Captain Leads Racquetwomen to National Title
Courtney Stimpson is not one to attract much attention. Small in stature, she does not look particularly athletic. Sky in the presence of strangers, she is not one to best of her accomplishment, or even to talk about herself at great length. And once on the court, she plays an uninspiring brand of squash that is for more efficient than it is spectacular.
But Courtney Stimpson's style is deceptive. More than a few unlucky opponents have found out the hard way in the past four years that Stimpson is a squash player to be reckoned with. After all, she is the captain of the Harvard women's squash team, a team that won its first national title this year, and Stimpson's season individual match record of 11-1 played no small part in this accomplishment.
The bulk of Stimpson's contribution to this championship team, however, has occurred away from the court Coaches Jack Barnaby and Prisoilla Pool both praise the 21-year-old senior for being a steadying influence on the team. "She has added a tremendous amount of stability to the team because of her maturity and her ability to take things so cooly." Pool says of Stimpson. This maturity and coolness under pressure has been instrumental in leading the racquetwomen to the top.
For Courtney Stimpson, the road to the top has not been long, nor has it been particularly tortuous. As a ninth grader Stimpson began playing squash near her Lake Forest, III, home, and a year later she was on the varsity team at St. Paul's School in New Hampshire. By her senior year Stimpson was a second year captain and the team's number one player St. Paul's subsequently went on to win the prep school championships that year and the team traveled to England to compete in tournaments there.
Stimpson's first two years at Harvard found her near the top of the varsity ladder and as a junior her victors over a Yale rival at number three late in the season played a key role in the team's runner up finish to Prince ton in the national rankings.
Second best to the experienced Princeton team was not satisfactory for Stimpson and the Harvard squash team though. With the opening of the 1981-82 season, the Crimson found itself with two new superstars--freshmen Mary Hulbert and Diana Stanley--who put the team in a position to challenge the perennially victorious Tigers. Since mid-October the racquetwomen's season has pointed toward the Howe Cup, the national tournament, where they anticipated upsetting Princeton for the first time.
A lot can go wrong in the progression from having the potential to win a national championship and actually attaining that goal. But with Stimpson as Harvard's captain, the Tigers should have known their days on top were numbered. Four months before the Howe Cup, Stimpson started assembling the squad for 7:30 a.m. workouts at the ITT.
The racquetwomen continued this rigorous training schedule (which included mostly running) until they were in shape, and once the season started they overpowered their first four opponents with 7-0 sweeps.
Then came the House Cup showdown in New Heven. With incredible case the Crimson hurried through their initial five opponents in the three-day tournament, not allowing anyone to approach their level of skill as they won by scores of 6-1, 5-2, 7-0, 7-0 and 6-1. Playing at number six. Stimpson was among the most invincible of the Harvard corps, not surrendering even a game to any opponent through that point in the tourney.
Stimpson and the rest of the team saved their best for the finals against Princeton Unknown to the captain, her teammates swept to victory in five of the six early matches, leaving only the Harvard captain and the Tigers' Denise Galamboy still on the courts. The rest of the racquetwomen arrived at courtside with Stimpson ahead 2-1 in games and under pressure from a noisy gallery, she made short order of the fourth and final game winning in 15-5.
Clearly, Stimpson is not a star--Barnaby says. "She's not a super athlete not terrifically fast" but she always gets the job done Pool observes. "She does amazing things with the talent she has making the most of what she's got and setting a great example for the team." Barnaby concurs; "Courtney doesn't have the internists ability to be a great star but she has taken her physical gifts as far as possible."
To stay competitive with her teammates has required the fine tuning of her game and Stimpson has obviously done a lot of that at Harvard. According to Barnaby. "She worked very hard at conditioning this year which improved her quickness. She now get to a lot of balls that she didn't used to."
"Her tenacity is what wins for her." Pool adds, saying. "She stays in the point and when an opening comes she makes the most of it."
Stimpson credits the legendary Barnaby for improving her game. "Jack taught me how to play a point." Stimpson says. "Before coming to Harvard I could hit the ball but I couldn't think."
For Stimpson the training, the pushing of her talent to the amount, and the teaching of Barnaby has paid huge dividends. And when it was time to keep them at the Home Cup. Stimpson, a consummate team player, deviled most of her satisfaction from the effect of the triumph on others. "The Howe Cup was the absolute highpoint," she recalls "it felt so good because in a way we won it for Jack, it was our way of thanking him for everything."
Having dropped from the top of the ladder to number six in four years, another player might feel resentment at the influx of new sensations each year. Not so with Stimpson "I've had a lot of competition in past years, which I don't have now in our matches but on the other hand it's great to have a really good team I'm very proud of the caliber of my teammates."
Being the national champions in women's squash probably means more to Stimpson than anyone else. The only four year member of the team--including the coaches she has sufficient perspective to fully appreciate it. To reach this apex Stimpson has successfully fused team goals with personal ambition. As the only senior on a team with two freshmen and two sophomores Stimpson capacity for leadership and her ability to create team unity has been invaluable.
As the captain teammates Lisa Harrison says. "Courtney is always very supportive always there when you need her. And in terms of personal goals. Harrison adds. She puts her mind to something and gets it done she's a real go-getter."
This year Stimpson has accomplished more than anyone could have asked for. As a reward to the Lowell House resident knows that her mark on Harvard squash has been made. "When I walk into Hemenway now I feel like it's home, she says.
Littered with the like of prep school and national titles. Stimpson's sports career has been one of winning. Moreover, she captained both championship squads. Being a captain and winning are difficult habits to cultivate, as anyone who has tried surely knows. Somewhere beneath her shy, unassuming demeanor. Courtney Stimpson holds a formula for success.