Yesterday, Calvert administrators, teachers, staff, and students gathered on Krongard Field to surprise Coach Mary Alice Lears with the announcement of the Mary Alice Lears Court in the upcoming Luetkemeyer Athletic Center. Since 1988, Coach Lears has inspired countless students and alumni in and out of the classroom. This announcement honors her founding of Calvert’s most popular sport in 2006. Many of Coach Lears' Calvert colleagues joined her for the announcement, as did her two children, son-in-law, husband, and brothers. Friend Deborah Long, a former Calvert parent and squash coach, revealed the naming of the squash court and thanked the donors who made this possible. Eighth Grade Squash Captain P. Davis ’21, who recently won a title at the U.S. Squash Spector Center Skill Level tournament in Philadelphia last weekend, shared with the audience how Coach Lears impacted his Calvert journey and passion for the sport. To wrap up the announcement, Middle School Head Matt Buck ’87 delivered the following remarks:
Congratulations, Mrs. Lears. I have had the privilege of working with Mary Alice for ten years, a small chunk of her incredible run at Calvert. And run is the important word, here. Everyone who knows her, her family, friends, colleagues, and students, know that Mrs. Lears is constantly on the go. Among so many other wonderful things, she models an active lifestyle and a physically active daily way of life, health and wellness-centered, who could ask for more in a director of physical education, an athletic director, a coach, a teacher, a parent, a sibling. This love and passion and teaching of physical movement and play is one of her greatest gifts to all of us daily.
We are here today, in this very spot, because of Mary Alice’s idea, a brilliant idea. When the good folks at Meadow Mill Athletic Club and other private venues were just hitting their stride in the early 2000s with an unusual kind of facility in Baltimore, Mary Alice saw an opportunity. She had come to know the game of squash and quickly realized what a perfect fit it would be for Calvert student-athletes. All her teaching and coaching and athletics directing training told her that this game would match Calvert philosophy and skills and physical learning in a way no other could.
It is a quick game - a worthwhile match can take place in under one half-hour. You do not need much gear except a racquet - one of them is always lying around somewhere, and goggles or GLASSES as Mary Alice’s close colleague and good friend at MMAC, Australian pro Peter Heffernan calls them (and our 5th graders look confusingly around for water cups), and that curious dead rubber ball. Calvert squashers are taught early and often the importance of warming up - themselves and importantly, the ball, especially on those cold pre-dawn January mornings on the courts.
Unlike our other wonderful traditional sports, we don’t need big teams or referees, or lined fields or nets or even that many spectators, it’s just two people in a narrow-walled room hitting back and forth and alternately sprinting and standing still. And sweating, and breathing hard, delighting in the physicality of it and the strategy. Squash is a game of angles and margins and placement. What a great match for the Calvert brain! It is fast but also deliberate, methodical. Players can be quick but also should be patient and wait. The least agile and the most athletic can have a decent point. And it is the ideal blend of intense activity and high civility. Children as young as 4 or 5 can play this game and play it well. Adults can play satisfactorily into their 80s. All you really need is that room, a court. They’re funny spaces and pop up in the most unusual places sometimes. Usually in east coast urban centers, YMCAs, downtown clubs, occasionally a university. The game comes from Britain and flourishes in South Asia. The first major public headline, world recognition of the sport, was about the lone singles court on a trans-ocean liner in 1912, the RMS Titanic.
In the year 2019, due to Mary Alice Lears’ leadership and organization, roughly 125 Middle School students played squash for Calvert, in Fifth through Eighth Grades. I challenge any school in the country to produce those numbers at these grade levels. That is Intramurals and family weekend squash and of course the winter interscholastic season. That is trips up and down 41st street to Meadow Mill and Amtrak trains to New Haven, Connecticut, for the annual Yale champions tournament. It is St. Paul’s and Bare Hills-Coppermine and now it is Calvert’s Luetkemeyer Athletic Center at 4300 North Charles Street. And the thread that weaves all these together is a person who is so committed to the life of sports in school and all their many values and most importantly is deeply supportive of promising young people growing into positively contributing and influential human beings, and that’s Mary Alice Lears.
Mrs. Lears, you are the founder of Calvert squash. It is incredibly fitting that some very good friends of the school have made it possible today to dedicate one of the new Calvert squash courts in your name! It is so special and exciting to have an employee recognized in this way, a teacher of some 38 years, an avid athlete in her own right and gifted coach and amazing exemplar of sportsmanship and values of teamwork and commitment and persistence for our students over decades. I want to add my thanks to our friends and families, Deb and Matt Long, Leigh & Graeme Woodworth; Geoff & Susan Carey; Julie & Kevin McAllister; Mary Louise & Whit Foster; Mark Dewire and Hilary Don, and Beth & Stuart Smith, whose generosity and support of Calvert have made this all possible. Thank you to Mary Alice’s family gathered here and her friends and colleagues and a special thanks to our 8th Grade squash team members who are here to acknowledge this moment and share their gratitude for Mrs. Lears.
Congratulations, Mary Alice, thank you for all you have done for Calvert squash and Calvert School. We love you!
Calvert extends a special thank you to Leigh and Graeme Woodworth, Geoff and Susan Carey, Julie and Kevin McAllister, Mary Louise and Whit Foster, Deborah and Matt Long, Mark Dewire and Hilary Don, and Stuart and Beth Smith for establishing the Mary Alice Lears Court. If you are interested in supporting the Mary Alice Lears Court, please visit www.calvert125.com for ways to donate or contact Sarah Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 243-6054 ext. 141.