Hartford, Conn. - In many cases, when the captain of one of the most successful college programs in college sports history walks through the quad the whole school would stop and stare. However, here at Trinity College, Bantam men's squash co-captain Johan Detter can walk down the Long Walk and be mistaken for any other student. A senior, Detter hopes to lead the Bantams to their 14th National Championship in the last fifteen years. But to better understand the success of the squash program, one needs to understand its leader.
Johan Detter was born in Malmo Sweden, the southern-most city in the country, and was introduced to squash at an early age. Swedes are sports crazy, following ice hockey, soccer, and ‘floorball’ religiously, but squash is not as popular there as it is in the former British colonies of Egypt or India. Still, in Malmo squash is government-subsidized which makes the sport easily accessible. Unlike in America, where squash is largely played through elitist country clubs, an individual can pay $70 and play as much as he or she pleases. This accessibility does allow Swedish children ample opportunity to play the racket sport and possibly pursue recruitment from American schools as Detter has done.
But how does a student athlete from Malmo, Sweden make it to Hartford? “In the squash world, Trinity is well known, but also my brother, Gustav, went here.”
Johan visited his brother four or five times when the latter was a student from 2005 to 2009, and says “it would have been weird to choose a different school.” He clicked with the squash players and Head Coach Paul Assaiante while visiting his brother and has been happy with the decision he made to come here.
“I love it at Trinity. The team is great and it is a fun place.”
While he is happy with his choice for higher education, it was quite a process for Detter to attend college in America as an international student. In Malmo, very few kids, if any, come to America for school.
Detter said, “It is rare to come to school in the United Sttes. It is difficult to take the SAT and have yourself compared with American students who prepare for that test for months beforehand.”
European students who wish to study in America go in blind to the SAT. In their college process, there is no specific test that needs to be completed to apply to schools. The majority of kids from his high school class stayed in Sweden, but those who did study abroad mostly traveled to England instead of America. It is closer and easier to apply to schools in the U.K,
Detter adds, “Most people do not even know where to start.” While the SAT's were a speed bump in his application process, particularly since English is not his first language, his recruitment as an athlete made the process much less stressful.
Detter came into the Bantam program under the large shadow of his brother, who became a legend in the college squash world with his four All-American seasons that included several dramatic and streak-saving wins. Johan faced this burden before even walking on campus for orientaton, but his abilities shined through, and he has made his own name for himself in the program.
“I try to play my best squash and not see myself just as Gustav’s brother but as a new member of the team. I work my hardest in sport and academics.”
Detter has played for two undefeated National Championship teams at Trinity. He shared the championship with his older brother his freshman season, and was a key contributor in his sophomore year when he defeated his Yale opponent in a must-win set to claim the championship trophy.
“We were down four matches to two with three left, one on each court," says Detter. "Our top player had just won but we could not lose another match or the streak would be snapped. I had a very good match versus a very talented played. It felt amazing winning that match.”
Last season, the Trinity win streak came to an end after 252 matches and nearly 14 seasons in a nail biter against Yale in New Haven. In the clinching match, Detter was beaten by his counterpart and the Bulldogs stormed the courts to celebrate the victory. In the aftermath of the defeat, Detter began to doubt his game and ability. But with adversity comes growth and he went to work identifying his weaknesses and turning them into strengths.
“I realized I have to stray away from my defensive approach to the game and attack more. I became more aggressive and stood further up the court.”
Detter plays in the No. 4 or 5 spot in the Bantam lineup and understands that the only way he can win at this level is to demand the ball rather than wait for his opponent to make mistakes.
“I am working to get better and feel confident about where my game is at the moment. I played well in our recent match against Colby.”
Detter and the Bantams will look for revenge in their
rematch with Yale at home on January 23rd, although
tough matches in Upstate New York at Rochester and Cornell
will precede it, and he has trouble holding in his
excitement for the match.
Squash does not last forever and all students start scrambling for jobs once senior year comes around. Detter wants to remain here in America after graduation and plans on using his economics major to work in the corporate world, preferably in New York City. Last summer, he had an internship with Credit Suisse and describes the experience as “an interesting time that showed me what life after college is like.”
Detter faces the daunting predicament of finding an employer that will sponsor his visa, or he will have to return to Sweden.
“I want to stay in America. There is more opportunity to work here, and I have grown to enjoy it here more than home. Sweden is very socialist and different.”
A humble and devoted worker on and off the court, Detter plans on leading the men’s squash team to their 14th national title and to exact revenge against the Yale Bulldogs next month. If you happen to see a tall blonde kid walking on the Long Walk, you should take a look at who might be the captain of the nation's most succesful college sports team. Even better, stop by the Kellner Squash Center to see Johan and the Bantams in person. Trinity returns to action at home against Bates on January 12th.
written by Ben Preston '15