Top Canadian squash star Laura Gemmell is off to college, Harvard no less, and the challenge of balancing athletics and academics becomes ever more intense…
f you think balancing school and leisure time is tricky for you, try a day in Laura Gemmell’s squash shoes: at 19, she is a top-ranked squash player who is also in the pre-med program at Harvard. With beauty, brains and brawn, she’s been all over the world, travelling to India, Egypt, Australia, England, the States and more for squash competitions.
Despite its popularity in a lot of countries, there hasn’t been too much focus on squash, perhaps due to the fact that it’s not ideal for the average spectator. And, although there have been attempts, it hasn’t yet made it into the Olympic Games, making it seem more obscure than it really is. Laura would love to see that change.
But what most attracted her to the game is all the thinking involved. It requires a lot of strategic planning and allows the players to be creative with their shots. “A lot of people compare squash to chess,” Laura says, “and the top players are the ones that are very innovative on the court.”
Laura holds many squash accomplishments under her belt, including ranking third place at the British Junior Open (considered the world championship) and winning the NCAA intercollegiate title this year. She also won the Scottish Junior Open last year.
So there is no doubt that she is a squash queen. But how does she manage to win all these squash competitions and get top marks in a challenging program at Harvard?
“[During] high school I got into a really good routine…very school- and squash-oriented. At college you actually have a lot more time. If you have good time-management skills, college is actually easier than high school [to balance],” says Laura.
With less hours of school during the day, she has more time to train at college and doesn’t mind missing all the college parties if it means doing well in school and squash— her top priorities. “I make sure I do well in school; I make sure I have good training, and then I have my friends that I hang out with after.”
In fact, she says that she does better in school during the squash season
because she uses the time when she’s not in practice very wisely for studying. “Squash is actually really good for giving you discipline and knowing when to practice and when to study.”
Off from anything too intense this summer (squash or school-wise), Laura is eager to get back to the campus and the game that she loves. I’m not quite sure if I’ve heard someone so eager for classes to start again, but it’s clear she’s having fun with both study and sport.
While dreaming simultaneously of a continued golden squash career and a physician’s white coat, she’s definitely a champ with a clear plan in mind. “Squash has done so much in my life,” Laura says. “It’s a great sport, great workout, great thinking game.
There are so many opportunities you can get from it—like I got to go to Harvard.” Encouraging everyone to get involved, she continues, saying, “It opens up so many doors and gave me the chance to travel all over the world.”
Laura is an inspiration for all athletes struggling with balancing academics and athletes. She makes it clear that it is possible to excel in both areas. So, if you set your priorities straight you won’t get squashed!