U.S. number one, world number seven and Harvard alumni Amanda Sobhy has moved to Philadelphia for the upcoming completion of the Arlen Specter U.S. Squash Center. Sobhy talked with the Triangle about the challenges she has faced with her squash career due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, her advice for college athletes and her move from Boston to Philly for the new U.S. Squash Center.
The Specter Center, originally planned for completion in the fall of 2020 but pushed back due to the pandemic, will feature 18 squash courts, two of them being full-glass exhibition courts. The center is located in the Armory building opposite Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center, where onlookers can peer in at the current construction efforts. The center promises to be a first of its kind for U.S. Squash, and, as a result, it has attracted some of the biggest names in world squash.
Sobhy is the highest-ranked American squash player in history, currently sitting at number seven, with her highest ranking being number six on the PSA World Tour. She served a successful college career at Harvard, with a 62-match undefeated record. Sobhy answered some questions for the Triangle concerning her move and her hopes for the new center.
“My move to Philly definitely wasn’t easy to begin with, as I moved in August and none of my stuff arrived from the movers until 10 days later. Since then, I have been loving being based in Philly! My main reason for moving to Philly was for the Specter U.S. National Center, that is currently in the process of being finished. I wanted to be based at a facility that had everything under one roof, from squash to fitness to physio and recovery, and the Specter Center will have all of that. It was originally meant to be done in August, so timing-wise, it would’ve been perfect with my move, but then COVID kept delaying everything, so now I think it will be done this spring,” Sobhy said.
Hopeful for the new center but having had to adapt her plans temporarily, Sobhy explains how she is still enjoying squash whilst living in Philly.
“Thankfully, the squash community in Philly has been amazing, and I got set up as a member at the Racquet Club of Philadelphia when I moved. I am doing all of my training there now, whether it’s in the gym or on the squash court. I’ve even been getting on the tennis court! There are fortunately a ton of players at the club, so I have so many people to hit with. It’s been a great form of community since the pandemic has definitely been tough on finding that social connection,” Sobhy said.
Despite the current setbacks, Sobhy explains why she is excited for the new center and what she expects it will bring for the future of U.S. squash. She excitedly explains the new facilities that the center will unveil.
“I am excited to have a high-performance center to train out of that will have everything I need. Besides the singles and doubles courts, there will be a Team USA locker room, a recovery room with a sauna and cold tub, a fueling station for all our nutritional needs, a performance gym and a bunch of players to train with. I’ve been waiting my entire athletic career for a facility like this to train out of, so I am extremely grateful that it has happened while I’m still competing,” Sobhy said.
Sobhy expects that the center will have a significant impact on U.S. Squash, its current and future stars, and the popularity of squash itself.
“I think it will incentivize a lot more junior and collegiate players to want to play pro after college, which will help grow the depth of players. What I envision with this center is to make squash in the U.S. a powerhouse where they are up there with the Egyptians in dominating the sport! I also think the center will have a huge impact on accessibility and getting new people engaged in the sport because it will be a community center for people in the city to come and play! I’m excited to bring some of my friends who aren’t squash people to the center to teach them the sport,” Sobhy said.
When can we expect to see Sobhy back in action on Drexel’s campus?
“I’m hopeful that the U.S. Open will be happening this October at the Specter Center, so I fully expect everybody to be there!” Sobhy laughed.
Finally, Sobhy gave some candid advice to college players, coming from an experienced and successful college career playing at Harvard (the current national champions).
“My advice for college squash players is to enjoy those four years with your teammates and playing on a team! I loved college squash from the atmosphere on game day to actually playing for a team for once! Savor those moments because it goes by quickly. My other advice is that you probably will struggle with finding a good balance… and that’s okay! People think I had it all figured out. Well, let me tell you, I most certainly did not! I felt like I was hanging on by a thread most of my time there. Balancing sports, studies, and a social life is hard. Depending on the time of year, certain areas might need more attention, so don’t beat yourself up that your training isn’t as consistent as you would like or you are swamped with school work and behind. Do the best you can and give 100 percent of your best effort into what you are doing in the moment. You got this!” Sobhy said.
The Arlen Specter U.S. Squash Center will be an exciting new feature on Drexel’s campus, and we can expect to see world-class squash at the heart of our community.