Natick, Mass, Dec. 18: In the spirit of counting blessings and being grateful for all we have, inspiration comes from many sources — like the real-life, positive story playing out in Natick, Mass., where Americans with migrant backgrounds are creating opportunity for young squash players from developing countries – benefitting Americans in the process. It’s a win-win situation.
It’s happening at a squash club that started a coaching academy with the mission to support and encourage squash – termed the “healthiest sport” by Forbes magazine — through coaching and mentorship.
Named for the town in Massachusetts where it began in 1987, Dover Squash and Fitness runs the Dover Squash Academy, a teaching program with internationally ranked coaches. It specializes in developing young players from age nine onwards. It hosts exhibition matches by world ranked players, and brings in young players from developing countries to play against local talent – providing vital exposure and experience.
Bringing players from abroad “benefits US squash as well,” as squash supporter Steve Columbia notes. He should know. His son Edward ranks as US number 2.
Since 2012 when Dover Squash signed an agreement with the Pakistan Squash Federation, it has also been the official sponsor of the Pakistan national team, including junior players. Pakistani players touring the USA are based at Dover Squash, where they also receive expert coaching.
The program is part of Dover Squash founder Mahmud Jafri’s vision of investing in young players from around the world. “We want to connect these players through squash and create opportunities for them to pursue academic goals or coaching careers,” he explains.
Dover Squash helps such players to enroll in leading educational institutions with strong squash programs in the US, or develop career paths as coaches and trainers, “because not everyone is academically inclined,” as Jafri notes.
The Dover Squash coaching team includes Pakistan’s former Junior Champion Arshad Iqbal Burki, representing the legacy of the great Khans of squash. Dover Squash also officially coaches at the private Fay School, SouthBorough and provided coaching services for MIT. Dover Squash coach Thierry Lincou, who retired as world no. 1 from France, has now joined MIT as a full-time coach this fall.
The training academy’s head coach, Khaled Ghoniem, whose father is a professional squash coach in Egypt, the world’s undisputed squash capital, has been playing squash competitively since he was ten years old.
Squash, enthuses Ghoniem, is the best combination of a cardiovascular and strength workout with minimal injury, and “the most efficient calorie-burner” — a 45-minute game can burn 800-900 calories.
But the real reason people fall in love with squash, he believes, is the mental challenge it presents. The winner is not the one with the best technique or physical strength but “the one who outsmarts their opponent”.
Ranked top 10 in Egypt’s Under-13, Under-15, and Under-17 categories, Ghoniem was still a high schooler when he became an assistant coach. He worked with Egyptian national team coaches for five years before becoming a full-time coach in 2007. Ghoniem also trained the Egyptian women’s team, leading them to the Under-19 world championship in 2009. He moved to Boston, Massachusetts to work as a full time coach in 2012.
His students include Egypt’s Karim Abdelgawad (ranked men’s 9th in the world, 2009) and America’s Amanda Sobhy (ranked women’s 8th in the world, 2010), The highest-ranking American ever in the Professional Squash Association world rankings, Sobhy first achieved a top-10 world ranking in September 2014, as she started her senior year at Harvard University.
Playing professionally in the US for five years after graduating from university in Egypt with a business degree, Ghoniem saw the potential to contribute to America’s burgeoning interest in squash.
“It was a good opportunity as the US was trying to raise the standard of the game,” he says. “Getting to know the Dover Squash family (players, coaches, leadership, owners) motivated me to contribute to its mission of developing young players”.
The players he coaches represent all levels. Many play regular tournaments and are on their school teams. Ghoniem strives to allow his students room to grow and develop their individual styles while playing squash at its best.
The Dover Squash trainers include former head coach of the women’s squash team of Tufts University Belkys M. Velez who played internationally on Equador’s national team and ranked number one for Equador for ten years and Paul Mathieson, who has played internationally on the United Kingdom team and won multiple national championships.
It’s an un-squashable combination.
For more information, contact:
Dover Squash and Fitness,
721 Worcester Road, Natick, MA 01760
Tel. 857.258.5153 * Fax 508.651.3507