more organized, they play by the rules, there’s tournaments and matches frequently. It’s just better and there are more players, so more competition and more fun that way.” The local tournaments, in his opinion, are “not the same.”

Velasquez, who also maintains a private practice where he can offer internships to UIW psychology majors, said he doesn’t play for fame or trophies.

“It’s about the longevity,” he said. “And staying healthy. I have used my participation in the sport to supplement instruction in my sports psychology course I teach each fall.”

As a player, “I like to think I am dedicated. I mean, I get no money. I’m not professional so I have no sponsors. It’s part of my identity. It’s kind of like a lifestyle. When you go to a social event people ask what you do, some people say they are big-time lawyers, others say doctors and nurses, but I would say, ‘I play squash.’ That’s how important it is to me. I want to play forever. It’s how I hope to die. Walking off the court after a real good squash match, I mean hopefully when I’m well into my 80s or 90s. The way I see it, that would be the end of life.”

How to play squash

Squash is a racquet sport played by two players (or four players for doubles) in a four-walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball.

Squash is recognized by the International Olympic Committee and remains in contention for incorporation in a future Olympic program. The game was formerly called squash racquets, a reference to the “squashable” soft ball used in the game, compared with the fatter ball used in its parent game, racquets.

The basic rules of squash are fairly simple. First the winner of the toss gets to choose which side they want to serve from and alternate sides until they lose a point. The toss is typically done by spinning the racquet, with one player guessing whether the racquet will land up or down based on the direction of the logo at the end of the grip.

The ball can hit any number of walls (sidewall, back wall, etc.) but must eventually hit the front wall before bouncing on the floor. A rally (the exchange of shots) ends when one of the following occurs: if the ball bounces twice, if the ball hits the tin, if the ball is hit outside the out lines or if an interference occurs.

Leave a Reply