Last Saturday, we escorted to everlasting life our dear friend in the squash community Chikumbutso Mkutumula.
For a long time, especially while he was a student at Chancellor College, Chiku was the national champion for squash in Malawi. He went on to represent Malawi at many international squash tournaments, including at Commonwealth games. Later, with age, Chiku’s squash prowess faded a bit and others came in to rule on the squash courts. But, Chiku never stopped to love and play the game.
With time, he refocused his energies towards coaching, ampiring and even administration of the National Squash Association where he rose to the rank of Secretary General in 2017. I have known Chiku through the game of squash since I joined in 2011. I have learnt a lot of lessons that I even apply in life. One of the lessons I learnt from him was a subject on this column a few years ago.
That was soon after my first meeting with Chiku. This was during a squash tournament at Blantyre Sports Club. I was not a good player at all, much worse than my current state of play! I lost all my games miserably. Chiku had come from his then base of Mzuzu and was watching the tournament games without participating. At the end of the tournament, he asked me to go onto the squash court. He then started teaching me the fundamentals of squash.
His lessons were very methodical. He would start by explaining the objective of what you want to do with the ball, racket and opponent. He would then explain the theory of the strategy and tactic to use.
He would then explain how you need to position your body, the legs, arms, posture and everything else. He would demonstrate a few times practically how to do it and then he would make you start practising as he helped you to perfect your game.
Chiku told me that the cardinal rule in the game of squash is to ‘Run to the T, then walk to the ball’. The ‘T’ is nearly the centre point on the squash court. >From the T, all end points are well within your reach in little time. If you are far from the T, then some of the balls might fall too far from you and you would not be able to get them in time. Chiku emphasized the need to run to the ‘T’ soon after playing your shot so that you can be ready and prepared to reach for any ball from the opponent.
Basically, you play your ball then run to the T immediately and wait for the ball while watching what the opponent is intending to do. When the opponent plays the ball, you will now simply walk one or two steps and play your shot. This is the basic winning formula in the game of squash, according to the late Chiku.
As we had shared in a rise and shine column article several years ago, we can all apply Chiku’s squash lesson of running to the T and walking to the ball in our real lives. We need to work hard and get ready for future opportunities. We should gain the skills today that we will need to use for grabbing the big job tomorrow. Sadly, many people take it easy and keep waiting until when a great opportunity comes, they want to check the criteria, talk to the people they know a little bit and then pray and hope that they will grab the chance.
Clever people are today working on closing their gaps to be ready in the future for known and unknown opportunities. Let us remember this cardinal rule all the time.
As Chiku would say, master the rule and then more importantly, the biggest rule is to remember to use the rule! Good luck as you rise and shine by implementing in real life, Chiku’s great squash lesson of running to the T and walking to the ball.
When you do that, I am sure that my great friend and coach Chiku will be smilling wherever he is in heaven! Good luck!