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Johnnie Skillman

Sport: Squash

Born: March 12, 1907

Died: October 21, 1977

Town: Princeton

John Frosch Skillman was born March 12, 1907, in Princeton. Johnnie was quick and coordinated, and excelled in a wide range of sports. He was a star on the Princeton High football, basketball and baseball teams. John picked up a new sport, squash racquets, at the age of 13. He was also a superb serve-and-volley tennis player and used the volley as a weapon on the squash court—an unusual tactic at the time.

Johnnie focused his athletic talent almost exclusively on squash while studying at Princeton University and began to double as a coach in 1927, as an assistant. He stressed technical precision but above all else sportsmanship. This would become his calling card after he took the head coaching job at Yale University in 1934, where he held sway for more than 40 years. In the summers he worked as a tennis pro and he coached the Yale tennis team from 1943 to 1975, winning 6 national titles.

During the 1930s, Johnnie was one of the top professional squash players in the United States. He won the national championship in 1933, 1935 and 1937. In 1937, he authored a how-to book that served as the industry standard for many years. Yale won 16 different collegiate titles during Johnnie’s reign and had only one losing season. The Bulldogs won 8 national intercollegiate titles.

Johnnie passed away in 1977 at the age of 70. In 1983, an award was established in his memory recognizing skill and sportsmanship. In 1990, he was inducted into College Squash Hall of Fame.


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