A ‘California Squash Hub’ with Haitham Effat

Fram talks to Haitham Effat
(late evening for Fram and early morning for the Egyptian…)

You might not know the name, or the face. But this young man has been one of the answers to the question: “what is the secret of Egyptian Squash”.

If some coaches burst of emotions/energy during the matches, Haitham is the calm impersonated. Always in eye contact with his players, containing the outburst from the players family, Haitham is calmly in charge.

“I feel that staying calm is something that works both for me and my players, maybe making the balance with the parents who can be quite emotional. Also, being calm gives me the time to think…”

Up to two seasons ago, Haitham was based in Cairo, coaching in the Stadium – the Egyptian Federation courts – the likes of Hania, Tarek, Marwan, Youssef Mohamed (Soliman to you). But he has ambitions. And dreams.

So last season, he left for the States, for a little town in California, 30m from San Fran, called Santa Clara. The change was brutal. If you ever lived in Egypt, the pace is how can I describe it… laid back to say the least.

If you want to achieve something, you can here

“I miss everything about Egypt, my but first family of course” he admits. “My brother,  my mom, my family, my friends. My life, my way of life. I miss the food, of course, and the Middle East way of life, where you get helped a lot. Here, you need to do everything by yourself!

“The way to train for PSA events is different in Egypt than it is here. I had more competition, more professional life, whereas California is a bit orientated towards juniors, so I start my day of work about 3, 3.30pm, instead of the morning like in Cairo. Being here also taught me to be more disciplined from a professional point of view, I have more opportunities to meet people.  

“If Egypt is different, obviously, I enjoy my time in the States a lot. They call it “the Land of Opportunities”. And that’s what I feel. If you want to achieve something, you can here. You can do, be whatever whoever you want. You can dream and make your dream come true, achieve success, and achieve more than you thought you could.

Coaching the Top Girls

Haitham is very successful in his coach with both men and women but somehow, I always considered him as a “woman” guy for some reason. Still, having Raneem El Welily, Nour El Tayeb, Hania El Hammamy, and now Nouran Gohar in your list of players sort of sets the bar rather high…

“Why do I get the chance to train the top girls? Maybe boys feel like they can do it everything by themselves, that they don’t need a coach really. Still, I enjoy coaching the men, I had the best players, Ramy, Tarek, Marwan, Youssef Soliman, but more and more players don’t have a dedicated coach, or they do for a little time and change often.

“Girls seem to be a bit more faithful in their relationship with their coaches, they stick to the same one, and they listen more as well, they are more disciplined. They appreciate the caring part of the coaching, the nurturing side of the training maybe.

Talking of which, everybody noticed the presence of Haitham during the WorldTour Finals in Nouran Gohar’s corner. And that presence was surprising for a lot of us. Coaching Hania for years, then swapping for Nouran, her main rival on the Tour, that was a bold move, especially if you think that Omar Abdel Aziz, now coaching Hania, was forever Nouran’s coach.

Are you confused? Read the paragraph again… 🙂

Haitham is rather clear when asked why he stopped coaching Hania: “I didn’t “stop” coaching Hania”, he affirms.

“I wanted to build a new chapter in my life, so I saw the potential for growing, maybe building something of my own, a complex or an Academy in California. That’s my dream, to build my own Academy here in the States. And that is the other part of the world from Egypt, at least 22 hours flight, so it was very hard to commit with my ex-players.

I left all my players “in peace” [Hania, Tarek, Marwan, Youssef, Todd Harrity], thinking about what is best for them, and which coaches they would be more suited with. So it was a friendly way and I have a chat with everyone who needs my advice. It’s a pleasure to speak with my ex-players, I’m always there if they need me.

But how did he start working with Nouran?