Princeton, NJ — After thirty-two years as the men’s squash coach at Princeton University, Bob Callahan is retiring.
“It has been a great ride over the last 32 years, and I have so many people to thank who have supported me along the way,” Callahan told GoPrincetonTigers.com. “Princeton Squash means so much to me, and right now, I think this is the best decision for myself and this program.”
A life-long Tiger, Callahan played for Princeton from 1973 to 1977. During this time period, Princeton captured the 1974, 1975, and 1977 National Championships, the 1976 six-man tournament, and won the Ivy League title in 1974 (tri-champion), 1975, and 1977. Callahan captained the 1977 team, was a two-time All-American (1976 and 1977), and a two-time member of the All-Ivy League team (1976 and 1977). The Tigers went 35-2 over Callahan’s playing career.
After college, Callahan worked for IBM. Following Princeton’s coaching vacancy after the 1981 season, Callahan returned to Princeton with the intention of coaching a single season. An undefeated season and a national championships during the 1981 – 1982 season changed Callahan’s plans. He would go on to coach another thirty-one years for the Tigers.
During his coaching tenure, he guided Princeton to over 300 victories. He retires as the winningest coach in Princeton’s long squash history. After starting his career coaching career with a National Championship in 1982, he won his next national championship in 1993. Almost twenty years later, in 2012, Princeton ended Trinity College’s thirteen year run of national championships with a come-from-behind 5-4 victory on the Jadwin Courts.
Callahan’s coaching knowledge and passion for the game attracted top players to Princeton. Five of his players brought the Pool Trophy (Men’s Individual Championship) back to Jadwin: Jeff Stanley (1987 and 1988), Peter Yik (1999 and 2000), David Yik (2001), Yasser El Halaby (2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006), and Todd Harrity (2011).
During his time at Princeton, Callahan coached five doubles pairs who won the intercollegiate doubles titles: 1988, Keen Butcher and Roy Rubin; 1995, Rick Hartigan and David Kaye; 1996, Ben Fishman and Jack Wyant; 2003: Will Osnato and Dent Wilkens, and 2013, Todd Harrity and Taylor Tutrone.
Callahan put together some of the top Ivy League teams during his thirty-two years of coaching. The Tigers captured eleven Ivy League titles under Callahan’s watch: 1981, 1982, 1989, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, and 2013. Callahan’s players captured the twelve conference Rookie of the Year awards: Jeff Stanley, Rick Hartigan, Jack Wyant, Peter Yik, Peter Kelly, David Yik, Yasser El Halaby, Robert Hong, Mauricio Sanchez, David Letourneau, Chris Callis, Todd Harrity, and Vivek Dinodia. He had fourteen Ivy League Players of the Year: Jeff Stanley (1987 and 1988), Peter Yik (1999 and 2000), Davik Yik (2001), Will Evans (2002), Yasser El Halaby (2003, 2004, and 2005), Mauricio Sanchez (2007, 2008, and 2009), and Todd Harrity (2011 and 2013).
Under his tutelage, Princeton players and teams were recognized by the College Squash Association. Seven of Callahan’s players have won the Skillman Award, which is given annually to a senior men’s squash player who has demonstrated outstanding sportsmanship during his entire college career: 1987, Jeff Stanley; 1988, Keen Butcher; 2000, Peter Yik; 2003, David Yik; 2006, Yasser El Halaby; 2011, David Letourneau; and 2013, Todd Harrity. In addition, his teams won the Sloane Award, which is given annually to the team that, as judged by their peers, best exemplified the ideals of sportsmanship throughout the season, in 2000 and 2012.
Throughout Callahan’s coaching career, he was an active member of the MCSA Executive Committee. He served several terms as president, including his final term from 2009 through 2012, a time that saw great effort to professionalize and grow the league.
Callahan’s knowledge of players throughout the league was immense. He handled team and individual rankings for the CSA for years and even arranged the draws for the men’s individual championships, two time-consuming and challenging tasks.
Until the 1990s, college squash, like all squash in the United States, was hardball squash. Callahan recognized that softball squash was worldwide and the College Squash Association had to switch to help foster the universality of the a single version of the game. He began lobbying for the change in 1992 and beginning in 1994, the MCSA began play with softball squash. This led to new and renovated courts for colleges and clubs throughout the United States. In addition, it ushered in a new era for college squash. International players would now join North American players to compete for the top ladder positions in American colleges and universities.
A true pioneer, Callahan launched the Princeton Squash Camps in 1981. This camp became the prototype for the numerous squash camps that are in operation today. Not only has he coached countless Princeton students, but through his camps he has impacted the squash careers of hundreds of coaches and players. In 1998, Callahan even arranged for Princeton to host the World Junior Men’s Championships. This was the first time this tournament was held in the United States.
Callahan knew that 2013 might be his final season coaching the Tigers. It was fitting that the final match played of the 2013 Men’s National Team Championships, the third place match in the Potter Cup, was held between Princeton and Yale. Princeton captured the match 6-3. Callahan led the Tigers to yet another win. A week later, Callahan guided numerous players through the Individual Championships, where senior Todd Harrity made it to the Pool Trophy finals. Once again, Callahan was coaching the final match of the tournament as Princeton’s Vivek Dinodia captured the Molloy Cup (B Division). Even the final official photo of the 2013 college squash season featured Callahan and long-time assistant coach Neil Pomphrey.
A true Tiger, Callahan and his wife Kristen raised five boys, all of whom graduated from Princeton and played on the squash team.
Reflections from CSA Coaches:
“Bob has been the guiding light and visionary for Princeton men’s squash for 32 years. Personally it is so hard for me to imagine him not at the helm, but he has left a mark that will surely be missed and never forgotten in the Princeton squash world. He has touched so many young men and provided tremendous guidance and support while they have been at Princeton. College squash has not seen a better coach or person and we all will miss his involvement moving forward.” — Gail Ramsay, women’s coach at Princeton University.
“Bob has been a great statesman for college squash.” –Mark Devoy, men’s coach at Cornell University.
“He taught us how to win with class and lose with grace. Bob always knew what counted the most and that was the development of young people.” — Paul Assaiante, men’s coach at Trinity College.
“If you have read Kouzes and Posner’s book ‘The Leadership Challenge’ – more that three million people around the world trained in their leadership system, you will know that one of the top roles of an exemplary leader is to be an ‘Innovator.’ In my twenty-five years of consulting with world-class and college coaches, I have never met a person who was able to transform teams of athletes and coaches (including me), by aligning their own intellectual curiosity with a determination to ‘be different,’ ‘innovate,’ and ‘chart their own course.’ I will be eternally grateful to Bob for being an ‘Innovator,’ and giving me my first of hundreds of consulting opportunities, thereby changing my life forever. I am an extremely lucky ‘squash’ person.” — Tim Bacon, coach at Smith College.
“Bob Callahan has been a friend, mentor and an inspiration to me since I met him over 20 years ago as a junior at his summer camp. Bob has shown us all the right way to win and the success and quality of his teams are a testament to his character and dedication. Bob Callahan is college squash and I thank him for the standard he has set and the legacy he leaves us all.” — Pat Cosquer, men’s and women’s coach at Bates College.
“Bob’s passion, leadership and love for the game of squash is second to none. He was one of the first coaches to reach out to me to let me know that if I needed help in learning the ropes of college coaching to call him anytime! He has built the CSA to where it is now from being a college coach and president of the Association. I wish Bob all the very best in his retirement. I also wish Princeton Athletics the very best in trying to find a replacement for one of the best college coaches in squash!” — John White, men’s and women’s coach at Drexel University.
“Bob has had such a strong influence on my personal and professional squash career. I learned from him as a coach at his camp, my two boys loved his camps as players, he ran the best junior tournaments with Gail [Ramsay], he coached many of my juniors at Princeton and he was so generous with his support of me when I became a college coach. There will never be a man as dedicated to the sport and as generous of his time than Bob.” — Wendy Lawrence, men’s and women’s coach at George Washington University.
“Coach was, and is, a great inspiration to me. He is an amazing family man and coach. I treasure my memories playing for Bob, being part of the 1993 National Championship team, working directly with him as captain and recently, competing with him as an intercollegiate coach. I wish Bob and Kristen the best as they focus on children and grandchildren and the next phase of life. Bob will be missed by the CSA.” — Jack Wyant, men’s and women’s coach at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Bob Callahan’s retirement from Princeton is one of the most significant developments in the modern era of the College Squash Association. Bob’s contributions as both the Head Coach of Princeton for 32 years as well as his leadership role in the sport are unprecedented. He has won numerous Ivy and National championships while being a educator and mentor to all the student-athletes he has coached for over three decades. Serving on the executive committee for close to 30 years, Bob was President of the CSA twice and was instrumental in the transition to the International game. The growth of the college game in so many ways is tied to Bob and his career in college squash. Having competed against Bob for 30 years as Head Coach of Yale Squash, I personally have the utmost respect for Bob and his contributions to the sport. He has been a leader and friend, and someone I have admired for all he has accomplished for the sport and his players. College squash will greatly miss him, and Bob leaves a legacy that is unmatched.” — Dave Talbott, men’s and women’s coach at Yale University.
“I have never known a man more universally loved and respected in our sport than Bob Callahan. He will be sorely missed by all of us in college squash. Bob, the very best to you in retirement. See you courtside!” — Mike Way, men’s and women’s coach at Harvard University.
“Bob has always been a person and coach I have greatly admired, respected and liked. I have known him for 30 years, and his squash knowledge, professionalism, calm demeanor have been a constant force in college squash. Bob will be greatly missed by coaches, players and fans, but for me, more than anything, I will miss his smile!!” — Wendy Bartlett, women’s coach at Trinity College.
“If there was ever an institution in US collegiate squash it is Bob Callahan whom I’ve known for almost twenty years. I owe my introduction to coaching squash in the US to Bob who first invited me to coach at his summer camps back in 1994. For ten years, working at the Princeton camps, I enjoyed exchanging coaching strategies with him, renewing friendships with coaches from all over the world that he and Gail brought in, and the end-of-camp BBQs when Bob would initiate discussions on how to make improvements to the camp experience. He was also instrumental in helping me to get my first job here in the US. There are so many memories from those camp days – too many to mention – and throughout the years, like everyone in the squash world, I’ve appreciated his kindness, decency and sense of fairness. I’ll always be grateful for the opportunities that Bob gave me.” — Wendy Berry, head coach at Wellesley College.
“Bob Callahan, was the driving force in the College Squash Association for many years. He was a thoughtful passionate leader, who is largely responsible for the growth of the college game and making sure every team was included and eligible to play in the National Championships. He spent countless hours volunteering and leading committees, communicating with coaches and making sure our season and championships were run correctly. All the time while coaching one of the best programs in the league. Bob, you are a true gentleman, a class act, a great coach and we have all been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with you and benefit from your passion for the game and wisdom.” — Craig Thorpe-Clark, former men’s and women’s coach at Vassar College and former men’s coach at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Bob Callahan ranks to me as one of the kindest and most grounded humans I have had the pleasure to know, work alongside and become friends with. For two years he and I worked hand in hand as College Squash Association presidents. The mission was to guide and evolve the structure, goals and operations of the College Squash Association to a place that we both hoped would allow the sport to grow, be viewed and applauded for the amazing institution that College Squash is and create a better environment and experience for players, coaches, fans and supporters alike. I believe we did that and huge credit should go to the Bob as the driving force behind this. Bob’s heartfelt tenacity was always palpable and in the many, many hours we spent working together, this never wavered. Bob modeled what it mean to be a humanist in the face of challenges and situations where it might have been easier to behave otherwise. It is hard not to admire Bob and strive to be like him – although he will be self effacing and go to great lengths to dispute this fact (sorry Bob, I’m not the only one that thinks this way so we must be right). The teams that have been fortunate enough to experience this through Bob’s coaching will be able to relate and are doubtless taking a little piece of Bob’s passion and compassion for others where ever they go. This is highly evident when you meet Bob’s family – it is a Callahan trait! I wish Bob nothing but the very best years in his retirement from the coaching community and have a hunch that he is very excited to assume his new role as grandfather to a beautiful baby girl. Thank you Bob for being an amazing colleague and inspirational friend.” — Shona Kerr, men’s and women’s coach at Wesleyan University.
“Bob Callahan has been an icon in college squash. His contribution has been tremendous.” — Sakhi Khan, men’s and women’s coach at Colby College.
“It amazes me how Bob could inspire players and coaches and parents and alumni alike. I got a kick out of watching him motivate players on other teams. He is a highly talented man, tells great squash stories, is a gifted coach, and Princeton and college squash were blessed to have him for as long as they did. I will miss his team updates and wish him the very best in retirement.” — Fred Clement, captain, Princeton varsity squash 1972, Father of Niki Clement, men’s and women’s coach at Haverford College.
“I met Bob when I first arrived in 1993 at Princeton at a Junior tournament. We swapped and signed 1 dollar bills. Each time we met we remarked as to how lucky these dollars were. We have been friends ever since and squash buddies. Good Luck in your retirement Bob, enjoy.” — Bryan Patterson, coach at Fordham University.
“Bob Callahan was the Class of the Men’s College Squash Association for three decades. Possessed of impeccable character, he was the role model for a generation of squash coaches. He served tirelessly for years on the Executive Committee by helping College Squash transition to the softball game in the 90’s, by growing and professionalizing our association, and by generally overseeing all our events. He was always ready to help; and his teams were the epitome of Sportsmanship. He is a true gentleman, who cannot be replaced.” — John Illig, men’s and women’s coach at Middlebury College.
In recognition of his stellar career and dedication to the game, U.S. Squash inducted Callahan into their Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2011.