Some people associate this time of year with football and betting which team may end up in the Superbowl, but in many parts of the world there are other sports that gain more national attention. According to Sayed Selim, squash is one sport that is beginning to get more popular in the U.S.,
Selim, an Egyptian world-class squash coach, is the new director of Squash at Southampton Youth Services’ (SYS) Elmaleh Stanton Squash Facility. Selim came to Southampton in March after applying for the full time position, which SYS posted online.
SYS board member and head of the squash program, Wally Glennon, said that Selim was chosen for the position because of his overwhelming enthusiasm of the sport.
But asking Selim to take the position would require him to relocate from Berlin, Germany where he had been living for nearly two decades. It would also mean hurdling a slight language barrier but Glennon said that Selim was definitely up to the challenge.
“It’s been a fascinating process for all of us,” said Glennon. “He was the missing element in our facility. We searched the top champion players, but Selim had high hopes and high expectations and his motivation is remarkable.”
“The most gratifying thing is how the local community has embraced the game,” Glennon said.
Though he’s been in Europe for many years, Selim said he immediately felt at home when he arrived in Southampton.
“I lived in Germany for 18 years and never felt at home. I was here for nine days and feel truly at home,” Selim said on Friday, “I have this feeling I will die here, I love this place.”
Selim began playing squash in his native Egypt at the age of six, and has worked with some of the top players in Egypt and Germany.
“I used to play very well,” Selim said. “I’ve been coaching now for over 20 years.”
Now, at the age of 43, he hopes to teach and train others to better their skills at the game.
“It’s more than a game. It’s fitness and it’s fun,” said Selim, explaining that the game is played in a court using four walls. “It becomes very challenging because you have people behind, in front and on the side of you.”
Selim has trained various national professional squash players and finds that the sport is gaining popularity in America. Selim’s ultimate dream is to get squash into the local schools. He has already managed to get many of the local community members to join in clinics, which he teaches on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He said he held a competition where 13 women competed against each other and he was able to determine a rating for them, so they would be able to see who their best competitor would be. Selim says that people of all ages are welcome to play and has found that an increasing number of young people have been embracing the sport.
“If we get the kids we get the parents – the kids are the future,” he said. “The game is improving more and more — and is becoming more popular in America.”
The professional squash playoffs will be played January 23 to 29 in New York City’s Central Station Terminal where the best male players compete for the $115,000 grand prize. It’s the largest squash spectator event in the world. Last year, Bear Sterns sponsored the event, but in response to recent economic events, JP Morgan has acquired Bear Sterns and is now the title sponsor. J.P. Morgan has increased the prize money by 50 percent for this year’s tournament.