Cambridge, MA — As the crowd gathered for the award ceremony at the 2011 Men’s National Team Championships, most players and fans stood around in small groups, chatting and waiting. Not David Letourneau. He and a few other players jumped in and started to help the event staff set up folding chairs.
Less than an hour later, Trinity coach and the Men’s CSA Awards Chair Paul Assaiante presented Letourneau with the 2011 Skillman Award, one of the top individual honors in men’s college squash. Named for former Yale coach John Skillman, the award is given annually to a senior men’s squash player who has demonstrated outstanding sportsmanship during his entire college career.
Coaches nominate seniors for the award, and candidates are evaluated in a number of areas, including on-court poise and demeanor, leadership, and contributions to intercollegiate squash. Candidates’ skill level and ability in the game of squash are also taken into consideration, and Letourneau certainly had a distinguished college career.
An accomplished junior player, Letourneau was one of the top recruits of the 2007-2008 season. The Calgary native had already won several Canadian championships and had represented Team Canada in the Junior World Championships. He did not disappoint in his freshman season, finishing seventh in the nation and earning first-team All-American and All-Ivy honors. The Tigers won the 2008 Ivy League title, and Letourneau, who went undefeated against Ivy opponents, was named the league’s Rookie of the Year.
He earned All-American honors again as a sophomore and junior, and went undefeated in Ivy League play, garnering All-Ivy honors for the 2008-2009 season.
Letourneau captained the Tigers as a senior, and he backed up that role with leadership on the court. He went undefeated in team play throughout the season, including team championships. His win over Will Newnham of Rochester in Princeton’s final match helped the Tigers hold off the Yellowjackets 5-4 to finish third in the nation. He was named a Harrow Sports Player of the Week, was named to his fourth All-American team, and was a unanimous selection to the All-Ivy team.
Of course, there are many talented, accomplished college squash players. And each season there are a number of players who lead their teams to key victories and earn post-season honors. But at the award ceremony, there were very few people who saw the staff needed help and stepped in, completely unasked. That kind of conscientiousness and consideration is what sets Letourneau apart.
“In my thirty years of playing and coaching squash, I have never met anyone who so epitomizes the ideals we preach each day to our kids – sportsmanship, fair play, respect for the opponent, effort, honesty, friendship, and love of the game,” Princeton coach Bob Callahan wrote of Letourneau in the award nomination.
Winning isn’t such an unusual thing; after all, every match has a winner. While good sportsmanship could be more prevalent, it is widespread enough that bad behavior still catches our attention. Maintaining a high standard of conduct, year in, year out, while performing at the highest level in pressure-filled situations — that’s exceptional, and that’s what the Skillman Award is all about.
And that’s Dave Letourneau.
For other photos from the 2011 award ceremony, please visit mtbello.com.