It started as a bet.
At a party last year, Marc A. Lindemann, a first-year student a Harvard Law School (HLS), met some students from the Kennedy school of Government (KSG). As the conversation progressed, they discovered they had some thing in common: a love for the game of squash.
"These guys all loved to play squash," Lindemann says. "They had a team together, too. And they challenged me to a game against them."
With his "Pride being assaulted," Marc Lindemann quickly assembled a team of law schools students he had been playing with. After practicing a couple of times, they faced off against the KSG team in a grudge match at Homenway gym.
The HLS team got beat Badly. And, in addition to the 7-2 score, their defeat was publicized-the KSG students, who publish their own squash newsletter, wrote an article about their victory. But it didn't stop there.
This informal inter-mural squash competition has quickly spread to other graduate schools. The School of Public Health has started organizing a squash team, the HLS team has challenged the Business Schools, and KSG students have challenged the Medical School.
The Business School may be the slumbering giant of graduate school squash, with two squash pros employed by the school to give students cheap lessons. Still they have not formed a team as yet.
Hectic exam-time schedules have made it hard to set dates for games before the end of this school year. But for next year, HLS and KSG will play a full schedule of games, and other schools may join in as well.
Since last fall, KSG first-year-Steven N. Rahman and others had set up an informal system in which students would play other students they had never played before.
The result, Rahman says, was 17-20 students who not played for the camaraderie but were also pretty decent squash players.
And with the competitive spirit they are famous for, the HLS students have rebounded from their original defeat to build a competitive team of their own.
"We started advertising," Lindemann says of efforts to find more players and organize practices. "We petitioned the administration for funding and they gave it to us."
Lindemann also fund two former collegiate squash players who had played on the varsity teams of their schools, one at Harvard and the other at Dartmouth.
Soon the HLS squash team had attracted more than 30 students. The students organized a ladder system for ranking themselves, and then the top five or six players to compete against other teams.
All the while, the player were preparing for a rematch against the KSG. The rematch was no contest. The HLS Team routed the KSG team, 8-1. And the players say they look forward to continuing the matches in the fall.
"Next year is going to be even bigger," Lindemann says.
Lindemann thinks that events such as the squash league are good way to foster a sense of community between graduate schools, which are not connected that well.
"It's true that there aren't that many avenues for grad school students [to interact]," says Lindemann, who, before the dinner party at which the squash league was born, did not know any students at the Kennedy School.
"The schools are vibrant internally, but not in terms of cohesion outside the schools,” he says.
Rahman say that a heavy workload prevents many graduate students from pursuing other hobbies, and that the squash league is an excellent way to get out and have some fun.
"Grad students do not explore the other schools as much, because of their course load," he says." [The league] forces them out of the library and out of the computer lab, and they get to meet other people."