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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Q&A with Amanda Sobhy

Amanda Sobhy, with her record haul of 3 Panam gold medals for squash 

Amanda Sobhy is Team USA's number 1 female squash player and is currently ranked number 7 on the world professional tour. She hails from Long Island, New York, and is now based in Boston.

Amanda recently caused a stir at one of the biggest events on the calendar in NYC, the Tournament of Champions, by beating the seedings and making it all the way to the finals. Could this be the beginning of a break out period for her? At 22 years of age, by most accounts, she is already the most accomplished American-born female squash player in history.

I got the chance to catch up with Amanda and ask her a few questions.


BE: On your 17th birthday in 2010 you won the World Junior Squash Championships. You are the first and only American winner of this event ever. Was it at this point that you decided that life as a professional squash player may be a real option for you?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bermuda, Bahama, C'mon Pretty Mama

The usual suspects

I moved to New York City in 2004 after a short time living in Bermuda. I enjoyed my six months on the island and found the people to be warm and the place itself to be very inviting. I played squash and football (soccer) and spent lots of time exploring the island on my moped. Bermuda fascinated me. The vegetation, the sunsets, the color of the sand, they were all inspiring. It was quintessentially British and had an old world charm about it that made me feel at ease. Even upon moving to the US I always intended visiting the island in the future. I would not have to wait long.

Every year during the week of Veteran's Day tens of thousands of rugby fans descend on the tiny island of Bermuda for the World Rugby Classic.  It is the unofficial world cup for over 35 year old ex top flight players.  Teams fly in from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England, Canada, USA and other nations to compete for the cup.  It's going on right now.

Monday, September 28, 2015

An Olympic-Sized Opportunity

The logo for the Public Squash Foundation

Squash is growing fast in the United States, irrespective of today’s Olympic-sized let down.  The local growth is not that surprising though when you think about it.  The sport does seem to appeal specifically to the American psyche in that it rewards hard work and fairness, as well as confidence and creativity.  And the fact that squash is the world's healthiest sport and can be played in any weather condition and over quite a short duration (40-60 minutes) means that it complements the busy life of the everyday American very well, especially the city dwellers.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Q&A with Luke Butterworth

Luke Butterworth, a US Squash Head Regional Coach

Luke Butterworth was raised in Yorkshire, in the north of England, a part of the world that has produced many of our sports best and fiercest competitors. After much success in various sports as a junior, at the age of 17 Luke decided to focus on squash and he joined the PSA tour. Subsequently, at the young age of 19 he moved to the United States to train as a professional squash player. During his initial stay in the US, to make ends meet, Luke coached junior squash players when he wasn't training himself. During that time he started to gain a real passion for coaching squash.

His progression as a coach was fast and at the young age of 22 he was offered a role as national coach to the Paraguayan squash team. Since returning to his base in the US he has accepted an important role at US Squash as the head regional coach for all juniors in Connecticut. In addition to his responsibilities at US Squash, Luke coaches students at Greenwich Academy, a high school that has won the national tournaments and has produced many of the best young players in the US.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Smart Squash

Front cover of Smart Squash by Austin M. Francis

For whatever reason, aside from a few great autobiographies and instructional-type books, there do not seem to be that many good reads about the game of squash out there.  Certainly not relative to other more mainstream sports.  Hopefully this will change in future as squash grows in popularity.

There are notable exceptions to this, however, like two great books about squash written by Jim Zug.  Another is a book called 'Smart Squash' written by a gentleman named Austin Francis, which was first published 20 years ago, at the time that the US switched from hardball singles to the international softball game.  Austin interviewed all of the top US-based players and coaches at that time in order to understand what the critical differences are between hardball and softball.  Some of the names of those interviewed for advice are in the preface below.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Oxygen and Nick Matthew

Front cover of the autobiography of world squash champion, Nick Matthew

A few readers have asked me what the best squash advice I have ever received is, given that I have been playing for thirty years.  It is true that I have had the privilege of playing some of the best players in the world in training sessions, and sometimes even in matches when I have been lucky enough, so I guess I have learned a thing or two by osmosis.  Most recently I played against Nick Matthew in one quick game of squash.  He was on vacation in the US.  Even though I don't play singles much anymore (play more hardball doubles), I jumped at the opportunity.  And what a great experience it was!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Q&A with Shaun Johnstone

Shaun Johnstone, Zimbabwean professional sportsman

Shaun Johnstone was born in Zimbabwe on April 20th, 1984.  After high school he moved to the US to attend Trinity College.  Johnstone was on the Trinity squash team that has the longest unbeaten winning streak in the history of collegiate sports – the team was undefeated for 252 straight team match ups against other US colleges over the course of 13 years.  Shaun was an invaluable member of that Trinity team and consequently was an All American for all four of his years at college.  Johnstone is a talented individual and has achieved national recognition in sports other than squash.  In fact, word has it that long time Trinity head coach, Paul Assaiante, considers Johnstone the best overall athlete ever to play for him. 

I recently got the opportunity to ask Shaun a few questions about squash and about his life generally and have shared his answers to them below.  You will find that he is someone that not only loves playing squash but who is also extremely focused on being the best coach that he can possibly be; and you'll understand why.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Q&A with Peter Lasusa

Former US Squash Chairman, Peter R. Lasusa, Jr.

Last June Peter Lasusa finished his four year term as the Chairman of US Squash. He had served on the organization's Board for the last nine years.  When he initially got involved it was known as the USSRA, but Peter oversaw way more than just a name change.  He recognized early on a need for a change in the governance structures and implemented big changes during his tenure that led to a dramatic turnaround in the prospects of the organization.  Membership has doubled, participation has doubled and revenues have more than doubled.  And the US Open is among the premier squash tournaments in the world.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

How I Remember my Countryman, Nelson Mandela

Mandela handing over the Rugby World Cup winners trophy in 1995

I grew up in the Eastern Cape in South Africa during the height of the apartheid era in the late 70's and 80's, in a part of the country now known as the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Area.

Being a white person growing up in that environment meant living with certain privileges.  But it also meant I was handicapped without even knowing it, as were all the other boys at the boarding school which I attended.  You see, we had a tainted view of the world. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Youthful reflections on the British Junior Open

Ayush Menon

Below is an article written by Ayush Menon, a young man of Indian descent who is a Junior US Open Squash champion in his age group.  Ayush is a first generation American and at the age of 12 years has already accomplished much in the game of squash.