Monday, March 27, 2023

Mohamed ElShorbagy’s key role with England youngsters revealed

National coach David Campion has revealed the strong influence Mohamed ElShorbagy is exerting on England’s up and coming crop of players.

Former world no.1 ElShorbagy sensationally changed allegiance from Egypt last June to play for England, where he has lived since he started at Millfield School aged 14. 

He wore the England jersey for the first time at December’s Nations Cup in New Zealand and will have the red cross on his shirt once again at April’s European Team Championships in Helsinki. 

But what has gone unseen publicly so far is the commitment the 32-year-old has made to supporting England’s younger generations of pros. 

“Mohamed has shown a great willingness to share his knowledge and experience,” national coach Campion told Squash Mad. “For example, he will ring a player up after a tournament and go through their performance. He really wants to give back. 

“He watches everything. He is a student of the game. He is very eager to see these younger English players succeed. He’ll say, ‘This is what I’ve noticed in your game and here is what I think might help.’ 

“He will raise their awareness of things that have helped him through his career. Coming from one of the world’s greatest ever players, that is very valuable.” 

When ElShorbagy first entered talks with England Squash about the possibility of switching nationalities to the country where he has lived for over half his life, no conditions were attached. Campion says the subject of helping upcoming players was initiated by ElShorbagy himself. 

He revealed: “This was very much part of the discussions about whether he would play for England, the fact that he wanted to play this kind of role. 

“When somebody tells you that enough times, you start to believe it – and now I’ve seen it. He will share what he thinks. Patrick Rooney is closest to him as a rival but he’s probably the player Mohamed has helped the most. He has called him and said, ‘This is what I think when I play you.’” 

David Campion
David Campion with England assistant coach Nick Matthew

Campion says the topic ElShorbagy gives most advice on is mentality – something on which the former world champion prides himself. 

“He’s like any top player, they are very self-reflective,” states Campion. “As a young player it’s easy to play a match then move on, without asking yourself questions about your performance. 

“Mentality is crucial. You can observe that a player has great skill, or is athletic, but the mentality is not so visible. It’s like water finding its way through a tiny gap – under pressure in the heat of a gladiatorial battle with your opponent, what have you got? Usually, the ones with the mental strength are the ones who win.” 

ElShorbagy is just one of the vastly experienced world-class players that are included within England Squash’s support team, in addition to the likes of Nick Matthew, Laura Massaro, James Willstrop Alison Waters, Tania Bailey and Jenny Denyer, plus physio Jade Leeder and strength and conditioning staff. 

England Squash has five affiliated top-class performance hubs around the country which England’s funded players can access at any time and with whom Campion liaises regularly: Rob Owen at West Warwickshire, Nick Matthew at Hallamshire, Adam Fuller and Paul Carter at Berkhamsted, James Willstrop at Pontefract, as well as the Manchester hub, run by Campion himself. 

Additionally, England’s players have use of English Institute of Sport’s sports science, sports medicine and fitness facilities at their hubs in Bath, Bisham Abbey, Twickenham, Loughborough, Manchester and Sheffield.

England’s promising youngsters Asia Harris (left) and Torrie Malik

This system is helping to produce some very exciting prospects in the form of Finnlay Withington, Nick Wall, Sam Todd, Jasmine Hutton, Lucy Turmel, Katie Malliff, Torrie Malik, Asia Harris, Jonah Bryant, Sam Osborne-Wylde, Saran Nghiem, Curtis Malik, Charlie Lee – and, of course, Gina Kennedy and Patrick Rooney, who are a little further ahead of the pack. 

“We are in a good place with some exciting prospects coming through with a lot of potential,” asserts Campion. “It’s now about making sure we maximise their potential by working on the right things, whether that’s strength work, skills or psychological support. We’ll give them absolutely everything they need. 

“Our former top-class players aren’t disappearing to America to earn a fortune, despite having every right to do so – they have shown us they want to stay in this country and help. Their knowledge and insight into what it takes to be a world-class squash player is invaluable. 

“Mohamed is giving back just like Nick, Laura or James. He’s part of the team. But these special players don’t grow on trees; it takes a lot of work. They know what it takes and how hard it is, so we’re making the absolute most of their input.” 

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