A Waterloo squash dynasty

If there is one name to know in the sport of squash at Waterloo, it is Seth. Five of the Seth siblings have been central to the Waterloo squash program. There has been a Seth involved with the varsity squash team since 2009. 

They’ve won titles and helped to bring Waterloo to the pinnacle of the sport in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and national competition. Two of the sisters even founded the Waterloo women’s team. 

But that’s not where the story begins. 

The story begins in the early ’80s when Marina Blair (BMath ’86) met Shaman Seth (BASc ’88) while they were studying at Waterloo. 

“We were both living in residence at the time,” Marina said. “We were both involved in lots of activities with our housemates and that’s how we met.” 

The pair married and were blessed over the years with five children, who they raised in Fergus, ON. Following in their parents’ footsteps, all five children completed degrees at Waterloo: Micaala (BASc ’13), Natasha (BMath ’14), Cameron (BMath ’16, MMath ’21, PhD in progress), Marisa (BA ’19) and Ravi (BASc ’21). 

This remarkable family is equal parts athletic and academic — hard working and hard playing — and a true Waterloo dynasty. 

The Seth family in a squash court

Seth Family l-r: Shaman, Marina, Cameron, Natasha, Marisa, Micaala, Ravi

Passion to compete 

When the children started getting old enough to do sports, Marina and Shaman enrolled them in squash lessons at the Elora Racquets Club, which is now Centre-Wellington Racquets & Fitness. 

“Elora Racquets Club was like a second home for our family,” Marina said. “Part of it was from a family management point of view. If all five kids were going to different places for different activities, it was going to stretch us too much. It made sense for everyone to go to swimming lessons on Monday and squash on Tuesday and piano on Wednesday.” 

Shaman was the main influence in squash. He picked up the sport as a young man and played all throughout his undergraduate degree. Marina was a strong tennis player, playing for Waterloo’s varsity team for a term. She started playing squash as the children were learning the sport.

“We tried to create a lifestyle for our kids that gave them an opportunity to explore their own talents and sport was a big part of that,” Marina continued. “Everyone did squash, tennis, soccer, swimming and other sports at school.”  

It would be difficult to list all the family’s titles and accomplishments in squash. Between them, they have a long list of provincial titles, junior national titles, OUA titles and a Canada Games medal for good measure, as well as a room full of trophies from hundreds of club-level events. 

Cameron Seth and Natasha SethMicaala and Cameron played as professionals in the sport’s top international league, the Professional Squash Association (PSA). Micaala, Cameron and Ravi also represented the University of Waterloo and Canada at the World University Championships. 

A major Waterloo-linked accolade was Micaala’s winning Athlete of the Year in her graduating year. 

“I’ve always thought of it as an award for our team,” Micaala said. “It was my sister and our teammates who made it a success, so even though it’s an individual award I think it needs to be shared around.” 

Another Waterloo accolade was Cameron and Natasha winning the Fairfax Financial Honour Roll Award, which is presented annually to the top academic-performing undergraduate student-athletes. 

The builders 

The Seth family are not just great athletes, but great builders of the sport. They are all coaches, formally and informally, and have fostered an environment for squash excellence at Waterloo. The siblings have passed the torch, one to the next, since 2009.  

“They’ve been working together as a team their whole lives,” Marina said. “So, when they started going to Waterloo it was natural for them to start working on this new project, which was the University squash program.”  

When the eldest daughter Micaala started at Waterloo, there wasn’t a women’s squash team, and she wasn’t allowed to play on the men’s team, even though she was a stronger player than some of the men. At the time, OUA rules prohibited women playing on men’s teams.  

Undeterred, Micaala and Natasha set out to create a women’s team when the younger sister started at Waterloo a year later.  

“We went and spoke to the administration in athletics, and even though we only had three players, we convinced them to support a team and send us to OUAs,” Micaala said. “Typically, teams have six players, so we were always at a disadvantage, but we ended up winning all our matches.”  

Each of the siblings took on leadership roles in the squash program, each in their own way. Marisa, the youngest sister, is currently the head coach for the Waterloo squash program, overseeing training and competitions for the men’s and women’s teams. 

“Dad was our first coach and encouraged us to get serious about squash,” Marisa said. “Mom taught us about leadership and what it takes to be a coach and mentor. I was always encouraged to develop coaching skills and I’m passionate about growing the sport. I’m also passionate to continue what my sisters started at Waterloo and to promote squash for women.” 

Promoting the sport for women is a priority for all the sisters in the family. Natasha is currently on the board of directors for Squash Ontario, the provincial body that oversees tournaments and rankings for junior and senior players.

“Squash Ontario and Squash Canada have programs focused on equity in the sport,” Natasha said. “It’s exciting to see this movement in women’s squash and all the universities having women’s teams is helping to get more women and girls playing.” 

Micaala and Natasha now also have children of their own and are looking forward to coaching the next generation, once they are big enough to hold a racquet. 

Education and innovation

Even though the Seth family sees the value of athletic excellence, academics never took second place. All seven family members graduated with honours. 

Alongside the course work and specific programs, family members also point to the enormous value of co-op and the real-world working experience gained throughout their degrees.  

“You want to be educated, but you also want to be able to use that education,” Marina said. “The co-op program leads you naturally into applying what you learn and lets you cultivate skills. It stands out in my mind when I think of my time at Waterloo.”    

The Waterloo experience for the family also involves entrepreneurship and innovation, and most recently they have married skills on the squash court with skills in technology through the Seth Squash app. 

“Ravi has always been interested in the analysis of sports,” Marisa said. “It was natural for him to start working on ways that technology could be applied to squash and to improving play on the court.”    

Ravi Seth playing squash

The app, which featured in the final of Velocity’s 5K Challenge, works as a squash analysis program, tracking player movement on the court using live or recorded video. It uses a machine learning algorithm to provide statistics for player position and shot selection. 

Cameron, who is currently a PhD student in Waterloo’s Cheriton School of Computer Science, has been working closely with Ravi on the technical side of the app. Other siblings bring skills to the Seth Squash enterprise as well, with Natasha and Marisa providing know-how on marketing and communications.   

It takes a village  

Seth children in their younger yearsAsked to reflect on the impact Waterloo has had on the family, Marina said it’s an integral part.   

It brought her and Shaman together. It has been a rite of passage for all the children in the family. It has been a place where they learn and compete and create.  

“It takes a village to raise a child,” Marina said. “There are so many organizations and so many individuals that helped our children and our family. Schools, community groups, coaches, teachers and friends — it’s made such a difference. And the University of Waterloo is a big part of that village. It has shaped our children’s lives and I am forever grateful.”