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EL SALVADOR

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Interview with Andrea Echeverria  Salvadorian Squash "Ambassador" in the United States.

We talk a little bit with Andrea Echeverria a great player from El Salvador who represent their country in many international competitions and now lives in the United States.

        1. How did you get into squash?
I got into the sport through my mom, Cristina Echeverria. She represented El Salvador for many years. As her daughter, I have always had great admiration for her and her accomplishments on the court; so I started following her footsteps from a very young age. I was 7 years old when I started taking lessons and represented El Salvador for the first time by the age of 12.
        

        2. What was your first experience playing for the national team?
My first tournament representing El Salvador was a Junior Pan-American Tournament in Argentina in 2002; I was 12 years old at the time and played #2 for my country. From there on, I started to compete on a consistent basis. The feeling of being able to play with my flag on my shirt is incredible. Playing my heart out has always been my way of contributing to El Salvador, always with great respect and taking this responsibility very seriously. I understood from a very young age, that it took a tremendous amount of discipline and leadership to succeed in the sport.

3.  Tell us a little bit about College Squash, what was it like?
To answer this, I first have to start by giving my parents credit. If it wasn’t for their unconditional support I would’ve never been able to accomplish this dream.

It was a very different experience compared to competing for El Salvador. The official team at Trinity is composed of 9 players; therefore the team dynamic is different as it is much bigger. I was very lucky to be a part of such a forceful team. In the recent years, we have been ranked in the Top 5 of the USA and I truly believe part of our success is due to the fact that we became a FAMILY: we go to classes together, we eat together, we travel together, and we train together.  It was definitely an experience I am truly grateful for and wouldn’t change.

4.  You are trying to coach at the same time as you are competing, is that a hard thing to balance?
It is definitely hard, but like anything, you have to get used to the routine. I train in the mornings and coach after that. It can be difficult to balance both but it is very doable. I am currently training for the 2016 Pan-American games, which will be held in September in the USA. At the same time, I am putting a tremendous amount of time into the junior program of Westchester Country Club, as we are getting our top kids ready to compete in Nationals, which is the biggest and hardest tournament of their season as only the top 32 in the country are eligible to compete in each category. It requires a lot of discipline to be able to do both of these things with excellence, but it is a quality I developed from a very young age.

         5. Why have you chosen the United States as a home base for the time being?
Squash is a booming sport and it is definitely taking off in the US more than anywhere else. Being here allows me to train with some of the other top players, while helping kids explode their potential on the court as well. The junior level in the country is extremely high, and I feel great satisfaction from being able to help them through this process and be able to grow and promote the sport throughout the region.

6. What would be your advice to the young players trying to break through in the sport?
The way you play on the court is a direct reflection of who you are off the court. In other words, always show respect, sportsmanship and discipline whether you are playing in a tournament, training with a teammate, or studying for a test. If you work hard and put in the time and effort, results will come. Love every second of it because nothing beats the satisfaction of winning for your team or, better yet, for your country.

If you win, win it with humbleness, and if you lose, lose with pride as in this sport there are only two possible outcomes, and it is a process that takes a lot of time and dedication.

7. Who are you coaching? How much have you achieved for them?
I coach a whole range of levels at Westchester Country Club, from 5-year-olds to women, and our top Junior players. Our top-ranked U.S. players include Dennis Jones, who plays for Avon, Bella Jones, who plays for UVA, Tucker Martino, who has represented the USA jr, team on two occasions, Julia Chai, Sydney and Jessica Saviano, Patrick and Katie Keller, and Sabrina and Madeline Schwarz. All of these players have been nationally ranked in the Top 10 in the US at some point since my arrival at the club in 2012.

As a coach of the highest Junior level in the country, my job goes way beyond what we do solely on court. I focus on their technical skills as well as their physical fitness, and mental toughness. I am their mentor and role model, so I am constantly helping them improve their game in all aspects, and make sure they do well in school so they can aspire to play at the top schools of the country, such as Dartmouth or Harvard.

8. What are you known for as a coach?
My strength is in psychology, as that was my major at Trinity. At this level, it is extremely important for them to be consistent in their level of playing and the only way to achieve this is through intense focus and self-confidence. I am also the only squash pro at the club with an academic degree in psychology, therefore many parents ask me to work with their kids and good players come to me specifically for that

9. Tell me about your experience coaching the National Junior team of El Salvador?
I take great pride in this part of my career. As I previously mentioned, my first experience representing El Salvador was as a member of the National Junior Team, so it is something I hold dear to my heart.

When I was given this opportunity, I started a very different system than the prior system, which had been focused solely on verbal coaching throughout the matches. Instead of relying on telling the players what to do as if one method fits all players, I made it a point to get to know each player extremely well and understand what works best for each one of them in different stages of the match. I implemented a visual coaching technique in which I explain what that player needs to concentrate on to win the match, using diagrams and other visual representations of them and their game. The entire coaching is 90 seconds, and I tried to gear it towards allowing them to recall the technique during play (as less oxygen reaches the brain when you are exhausted) with the end goal of building their confidence in their ability to ‘pick out’ the right shot and obtain the “W”.  All the players did better than expected, and I continue to have a great relationship with all the team members, and to coach them when I’m in El Salvador.

10. Talk to me about the different awards you’ve won throughout your playing career?
Throughout my career, I have obtained many great results and have been awarded different honors, such as Rookie of the Year in 2006, Sports Excellence Award and Outstanding Female Athlete in 2008. These are all extremely hard to obtain, as not anybody is eligible for them. They are all primarily based on obtaining good results at international level competitions. 

When I came to the United States, I played for Trinity College and now coach at Westchester Country Club.  One of my greatest rewards throughout my career has been playing in the Top 9 for Trinity College Women’s Team and obtaining 4th and 3rd place in the country. This year, I have been selected to play in the Pan-American Games, representing El Salvador. I am expected to do very well and hopefully keep expanding my list of awards.

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