Kobe, squash, and the power of sports
By Greg Bach
Ivy Claire remembers her introduction to the sport of squash with striking clarity for a couple of significant reasons: her first lesson landed on her eighth birthday.
And she loved it from the first swing of her racquet.
“Sports was a very big part of my life,” says Claire, an acclaimed author who also participated in gymnastics and softball during her youth. “I fell into squash by accident, but it was a really big part of my childhood.”
Was it ever.
By the time her 10th birthday arrived she was already nationally ranked – and getting better by the day.
“The reason I got pretty good quickly is I was the youngest at the club and in drills with the older girls and boys if you messed up they would get mad at you,” she says. “So I knew I had to figure this out real quick. And I just loved it.”
She grabbed a spot on the national junior team, competed overseas, and wound up at Harvard. She had a spectacular collegiate career, later earning induction into the school’s Hall of Fame.
Check out these dazzling numbers: She was a four-time All-American; she led Harvard to three national championships; and she won a national title her senior year.
COLLABORATING WITH KOBE
Claire, whose real name is Ivy Pochoda, is the author of the recently released EPOCA: The Tree of Ecrof, which is an original story by five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant and his publishing company Granity Studios.
“One of the things that I really hope that people understand about this book is it’s for everybody,” Claire says. “This book appeals to people on so many levels.”
The story is set in an alternate classical world dominated by sports and a magical power. The inspiring tale features overcoming adversity, transcending stereotypes and the power of friendship, all taking place within a backdrop reminiscent of the ancient Olympic Games.
“Kobe really wants people to understand that it’s okay for everything not to be okay in childhood,” she says. “There are difficult things that kids have to confront, and we hope to tell that story of them overcoming that joyfully. There are some difficult things that kids have to work through, but the story is super fun at the end of the day. You don’t have to be an athlete to read it but if you are an athlete you will have a totally different experience with it.”
Her lifetime of participating in sports - she still plays squash in Los Angeles - gathered many oh-so important life lessons that she leaned on while writing this book, as well as her other novels.
“I think about this a lot,” she says. “In order to be a great athlete you have to be creative and you have to have a huge toolkit at your disposal. Look at someone like Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams. You have to be able to change the pace and be able to hit some crazy angles – and writing is sort of the same. You can’t just write one way. You have to have variety and you have to mix up the sentences. You have to be able to change direction and keep your readers thinking one way and then pull the rug out from under them and make them change course. You don’t want every sentence to be exactly the same like every shot in tennis being crosscourt, because that would be a boring tennis match. A really good book has a lot of variety of sentences and a variety of descriptions. So, to be a good writer and a good athlete are quite similar in my mind.”
Her sports journey began on a squash court in Brooklyn years ago, took her around the world as a touring professional for many years, and culminated in receiving an email from one of the greatest basketball players of all time looking to do a book.
Now that’s a pretty cool path highlighting the amazing power of sports.
“Getting the chance to channel my interests of sports and the classics into one project I still can’t believe actually happened,” she says.
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