Hall of Fame

Ivy Pochoda

Graduation Year


Induction Year

Hall of Fame

Harvard Athletic Achievements

Ivy Pochoda wasted no time letting the Ivy League know that Harvard had acquired an exceptional squash player in 1994. Ivy helped spur one of the most successful runs in women’s squash history. She was tabbed Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 1994-95 and was named Ivy League Player of the Year the following year. She is a four-time First Team All-Ivy selection (1994-1998) and four-time All-American. Ivy capped off her impressive career by winning the individual National Championship her senior year (1998). The two-time captain for the women’s squash team helped lead her team to three National Championships in 1995, 1996, and 1997 and three Ivy League championships.

Hall of Fame

Remembering Harvard Athletics

College squash is a strange beast—a truly individual sport repackaged into a team format. Let’s just say, for the competitive junior player, it’s quite an adjustment. You see, the U.S. squash community is so small, that when you join a college team, players who could reduce you to tears on and off the court in your junior days—players whose infuriating styles of play and strange mannerisms drove you wild and kept you up at night before a big tournament—suddenly transform into your closest allies. And a player whom you wouldn’t speak to for eight years (and who certainly wouldn’t speak to you) becomes your daily training partner. And not just a training partner, she becomes the person whom you are desperate to see win at all costs, the person on whose shoulders your entire season rests. So it doesn’t matter how many national junior championships you won or how many times you represented the United States internationally before your eighteenth birthday, you are no more important that the lowest player on the ladder. It’s humbling, educational, and inspirational. When I got to Harvard in 1994 I had a lot of growing up to do.

I was nervous entering college. I was a talented but strange kid (at least in the eyes of my teammates). I dressed differently and I thought differently. I didn’t know if or how I could fit in with the team. It wasn’t that I was out for myself, but I’d never been welcomed into the squash community, at least not socially. I figured that my best bet was simply playing my spot on the ladder and leaving it at that. Squash wouldn’t be a social outlet. These people wouldn’t be my friends.

But with the help of our thoughtful coach Bill Doyle, I began to understand that although we might play as individuals, we compete as a team—that one player’s performance and dedication both on and off the court can inspire the rest. I started to look forward to our weekly team dinners, to the parties, and events we attended together. And soon what I might have previously dismissed as saccharine demonstrations of team spirit—team initiation, team shopping, team blind dates, to name a few—became less curious to me.

While I won a host of awards and championships, both team and individual, the most surprising honor of my college squash career was being elected captain by my team at the end of my sophomore year. The kid who didn’t understand (or rather, didn’t know how to embrace) the concept of team squash a year and a half earlier had been chosen to lead.

My four years on the Harvard squash team coincided with a strange, transitional period in the sport. The old hardball game had been put out to pasture for both men and women in favor of international squash—yet our team was still relegated to training in historic Hemenway gymnasium with its quaint American courts. (Ground would not be broken on the Murr Center until a month before my graduation in 1998.) Other schools, including our biggest rivals had already converted their facilities, putting us (the reigning national champions) at a disadvantage. We needed to find a place to train.

Coach Doyle along with his wonderful crew of assistants devised a plan that would demand a serious commitment from each and every player on the team. We would travel to regulation courts in at the University Club in Boston, the Cambridge Athletic Club in Kendall Square, and on the weekends out to a club in Wayland and another in Concord. We would organize our class schedules so that we were free to gather at the MAC midafternoon and carpool to whichever club had offered to host us. And for the truly committed, Bill Doyle (himself also truly committed) made himself available for 7 am lessons on the single international court on Harvard’s campus, in the basement of the gym at the Business school.

I don’t remember anyone complaining about commuting to practice, about our jerry-rigged schedule, about the classes she couldn’t take because of our departure time, about the four-hour hole in our day that squash created. In fact, this system, which we embraced because we knew that it was what we needed to do to play our best, erased whatever hierarchy might have existed between the top and the bottom of the ladder. When everyone’s commitment to his or her team is both heightened and obvious, ego falls away. And knowing what we (team and coaches alike) sacrificed to our sport imbued our three national team championships with special significance.

I probably should talk about those championships, because in this essay I’ve been asked to Remember Harvard Athletics, a topic that is supposed to allow my mind to wander then take root in my college days. But the really cool thing about the Harvard squash community is that it continues after graduation, which makes it impossible for me to limit myself to reflecting on my four years in Cambridge. If anything, since graduation my participation in and dedication to Harvard squash has grown more profound.

After college, I played professional squash on and off for nine years. During that time I was selected for the United States Women’s National Squash Team five times. (I certainly believe that my early experiences with team squash at Harvard, with the unique satisfaction that comes from competing alongside other players, inspired me to pursue a spot on this team.) I got to travel to exotic places such as Sheffield, Stuttgart, Edmonton, San Salvador, and Medellin competing against the best teams in the world. Twice my team was comprised of entirely Harvard graduates—in 2005, with Louisa Hall ’04 and Carlin Wing ’02, and in 2006 with Louisa Hall and Hope Nichols Prockop ‘90. Both of these teams captured the Pan American Federation Cup gold medal for squash. But don’t be deceived. This is not as flashy a title as it sounds. None of the top eight teams in the world competed. Yet these two tournaments are my favorite memories of my competitive squash career not because of my team’s success, but because of my team itself.

Now I don’t mean to be snobby here—that my squash experience was heightened because of academic pedigree—but rather these teams represented a friendship born from a common history which made our success more personal. Somehow, we four women had come together on a team where we were allowed to unite our intellectual and athletic interests, and for once, we were not forced to sacrifice one for the other. We could be both scholars and athletes, something that doesn’t often happen in real world sports. (Believe me, I’ve played enough pro squash tournaments to know.) It was the college squash experience exploded onto the world stage. And I loved it.

Around this time, I was offered a position at the Harvard Club of New York as an assistant squash pro—a job that gave me the perfect opportunity to complete my first novel. Once again, I was back in the thick of Harvard squash. Our courts were filled with college legends, former junior varsity players, and novices who had been inspired to pick up the game because of a college roommate or friend who had been on the team. It was a terrific melting pot of old and new, of those deeply committed to the game and those whose commitment I could tell would eventually grow into an obsession. And once again, I was able to see how vibrant the world of Harvard squash is, how passionate its members about the game, about following the current team, and keeping up with the exploits of whichever graduates are on the professional tour.

Yet it is not on the court where I still find myself most delighted to be part of the Harvard squash community. This happens when I look at the remarkable achievements of our graduates and in the arena of urban squash. Both George Polsky ‘91 and Tim Wyant ’00 revolutionized the squash world by founding two of the country’s most important urban squash and education programs, StreetSquash and City Squash. It was not until I saw how many donors, board members, volunteers, and employees (not to mention founders) are Harvard squash graduates and former coaches, and how many of these people are truly committed to changing the lives of disadvantaged students (and thereby helping our sport and our college teams evolve) that I fully appreciated the importance of the community of which I am lucky to be a member.

So when I Remember Harvard Athletics, more specifically Harvard squash, it is not so much an exercise in looking back, but in looking forward and seeing how far the community extends into the world, how deep and profound its influence on the lives of students around the country for whom Harvard is no more than an abstract concept of something squarely out of reach, how the lessons we learned on the court and the successes we achieved are translated and passed onto to those from under-served communities. When I think about Harvard squash I think about the many ways its members have changed the sport and the lives of its unlikely participants for the better and how they will continue to do so.

So, now a few words of thanks. First to all our assistant coaches: Mimi Ells, Roy McNamara, and Mohammed Ayaz who augmented my experience on the Harvard squash team with their own varieties of personal understanding and attention. Thanks to Bill Doyle who put up with me for four years, who got me to listen between games, and who made me a more understanding person and self-reliant player. There could be no greater celebration of my college squash career than to be inducted to the hall of fame alongside one of my closest friends and the person who kept me sane and motivated on and off the court—Daniel Ezra. And finally, to the person whom I can only call my squash mentor, the devoted godfather of Harvard squash, who unites the Harvard squash community in so many unseen ways from behind his desk and on the courts at the Harvard Club of New York City—Richard Chin.