Alexander taking game to big city

Lucas Punkari

For Anika Alexander, the start of a new year of school also is marking an entire new beginning for her life.
The 14-year-old from Fort Frances is attending Vincent Massey High School in Winnipeg after she enrolled in the sports and arts program there to help with her development in squash.
“Having been here now for the past couple of weeks, adjusting to the city hasn’t been as scary as I thought it would be,” the teen said.
“It’s a little bit rushed at times but that’s just how it is in the city, I guess,” she joked.
The decision process for Alexander, who has been to three national tournaments, to head to Manitoba began during the summer when she took part in a squash camp in Winnipeg.
“I thought about how at the nationals I would need to do some more training to get better and that sort of thing,” she explained.
“At the camp, my coach there [Trevor Borland] suggested to me why don’t you come and live in Winnipeg because he felt that would really help me with my game.
“I thought about it for a while and I made a decision at the beginning of August to come to Winnipeg,” Alexander added. “So at that point, my mom had to do a lot of work between getting the schooling ready and all of that stuff.
“It was a little tough getting into one, but I finally got into a really good one thanks to Squash Manitoba.”
For Sunset Country Squash Club coach Bob Tkachuk, who along with his wife, Mary Beth, has coached Alexander since she was nine, there is a mix of emotions watching one of their top young players move on.
“We’re sad to see her leave, of course, as she is a great little player and she’s an inspiration to all of the kids here locally,” Tkachuk said.
“But she is moving on to the next level and she’s being coached by Trevor at the Winter Club, and that will definitely bring her game up a notch.
“It’s just like in other sports such as hockey when someone moves on,” he reasoned. “And we are very glad for her that she is going to be getting that opportunity.”
Tkachuk described Alexander as a coach’s dream.
“She has a high skill level for someone that is her age, plus she’s very coachable with a great love for the game,” he explained.
“When you add all of those things together, along with the fact the she keeps herself fit, you don’t have to motivate her a whole lot, which is a great thing.
“She wants to play all of the time, and in fact during the summer she was calling me every week to come out and play, which is something that not every kid does,” Tkachuk added.
With the routine of school now becoming more familiar, Alexander is getting more and more excited about the increase in court time she’ll be getting at the Winter Club in Winnipeg.
“I’m really looking forward to getting started in group lessons with everybody there,” she enthused.
“Many of the players there I have seen before at other tournaments,” she noted. “So by getting a chance to start playing them more on a regular basis . . . will help my development as I go further along.
“Plus, I’ll be getting a chance to go to a lot of tournaments this year without worrying about travelling and all of the stuff.”
While there still is a ways to go to see where Alexander will end up in the future, the teen already is setting her goals very high.
“My main goal is to get a scholarship and end up at a good university, and also maybe compete in a higher-level tournament than the nationals, like the Canada Games,” Alexander said.
“But if I can’t do that, if I could maybe get my ranking a little bit higher, that would be good.”