Seven questions for Eliza King Freedman ’23, women’s squash

By Abby Schneiderhan

Courtesy of Olivia Kilborn

Eliza King Freedman ’23 is a junior on the women’s squash team from Sharon, Connecticut. In this installment of “seven questions,” Freedman details some of her favorite memories with the squash team, whom she looks up to on the roster, and how she conceptualizes being a student-athlete at Middlebury.  

AS: What are some of the things you do — either by yourself or with teammates — to make squash practices fun?

EKF: I feel like, as a team, we put effort into making even the harder days fun. For example, we have a shared playlist that we all add to. We’re all such close friends that even though we’re always working really hard, we also just enjoy being around each other. It’s just cool to be with people who are all so passionate about one thing, so practice is inherently fun, which I think I’m really lucky to be able to say.

AS: It sounds like you have a lot of fun with your teammates. What’s your best memory to date — either at practice or at a match?

EKF: I think my favorite competitive memory was during my freshman year when we played Williams away [and] it was one of my teammates’ birthdays. I remember we all really wanted to win. I don’t think that we even ended up winning; honestly, I believe we didn’t, but I think it says something that I can’t even totally remember if we won or not. I remember the bus ride back and how fun it was to be all together. It was my teammate’s 21st birthday and she had just gotten back from abroad and it was this great weekend. 

Courtesy of Abigail Chang

AS: What about any good memories off the court?

EKS: My favorite memory off the court was when we did “de-initiation” for our seniors last year. It’s essentially something we do because we don’t have any sort of initiation when you join the team. This past semester, we did it in November because so much of my team didn’t come back last spring and it was really special to see how quickly everyone had bonded after only three months and without a season. We got the opportunity to sing songs and do all of the little traditions that we’ve developed over time. There are just so many inside jokes that come of it, so it was really nice.

AS: What’s on your mind when you’re playing a match?

EKF: When I’m playing a match, my favorite thing about squash is that I don’t think. If I can get to a place where I’m not even thinking, and my mind is just quiet and I’m just letting myself play, I think that’s when I’m playing my best. I think that’s honestly the best part of playing — when you can get to that place where you know that all your work has paid off and you can just relax.

AS: Are there any pre-match or practice rituals that you think are unique to the squash team?

EKF: There’s one ritual that’s developed over the years where before every match we either go to our locker room or, at away matches, we’ll try to find a bathroom or a place outside to do it. We usually have like three songs, one or two that are consistent and the others change. We listen to the songs, and we have different things that we do during each one. Then, we all sit in a circle after the match and will say something like a goal that we have for ourselves or a goal that we have for the team.

Courtesy of Abigail Chang

AS: Is there anyone on your team, or on another Middlebury team, that particularly inspires you as an athlete?

EKF: The person who inspires me is our captain Ideal [Dowling ’22]. When you just talk to her in passing, it’s apparent that she’s really invested in our lives and the social aspects of the team. She always makes an effort to check in about how we’re doing. But she’s also someone that I love to watch play because of how focused she gets.  I think it goes to show that she’s a captain and has been our best player for the last three years. Ideal really embodies all of the qualities that make us come together in a way that I really think is necessary for the kind of team that we are.

AS: How conscious are you of being a student-athlete? How much do you think being on the squash team defines your Middlebury experience?

EKF: Since I was a walk-on and making the team was my main goal coming into Middlebury, once I made it, I really made the team my whole identity on campus. I think that was a common thing to do for a lot of athletes on campus and partially still is, but I also think Covid-19 took that away from all of us. 

Essentially, I think Covid has really changed the way that student-athletes define themselves. Squash is definitely something that I’m still equally as passionate about, but because it couldn’t be my whole life last year, it’s definitely changed in my mind how I identify myself at Middlebury, and I think definitely for the better.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.