Not long after taking his first job in the United States in 2008, as the first squash director at SYS in North Sea, Sayed Selim, a native of Cairo, Egypt, had a dream of one day creating an outdoor squash court in the center of Southampton Village that would be free for everyone to play at, especially children.
That dream has finally become a reality.
Selim, along with his partner, Stephanie Janus, got word last week that the Village of Southampton had approved their plan to erect a glass squash court for public use behind the Southampton Arts Center at 25 Jobs Lane. While it’s not the original spot that Selim and Janus had hoped for at the forefront of Lake Agawam, or even the secondary spot they went for at Doscher Park in March 2020, the pair are extremely happy that they’ll finally be bringing what is thought to be the very first outdoor squash court to the East End.
Selim, who has been a squash pro for 30 years and is currently in his third season as the head pro at the Meadow Club, built up the squash program at SYS to where it had 70 members at one point. Two of the players in the program, Alex Patricolo and Greg Hyer, both went on to play squash competitively at Navy.
And that’s what Selim wants to see continue to happen
“This is all about the kids, all about the school,” Selim said. “It’s an amazing opportunity for the kids, one day for college.”
”With COVID, this is great for the community to be outside, to bring people together,” Janus added. “On our schedule, you’ll notice we have family night, some things for people to come out and do. In the summer, everyone wants to be outside, which is why this is so nice.”
Both Selim and Janus said the support they’ve gotten from a number of people and entities from throughout Southampton has been tremendous. They both thanked Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren and the Village Board members for their continued support, as well as the SYS board and its president, Scott Johnson, for their support as well.
Village Trustee Andrew Pilaro, who is also an SYS board member, and an avid squash player himself, is also part of the group that supported Selim and Janus.
“Sayed has done a lot to try and expand the scope of the sport and in bringing it to the school kids,” he said. “They’ll have great clinics in the summer and this will certainly try and expand squash in a more visible way, having the courts behind the Southampton Arts Center. I certainly support his effort to try and expand squash this summer for a lot of people to enjoy the courts in a more visible area, more than just SYS.”
The plan, Selim and Janus said, is to take the people that play in their summer squash program outdoors, which will tentatively run from July 1 to September 30, and drive those people indoors to SYS during the fall and winter months. But they want to be able to use the court for more than just squash. Badminton and a mini-version of pickleball can be played on the court, and Selim and Janus want to hold junior tournaments, a college open and a VIP Gala, where they hope to host the top squash players in the U.S.
Also in their plans is to expand into other hamlets and towns across the East End, such as Sag Harbor and East Hampton, once they find their footing in Southampton.
But first, they must get the court, which is being shipped from Germany, constructed. The courts are created with panels that include athletic glass walls and windows, measuring about 21 feet wide and 32 feet long. Selim and Janus said the courts are meticulously constructed, to the point where the Germany-based company sends its own group of workers overseas to put it all together. That could possibly delay the start of their summer program, the couple admitted, but only by a few days, at most, with July 1 still their firm target date.
Selim and Janus said that while SYS and The Meadow Club are great, and currently the only locations on the East End where squash courts can be found, the public must pay to use their courts, whereas their outdoor court will be free. They will also provide equipment, such as rackets and goggles, free for children.
Which coincides with Selim’s next order of business. With his decade-long dream finally becoming a reality, Selim can now move on to changing the perception behind his beloved sport.
“The poor and the rich together — that is my big idea — to have this kind of mix,” he said. “The big thing for me is this sport tends to be an ‘elitist sport,’ that the rich people play this sport, but I want to change this. I want the local kids to play this ‘elitist sport,’ where they can play here in the summer and then play at SYS, which most of the time is empty in the winter. But this sport is not just for a specific people, this is for everyone.”
Selim and Janus said they will now begin to get sponsors for the courts, where, for a fee, they can have a prominent logo on the side of the glass courts. They will also be reaching out to local school districts to start signing up students to come and use the courts. For those interested in sponsorships, or to sign up to use the courts, Selim and Janus can be reached at email@example.com.