Bobby Burns ’08, alumnus and accomplished squash coach and player, has been chosen to serve as the first squash program director at Hotchkiss.
In his new role, Burns will oversee both the boys and girls squash programs, with head coaches Jackson Marvel (boys) and Maja Clark (girls) continuing to lead their respective programs.
“Since graduating from college, Bobby has dedicated his career to being a professional squash coach and has become a real leader on and off the court,” said co-athletic director Robin Chandler. “We’re confident his character and professional background will contribute to a highly valued squash culture that will give our athletes ample opportunities for success.”
Burns has several ambitious hopes for squash at Hotchkiss, including boosting the Hotchkiss squash brand at the national level, bringing high-level tournaments to campus, and using the school’s facilities to build squash in the greater community.
“I want to show everyone on the team and in the community that squash can go beyond Hotchkiss,” said Burns.
He was quick to credit both Marvel and Clark for their success with each of their programs, particularly the extended run of success for the boys under Marvel, who coached Burns from 2006-2008.
“In both programs, I know there’s a lot of very capable and talented players at the school,” said Burns, adding that he hoped to increasingly have players recognized on the national level not just as elite squash players, but as elite Hotchkiss squash players.
Marvel was enthusiastic about the new addition, noting that Burns can focus his whole attention on the squash program and that he has an interest in building strength up and down the roster.
“That’s a huge benefit, having the time to not only work with our varsity-level players but also be a resource to our JV-level players as well. Bobby is very interested in helping work with up-and-comers to help build the depth.”
Clark offered similar praise for the hire, adding that Burns will work with squash players on all aspects of what they need to do to be effective.
“Bobby and I will work closely together to meet the needs of our players and foster an environment that promotes team building, wholesome competition, and personal growth,” said Clark. “We share the same philosophy that Bearcats Squash is meant to instill a lifelong love of learning and challenge.”
Burns was quick to note that in his first year, he will be doing more listening than anything else. His plan is to attend every practice and also attend every home match, which will split his game time between the two programs.
“I want to see where the missing puzzle pieces are and how I can fill those spaces,” said Burns.
For Burns, the move has allowed him to come full circle in a 15-year odyssey that has seen him be an elite high school player, an elite college player, a coach at multiple high-level clubs, and a top-ranked professional doubles player.
His time at Hotchkiss included three years of varsity squash, serving as captain for both his upper mid and senior years. He earned the George E. Haines ’38 Squash Trophy by winning the school’s intramural squash tournament all three years, the only student to do so in the last 20 years.
Both Marvel and Burns immediately point to a single match as being one of their favorite memories of his time as a Hotchkiss squash player. In his senior year, Burns helped lead the Bearcats to victory over Taft for the first time in nearly a decade, with Burns scoring the decisive point as the #1 singles player.
After leaving Lakeville, Burns played four years of college squash at Bates, where he earned All-NESCAC recognition in his sophomore and senior years. His playing fortunes really came alive, however, several years later when he made the move to professional doubles squash.
During the three-year period from 2017-2019, Burns was ranked in the top 20 in the world in doubles, including #7 overall among American players at the end of 2019.
An injury shortly thereafter and the subsequent COVID pandemic has forced Burns to take a step back from competitive professional squash, giving him the opportunity to give back to a program that was very meaningful to him as a young squash player.
“I was really able to identify as an athlete and feel like I was able to take a lot of pride in being a Hotchkiss squash player,” said Burns. “It was the first time I’d ever felt that – it was a great shift in perspective for me.”
Burns added that his experience in off-season workout programs at Hotchkiss with varsity athletes from other sports helped boost his own athletic confidence. “I had the feeling that yes, this is something that I can take seriously and feel the support to do that. I felt empowered,” he said.
Even before his professional success, Burns began his coaching career almost immediately after leaving Bates. In stints at several clubs, including the New Canaan Country Club, the Heights Casino, and the Racquet and Tennis Club, Burns has worked with players from across the spectrum of ability, from novices to some of the most elite professionals.
He also has had significant experience growing and marketing a squash program, two aspects of the job that he hopes to also incorporate into his work here at Hotchkiss.
Burns said that one of his hopes is to bring high-level tournaments, both US Squash junior events and even a professional event, to the Hotchkiss campus. He added that he hoped to open the squash courts more to the wider local community during the hours when they are not primarily used by the teams.
“There’s lots of opportunity for growth in the region, and that can only help the school,” said Burns.