Some men see things as they are and ask why –
Others dream things that never were and ask why not
Most people fall into one of two categories – they are either visionaries or they are doers. Mark Sachvie was an exception – he was both a visionary and a doer and he asked the question “why not” so often, that he changed the face of squash in Ontario and in Canada.
Squash met Mark Sachvie over 30 years ago when he became the racquets director at White Oaks. He built the squash program there from absolutely nothing into a powerhouse which has produced many Ontario, Canadian and World Champions – both junior and senior. In his first few years on the squash scene, he joined the Squash Ontario Junior Committee and he was so omnipresent at junior events that people were astonished to learn that he actually had a full time job at General Motors.
He became the chair of the Junior Committee and in 1999, and led one of the most significant initiatives in Ontario squash history, an initiative which changed the entire junior competitive continuum. Mark envisioned long term athlete development long before it became a part of the Canadian sport philosophy. He introduced the bronze, silver and gold competition format and later was the driving force behind the introduction of the one day silver events.
Not content with this, he asked why there was no Canadian Junior Open. He felt strongly that we needed to bring international calibre squash to Canada to give our own juniors the opportunity to play against these other athletes and at the same time, provide them with a yardstick to measure their game against the world. He hosted the very first Canadian Junior Open and hosted it every year of its existence with but one exception.
And while he was at it, he asked why we don’t have an annual junior competition against the United States and from that came the Battle of the Border. The first encounter was held in 2002 and it was hosted by Mark and White Oaks.
Oh, and one more thing – why don’t we have some way of raising money for junior squash in Ontario? And so was born the Squash Ontario Annual Golf Tournament. With his two board colleagues, Rob Brooks and Lolly Gillen, the first event was staged and in the decade the tournament has run, it has raised over $50,000 for junior squash – all of it invested right back into the game.
Mark joined the Squash Ontario Board of Directors in 2001 and one of his first questions was why doesn’t Ontario squash have a Hall of Fame. Again with his board colleague Lolly Gillen, they created the Ontario Squash Hall of Fame and the first induction ceremony was held in 2005 at the Badminton & Racquet Club. But wait…..why doesn’t the Hall of Fame have a permanent home? The Hall has had a home at White Oaks since 2009.
After 5 years on the board, he stepped off but never away – in his years at White Oaks, Mark he was arguably one of the most successful tournament event organizers and builders of squash. He hosted over 220 squash tournaments during his illustrious career including 10 Canadian Junior Opens, 2 Canadian Junior Squash Championships, 2 Canadian Squash Championships and 43 Provincial Championships.
Mark came back on to the Squash Ontario Board in 2010 and was elected President in 2011. From that perch, he was able to orchestrate the rejuvenation of Squash Ontario’s regional network by creating the Ontario Regional Masters Teams Championship. In its first year, there were only a few teams; Mark concluded that Squash Ontario had to reassess its regional boundaries in order to expand the pool of athletes and so by-law changes followed and the event has grown to having 11 teams last year. These same boundary changes have helped a number of regions at the junior level as they are now able to field good, competitive teams in the Ontario Winter Games – from Sudbury/Muskoka to Windsor and from Ottawa to Thunder Bay.
His final “ask” was why couldn’t Ontario and Canada host a world championship – that he felt, would be his crowning achievement. The bid to the WSF from White Oaks was accepted and Mark threw himself into the preparations. But in November 2013, a heart attack took this extraordinary man from us. Even a year after his death, we struggle to cope with a squash world without Mark Sachvie. The 2014 Women’s World Teams Championship was his dream and so many people stepped up to make sure that the dream became a reality.
Mark was such a unique individual. He gave so much of his time to squash; his daily phone log was jammed. He was many things in his squash life – the consummate tournament organizer – the ardent founder and chair of Squash Ontario’s junior committee – the curator of the Ontario Squash Hall of Fame – a twice Canada Games coach – international tour organizer – a mentor to young squash professionals – an advisor to squash owners and managers – a fun and influential coach to hundreds of young squash players. No matter what his schedule looked like, he had time for everyone – he gave each individual his undivided attention – junior or senior – parent or coach – he loved the game so much that he couldn’t help but convey that enthusiasm and passion to everyone he touched – and he touched thousands of people.
Mark was a singular man in a plural society. Many of us want to know we’ve left behind a legacy – we can only hope that Mark knew that he did. He was never without a question – and he was never without an answer.