Monday, January 25, 2010

Whitworth alum named national head coach of Bangladesh's squash team

Whitworth University alum William Mather has been named the national head coach of Bangladesh's squash team by the Bangladesh Squash Rackets Federation. His first major tournament as head coach will be the 11th South Asian Games, to be held in Bangladesh Jan. 29-Feb. 8.

Mather, who graduated from Whitworth in 2000 with a bachelor's degree in communication studies, was introduced to the game of squash when he moved home to Hawaii and took a position as an administrator at the Honolulu Club in 2003. A former football and track and field athlete for Whitworth, Mather picked up the game quickly and soon became one of the club's premier squash players.

"I was introduced to the game after someone noticed my swing in racquetball," Mather says. "It was all over after that. The rest of the guys at the club really pressed me to play better and I don’t like losing, so I would practice six hours a day, which helped me progress quickly. I also studied the game intensely."

Mather gave up competitive squash when he moved to Bangladesh with his wife, Rachal (Shim) Mather, '00, to work in an orphanage as a missionary from Bluewater Mission Church, in Kalihi, Hawaii. Still wanting to stay connected with the sport, he contacted the Asian Squash Federation's director of coaching and offered to volunteer with the Bangladesh team. The director of coaching then recommended him for the head coach post.

Despite the fact that none of the players on the Bangladesh team have ever played squash professionally, Mather says they are well prepared and he's looking forward to the test that the upcoming South Asian Games will present to them.

"Some of the best in the world are coming to our doorstep," he says. "Powerhouse programs such as Pakistan and India have tremendous talent and depth. You don't want to underestimate your opponent."

As a coach, Mather says he derives his inspiration from Toby Schwarz, head track and field coach at Whitworth. He also credits Jack Burns, a professor for the interdisciplinary minor of leadership studies at Whitworth, as a key mentor in his life.

"Dr. Jack Burns is one of those guys who will have a chapter of my autobiography dedicated to him. He is a great man of God who really supported me as a student and as a person," Mather says. "I wasn't a Christian, but he loved me as if I was his son. He always made time for me. In 2004, I began following Jesus and now I'm in Bangladesh."

Mather continues, "A man like Jack can be used by God to make a difference in a person's life. My wife and I are now trying to do the same according to our own spiritual gifts."

Although his main focus now is coaching, and at age 31 he's entering the twilight of most squash players' careers, Mather hasn't entirely given up his own aspirations as a player. He's training alongside his Bangladeshi players, and he's considering competing in future competitions.

"It's an opportunity and I likely will pursue it, but the development of Bangladesh is more important to me than playing," he says.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which enrolls more than 2,700 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contacts:

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or eproffitt@whitworth.edu.