Lopes’ alum now ranked in top 75 in world in rapidly growing sport
By: Jim Howell/GCU Club Sports Information Director
Which of these terms doesn’t go with the other two?
- Grand Canyon University
- Top 50 program
- Men’s and Women’s Squash
The answer is ‘C’. But not for long… if the slender, smiling man at the GCU Club Sports booth in front of the Student Union recently has anything to say about it.
Those strolling by couldn’t help but notice Mohamed El-Sherbini-not just because of his smile, but because of the bright yellow squash jersey on his back. El-Sherbini was more than willing to explain to anyone who stopped how important that jersey was, since he discovered his life’s passion when he picked up a squash racket at age 7, and it snowballed from there.
“After I started playing, I won a major national championship, and then got nominated for the Egyptian National Team as the youngest player there,” El-Sherbini said. “I started going to the African National Championships with my country, and soon, I was one of the top players in Egypt. All eyes were on me. A lot of clubs were trying to sign me. That’s when I thought, ‘OK, I think this can take me some places that I really want to go.”
The ‘fast track’ of adulthood was even faster than that. In just the span of seven years, El-Sherbini has gone from fleeing his native Egypt hours before a revolution (the January 25 Revolution, as it’s commonly known) that killed over 800 people and injured thousands more; to landing in Boston, Massachusetts; then randomly attending a GCU-sponsored squash exhibition match in Phoenix that inspired him to attend GCU for three years.
A complicated whirlwind for most other people. Another day in the life for Mohamed.
“I like change,” El-Sherbini said. “I move a lot, so I thought, ‘Okay, here we go.’ We can live here for a couple of years.”
While earning his Bachelor’s in business administration (entrepreneurship option) at GCU, El-Sherbini sought out any chance to play squash in the valley. Any chance.
“I have probably played in every place that has squash in Phoenix and Scottsdale and the surrounding areas,” said El-Sherbini with a smile. “There’s a lot of people (in the Phoenix area) who like the game, and there’s a lot of awareness. You find a lot of juniors, a lot of middle-age people as well who play.”
It was easy to strike up a game with anyone-not just because of El-Sherbini’s friendly demeanor, but because of what he learned on campus.
“I learned how to be a servant leader. That was one of my favorite parts,” said El-Sherbini. “I learned how just to care about human beings and treat them as good people. I learned a lot of good pillars of life.”
His dedication to his degree helped him opened the first Hot Yoga Studio chain in Egypt, which is still successful today. His dedication to his sport has made him a top-75 squash player in the world as a member of the Egyptian National team. With the help of James Dodson, a founding partner at Arizona Squash, it’s also brought him back to GCU to impart that dedication to others, and possibly start up a club squash program. Arizona Squash opened up last year, and is part of a network of urban squash programs around the world that partner with universities to introduce the game to elementary school aged students in underserved communities to engage them for tutoring and cultural enrichment.
“We became a Canyon Education Partner in 2017 with hopes of engaging GCU students as tutors, but recruiting GCU students has been tough,” said Dodson. “We asked Mohamed to help, and he joined us on campus to help recruit GCU students to play and tutor. We are primarily looking for GCU students to tutor our squash scholars after school, and to support GCU in building a club team.”
“I would love for GCU & Arizona to become a powerhouse for squash,” beamed El-Sherbini. “I see a lot of love of the game through the clubs I visited, and through GCU. It has a lot of potential, so I’m hoping to bring in all of the top players from around the world, bring them the best coaches, host events, camps, clinics to just make GCU where they need to be.”
Dodson hopes that GCU students will help Arizona Squash in January work with the elementary school students at Empower College Prep (also a school partner with Arizona Squash), and later look to get a club sport for squash together at GCU in time to face off against other universities such as Arizona State in the fall.
It will take time to cultivate, but El-Sherbini plans to be part of the squash surge-while trying to ascend to “top-10 and one of the squash legends”.
And he’d love to make that bright-yellow jersey… turn Lopes’ purple.
If you’re interested in being part of a club squash team, contact Alex Garwood at [email protected]