SportsAid is aiming to shine a spotlight on the next generation of household names across Great Britain….your local heroes! Our blog series, entitled ‘Inside My World’, will look to offer you an insight into the lives of the country’s most talented young athletes while also offering them the platform to express themselves to a wider audience.
This time....it's AbdAllah Eissa, 14, from Warwick in Warwickshire. He is a squash player, currently supported by the Backing The Best programme through SportsAid, who was crowned British Junior Open Under-13s champion in January last year. He is now aiming to the win the British title, as well as the US Junior Open, at Under-15s level.
Here, AbdAllah takes you into his world as he blogs about his relationship with his father - who is also his coach - his experiences in lockdown, competing at senior level at just 13 and his ambitions for the future - both in sport and education.
“My dad, who played squash to quite a high level himself, was the first to introduce me to the sport when I was five. I started going on court with him and he still trains me up to this day, so I don’t think I ever would have got into squash had it not been for his influence. I remember this little racket that I used to use which is far smaller than the one I use right now!
“The dynamic with my dad works well - we’re really close and I can talk to him in detail about how I feel, so it’s a good relationship that we have and we understand each other really well. I’ve never really thought about having any other coach, and that close personal relationship that we share together definitely helps us coaching wise and my progress on the court.
“It can sometimes be difficult to strike the balance between squash and family life, as we do talk about squash a lot during family time, but my mum, Manar, has also been very supportive. We do love squash but we can also switch off and relax, and if there’s a big tournament we usually all travel together, so it’s a full family effort.
“My dad also trains my sister, Mariam, who is 11 and was the English and British Under-11s champion and also won a silver medal in the British Junior Open in January. We all play except my mum, but she’s been watching and supporting us for a long time now!
“Lockdown has been tough for me, because you need a lot of space for squash, and I’ve only been able to do fitness and general physical activity. It’s been a strange time over the last few months, and this has been the longest time I’ve ever gone without playing squash. It’s weird to be doing school at home with live lessons with my teachers, but I’ve started to get used to the routine now and it’s not too bad.
“I’ve been doing running and weights in addition to my schoolwork, while also mimicking squash movements, and things like that, to help me stay sharp. It is difficult with no end goals in sight, and I’ve missed that thrill of competing - I really like both the social and competitive parts of tournaments, so I’ve missed it a lot.
“I’ve just been waking up, doing my schoolwork as a normal day and then a bit of exercise before spending some time with family during the evenings. My school, Kenilworth, are aiming for it to be about the same amount of time and work as normal, and working from home isn’t too bad.
“It is sometimes a bit difficult to understand things without a teacher there to ask, but they’ve given us plenty of resources to read from. I definitely want to go to university, to study either veterinary or engineering, in the future - it will be hard to balance with squash but I think education is very important. You just can’t rely on things in sport as you could get injured at any moment!
“I currently find it OK balancing squash and school - I usually train a bit later in the day, and attempt to do about two or three hours every day after school. Alongside playing junior tournaments I train at Stratford Squash Club. I have been playing in Warwickshire’s senior leagues in Division One and in January, I played the Warwickshire County closed competition at senior level.
“I reached the semi-finals in the regional competition against some of the best adult players in the area - and it was really different to competing at junior level. I managed to beat the second seed in the second round - I wasn’t really expecting to win but just tried my best to enjoy it, and managed to win, which was really good. Then unfortunately I lost very closely in the semi-finals in a 3-2 defeat. I was gutted but it was definitely a good experience for me - and I was only 13 at the time!
“The senior game was a much faster pace and both more mental and physical than competing at junior level - the other players have a lot more experience than me. I’m confident that gaining that experience competing against men will definitely help me in the future, and I’d like to continue playing senior level squash as soon as I can.
“My ultimate squash ambition is to become world champion and world number one and I want to do both as early as possible! This is my last year at Under-15s level so I’d also love to win both the British Junior Open and US Junior Open in those age categories before I move up to the next age group!”
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