Sunday, February 25, 2024

What held a top athlete back from becoming squash World No.1?

Jesse Engelbrecht is a former top 50 squash player and claims that his mental side of the sport held him back from fulfilling his huge potential.

Since retiring he has made it his mission to help others overcome the hurdles he faced and has built an app called SportMind, that he describes as a ‘coach in your pocket’ for people to help take on challenges in sport, work, and day-to-day life.

SportMind is described as ‘the gym of the mind’ and is a toolkit to help people flourish in their respective lives. The app has three different components, with over 400 lessons in total, catering itself to the needs of its users. 

There is an open world element that has blogs, audio clips and videos. For users that like to do things in a more sequential order there is a training syllabus where you can work your way through lots of different material, and the third component of the app involves daily insights that are there to build up good habits.

In 2023, there is a greater focus than ever on mental health which is something that SportMind focusses on, including having a variety of different sports stars talking about how their mind has affected their life. 

The SportMind inventor was keen to express how inciteful these podcasts are, “A lot of people see these good athletes and think they have got it all together, but a lot of them open up about the struggles they have been through.”

Engelbrecht was a top squash junior destined for great things when he turned professional, and although he won 14 international titles felt as though he underachieved.

Building the mental side in squash

“As a junior I got to the quarterfinals of the British Junior open and this is supposed to mean you are destined to become top 10 in the world, because I was top 10 for my age group. So, I did really well as a junior and I wasn’t able to convert that to the seniors,” said the former South African No.1.

He continued, “I did okay, got to the top 50 in the world so it was not bad, but the thought was to get to top 10 and ideally World No.1. I beat quite a few top 10 players, but in the same week I’d beat a top 10 I would lose to someone around 400 in the world.”

“And it wasn’t really anything to do with my skill, or my hands, it was all the mental side. My bandwidth was either up here or down there, I never really had a solid bandwidth.”

Following retirement Engelbrecht became a squash coach, but also took up a master’s degree in sports psychology, specialising in mental toughness in a sports environment.

Jesse Engelbrecht coaching at Surrey Sports Park

During the Covid-19 pandemic the players he was coaching were unable to play squash, so he told them to focus on the one thing they could, their mind.

The app Squashmind developed from this with a focus on visualisation, mindfulness and meditation. Squashmind has since broadened out into SportMind, but the fundamental principals have remained the same. 

The app has numerous experts on there with helpful tools, and each expert has two lessons free of charge. To access the entire programme, it is £9 a month or £90 a year. 

SportMind has a three-year partnership in place with HEAD squash. Because of this partnership, if you buy a HEAD squash racket you can get three months of SportMind for free.

Engelbrecht wants to keep expanding on these partnerships to reach as wide an audience as possible, “My main goal is for national governing bodies to get behind it, different mental health foundations to get behind it to show the value of having a coach in your pocket.”

More accessiblity

He added, “As well as having all these lessons codified, ranging from loads of different books, podcasts, lessons from experts, basically just making it more accessible to more people. Just to kind of show people that there is something out there that can help them pre-tournament, during the tournament, during life struggles, exams, and other examples. I want people to know it as the go to thing to help you with your mind.”

You can get the app on the App Store or Google Play Store by searching for SportMind Health. You can also check out the SportMind website and free Training Syllabus at

Finally, to go even deeper with mental tools and insights into the mind check out and follow the SportMind podcast series



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