Despite my early struggles, my passion for squash increased with every tournament that I played. I wanted to get better, and was looking for a challenge to get me there. So, I moved halfway across the world to a boarding school in England in hopes of reaching the next level. As a young teenage girl, making that difficult choice of leaving the comfort of my home and family to further my squash game has till date been one of the hardest decisions I have had to make. I knew that in order to succeed and take my game to the next level, I would have to make this sacrifice, a decision which has been invaluable in hindsight. It’s never easy leaving home, but I believed in myself, and my passion for the game and found myself at Millfield, a co-ed sports boarding school located in south-west England.
Photo of Millfield House in England, courtesy of Millfield School
Contrary to my expectation, when I arrived at Millfield, I learned that there was nothing tailor made about my new surroundings. I found the adjustment to be very difficult, and the conflict in my mind was a result of struggling to adapt to the pressure of being a part of a top squash team, a new British academic system and being surrounded by athletes who were training to represent their country in the Olympics. I was homesick too, and to grow up quicker than I expected because I no longer had the comfort of being looked after at home. Unlike before, when I could go home after a long day at school, at Millfield I did not have an escape. Rather than my sports and academics complementing one another, I felt torn between two worlds: between squash and academics, between friends and squash and between Dubai and England.
Still, squash kept me afloat. My hunger and desire to play in college increased each year that I was a part of Millfield’s squash team. One match that I fondly recall, especially for the valuable lesson it taught me, took place on a March afternoon in Manchester. I was the last member of the Millfield Varsity squash team to step on court. My team had made it to the finals of the National Schools Tournament, and the success of an entire season rested on my shoulders. The pressure was on, not only because I was the team’s vice-captain, but also because Millfield had been the champions for 15 consecutive years. The last time they lost, I was a two year old toddler and ironically, it was by two points that I lost the crucial final set. On that day, I felt the worst I have ever felt while playing squash and even went to the extreme of questioning if I ever wanted to play again.
It was that experience that made me realize that I had not come this far and made the sacrifices I had made to simply quit and give up.