Last week I received a message from Shahid Zaman Khan telling me that he has accepted the role of Head Squash Coach at Boston University. He is in fact the first “professional coach” hired by the prestigious institution. Earlier this year, he was signed up by the Harvard Business School at their Squash Instructor.
For those who don’t know him, Shahid was once the brightest Pakistani squash player, having risen to a career-best No.14 in the international squash rankings. Shahid was Pakistan’s top-ranked player in the world for quite a long time. He won several international laurels for Pakistan both at home and abroad but opportunities began to dry up and he moved to greener pastures in North America. It was in 2009 that he made the move, settling in Boston where his first job was squash coach at the Tennis and Racket Club, the oldest club in Boston. He stayed there for 11 years before moving to Equinox Club. Over the years he trained hundreds of players at various clubs and educational institutions before joining Harvard Business School and Boston University this year.
The Quetta-born Shahid might not actually belong to Nawakilli — the land of Pakistan’s squash greats — but he has great pedigree. His father Gul Bahadur Khan was once a prominent squash coach in Quetta and trained various leading players including brothers Zarak and Zubair Jahan Khan. He is the nephew of Qamar Zaman, the former British Open champion and ex-world No.1. Qamar is regarded as one of the most skillful players ever to play the game. Shahid has inherited much of Qamar’s wizardry.
More recently, Shahid’s nephew Hamza Khan made headlines when he became the first Pakistan player since the mighty Jansher Khan to win the World Junior Squash Championship title. Hamza, who has received a lot of guidance and training from Shahid, won the crown in Melbourne earlier this summer.
“I’m very happy and blessed to be where I am today, especially coming from a very humble background and now that I’m working with all these prestigious schools I don’t have enough words of gratitude to everyone who has helped me on this journey. I first of all thank God and say Alhamdulillah for everything I have and after this all credit goes to my family. My father, my brothers Ali Jan, Wahid Gul, and Zahid Gul, who were always behind throughout the journey and never gave up on me,” says Shahid.
“I would like to encourage all the youngsters who play squash, to keep working hard. If you work hard, you can achieve your goals in life. My heart always beats for my country, Pakistan, and I always try to serve it. Recently, my nephew Hamza khan, became the world champion, which makes us very proud because our family served the country for so many years. This is very inspiring for me and pushes me to keep working hard knowing my hard work is paying off. The fact that I am, in a small way, helping my country’s name fly higher is also a great privilege and honour,” he adds.
Despite being well-settled in the US, Shahid yearns to serve Pakistan squash. “I’m everything I am because of Pakistan,” he says. “It is still my greatest desire to serve Pakistan squash in any capacity I can.”
The fact that Shahid is based in the US as a prominent and respectable coach potentially makes him a great asset for Pakistan squash. Unlike the past when England was the power centre of international squash, it’s the USA which is now the game’s heartland. Squash has grown in North America in recent decades and is now flourishing there. Back in the past our legends like Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan made their bones as world class players by playing and training in England. If our current generation of promising players want to follow in their footsteps then they should play and train in the US. Back in the past it was Rahmat Khan who helped groom Jahangir into a world champion and Mohammad Yasin who played almost a similar role in shaping Jansher’s career. Now, it is Shahid who is perfectly placed to help players like Hamza to realise their true potential and become world beaters like Jahangir and Jansher.
“I am always available to help and train our (Pakistani) youngsters,” says Shahid. “It is my desire to see Pakistani players winning world titles like Jahangir and Jansher and if I can help in realising that dream then I’m always there.”
Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News