Family of squash players doing Barbados proud
The correct term to describe Gavin, Rhett, Bryant and Khamal Cumberbatch would be “squashbuckling”.
In what is no doubt one of the most unique and impressive sporting accomplishments of a Barbadian family, all four brothers have represented the national side in squash.
In fact, to say they have dominated the sport at all levels would be an understatement.
Between them, they have over 50 national junior titles, five senior national titles and 13 Caribbean Area Squash Association (CASA) titles.
To list all of their individual accomplishments would require a separate story by itself.
Their efforts have not gone unnoticed either, as they were rewarded the National Sports Council’s Family Sports Award in 2000.
According to their mother, Shelly Cumberbatch, it was through the efforts of their father, Monty, which resulted in Gavin, 30, Rhett, 26, Bryant, 25, and Khamal, 12, falling in love with squash.
“Monty used to play on evenings, and one particular evening he decided to take Gavin along.
“From there, he just fell in love with the sport and decided he wanted to play,” she told Barbados TODAY from her home at No.4 Bamboo Ridge, Holders, St James recently. “That’s really how it all started.”
And although she is the only member of the family never to have played the sport, that hasn’t stopped her from playing a pivotal role in her sons’ sporting achievements.
“It has been a really proud moment watching all four of them do extremely well in something which they love.
“I’ve never played, but through the years I have been there to provide transportation and support, as I am the one who usually travels overseas with them when they are competing,” Shelly explained.
As recent as Wednesday evening, she was overjoyed upon hearing the news that Gavin, along with his partner Karen Meakins, had captured bronze in the mixed doubles at the ongoing Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games being held in Veracruz, Mexico.
Rhett is also representing Barbados at the Games.
While she has enjoyed watching her sons reap tremendous success over the past decade, she admitted there was a particular period when watching them play was a bit tough.
This she said, occurred when Rhett and Bryant found themselves competing against each other.
“That was a bit of a bittersweet feeling, because one of them had to lose, and I couldn’t root for either one of them,” Shelly revealed with a laugh.
Having tried his hand at various sports in his younger days, including playing football for Blackspurs, golf and tennis, Monty eventually settled on squash.
It is a decision he has not regretted, as he has watched his sons become some of the best squash players, not only in Barbados, but in the Caribbean.
“While I will admit they have achieved a lot, I will also be the first to point out that it has been a result of hard work and dedication.
“I have never had a problem with any of them as it related to practicing or training, because they all loved the game and they tried their best to be the best,” Monty acknowledged.
“They have a lot of passion for the game and that has been one of the important factors in helping them to be successful.”
He said to date Gavin was the only Barbadian to win a senior Caribbean squash title.
Along with his 15 junior national titles, Gavin, a graduate of Harrison College and Yale University, was also a US Junior Olympics runner-up, Canadian Junior Open bronze medalist, St Lucia Open Champion and Southern Caribbean Men’s Champion.
Bryant, a past student of St James Secondary, is quick to praise his father for their accomplishments.
“My father was the one who got us involved in squash at an early age. I remember him going to the squash club at Rockley and taking us along with him.
“He was our real inspiration,” Bryant insisted.
Among his many accolades, Bryant has won 12 junior national titles, 5 junior CASA titles – which is the most by an individual – and a lone senior title which he won in 2011.
He explained that one of the most important aspects of playing squash for both himself and his siblings was the fun element.
Without that, Bryant claimed they probably would have stopped playing a long time ago.
“Playing squash, especially with my brothers was always a lot of fun. Whenever I played them, especially Rhett, it didn’t feel the same way as if I was playing a stranger, or someone from a different country,” he admitted.
“That’s not to say that if Rhett beat me in a competition that he wouldn’t brag a bit, or I wouldn’t brag if I won, but at the end of the day he was my brother, and not just an opponent.”
Not to be outdone, Rhett a former student of Coleridge & Parry has the most junior titles with 16, while he also has boasts of two junior CASA titles. Additionally, he is a certified Level 1 and 2 coach.
For Khamal, the baby of the lot, squash came like a sixth sense.
Having continuously watched his father and his three older brothers play, he quickly picked up a keen interest in the sport.
“I started playing from the time I was about five years old. Watching my brothers play, I developed a love for the sport and eventually I got involved,” the student of the St Michael’s noted.
“Both Gavin and Rhett coach me, but that doesn’t stop them from being extremely competitive . . . but it’s cool,” the current national Under-13 and Under-15 champion hastily added.
He has won all four of his last tournaments. After being crowned the Junior CASA champion in Trinidad last year, he won both age group categories in the Sagicor Open Junior Nationals, as well as the 2014 Junior CASA competition, which was held in Bermuda.
Khamal has his sights set on becoming the world’s number one squash player.