Today was the second day in the Virtual Women Championship organized by 360 Experiential Solutions under the Auspices of the National Council for Women & in partnership with ExxonMobil. And the day started with a fire-side chat between Sandra Farid the CEO of Acumen Consulting firm & Nouran Gohar the professional Squash athlete.
Nouran Gohar started the talk with the background story that led to her career as a professional Squash athlete.
Her mother & uncle were professional PingPong players, and her father was a Tennis player who shifted his interest to Squash practicing. As a kid, Nouran has practiced gymnastics & swimming and both weren’t her favorite sports. Then, one day she decided to join her father in a Squash game & the captain asked her to try practicing Squash which she did & loved it since then.
Although she didn’t like gymnastics & swimming back then, she says that both sports helped build her flexibility basics in such a young age that is helping her now.
Sandra asked Nouran to tell us more around her school journey along with practicing sports in a professional way.
Nouran starts her answer by being frank that being the best of both worlds & excelling in the school with a French system followed by studying constructional engineering & playing Squash professionally was hard but enjoyable. As succeeding in both led to happiness that worth all of the hardships. The things that she has paid in exchange of succeeding in both was not going out with her friends during the weekend or not going to the school trips or not traveling to her senior-year trip, given that at the same time she has to be training & preparing to the championships accordingly. Her friends encouraged her & supported her in her decisions which made it easier to her in school.
During the university years things got harder & this led to a burn-out between putting extensive pressure on herself to succeed in both studying constructional engineering & being a professional Squash player with an international ranking.
At the age of 17, Nouran was preparing herself for the Juniors International tournament & she wasn’t sure whether she will win this tournament or not. So, she won at the end & this was the spark that influenced her decision to prioritize Squash in her life. As a result, she has planned for a gap year after graduating from school & before starting university (which turned out to be one semester before changing her mind). And focused on Squash only which led to changing her worldwide rank from the 22nd to the 8th in 3 months only. She was pressured given that Squash was the only thing on her plate back then, and Squash was the only thing defining her day unlike previously when she was enjoying her school besides. By December of the same year, she have decided to join university to ease the pressure on herself. And she was planning to balance education & sports as she used to do.
Sandra then dug deeper in the break-down phase that Nouran might have faced as we all facing break-down at some point in our lives.
Nouran faced this break-down due to the challenge she was in, given she chose a hard major like construction engineering & being a professional athlete who prepares to join & win several tournaments. And unlike all other sounds around her, she was dedicated to succeed in both at the same time. Given the fact that women by nature are multi-taskers & we can do a bunch of different things at the same time & succeed in many things at once instead of only one.
In her first university year she managed to balance both goals. Following the first year, this wasn‘t easy anymore. As a result of failing in many matches her rank went back from the 2nd worldwide to the 8th worldwide. And this failure led her to hate Squash and the moment of explosion was her 5th semester in university, this is the moment when she questioned her career as an athlete besides her studies as a construction engineer. During the same timing she did 2 surgeries, felt a big hate to the sport & her major. Despite being disciplined & a hard-worked in general, this time she accepted to slow-down & accept the break-down.
Before the break-down hits, she didn’t enjoy any success & she was always focusing on the future with anxiety. During the break-down she was doubting herself. However, the losses lead to enhancing her learning curve. The break-down helped Nouran to solve this issue being grateful for everything, appreciating the successes or wins & learning from the failures. When Nouran reached rock bottom, she decided to do something to help herself & with the support of others do better. So, she reflected & moved on doing other things to keep the momentum. And the same tournament that she lost in October 2018, she won It in 2019 by winning the 2nd rank. And by July 2020, she was ranked as the 1st Squash player worldwide.
No one of us is over breaking-down, we all might experience this at any age & whether we multi-task or not. Break-downs are unexpected, comes with no specific reasons, and there is no pin-point to the problems or the causes.
Then Sandra asked Nouran if Squash defines who Nouran is or not?
Nouran said that she is proud of herself as a person with all of her qualities other than defining herself with one thing only. So, success for her is being real, being genuine, and have different qualities. As well success to her is not equal to achievements anymore.
Being a bad loser & taking every loss personally is harsh, so the key is to accept who you are while failing. The key to success is being vulnerable or being weak consciously.