Jesse Engelbrecht




Jesse Engelbrecht was a former touring professional player for over 10-years who, after retiring, turned his hand to coaching and developing players from the grass-roots through to the elite level

About Me

​I was born in durban, south africa on the 5th of january 1983. Shortly after, my family and I left to go north to live on a farm just outside of harare in zimbabwe.

My upbringing was simple and I was so lucky to lead a very active outdoor lifestyle. I lived on a cattle farm and at the age of 6 I went into harare to attend st. Johns preparatory school. This is where I first got involved with sports and competition. I was extremely active in all sports and it was sometimes difficult to get me into class to work.

I won my first squash trophy at the age of 8 while playing in the zimbabwe junior open under 10 event. Since then I didn’t look back and won every age group event in the junior game in zimbabwe. The pinnacle of my junior career was winning the southern african schools championship at the age of 18, no other zimbabwean had achieved this feat. I also travelled to the uk to broaden my squash skills and peaked at the british junior open 1999 where I managed to reach the quarter-finals, theoretically putting me top 8 in the world for my age group alongside players such as gregory gaultier, james willstrop, peter baker and karim darwish to name but a few in the same age catagory.

Whilst in my final year at st. Johns college I was offered a scholarship to attend harvard university. I chose to pursue a career in full time squash and within two weeks of graduating college in zimbabwe, I was living in the uk training to be a professional squash player. Without the support of my parents both financially and emotionally I would never have achieved anything close to what I did. I am forever grateful for the sacrifice they had to make to ensure I was able to pursue my dreams and have the ability to train to the highest level with the minimal of distraction and stress.

My first professional base was at broxbourne squash club in hertfordshire. Under the guidance of coach john milton, I would be lucky enough to regularly train with top professionals such as mark chaloner, rodney durbach, lee drew and alister walker. This is where I received my first taste of a professional lifestyle and what it would entail to become a top professional.

My learning curve was extremely steep. Coming from a relatively simple lifestyle in africa, I had to adjust quicky to life as a travelling squash professional. I enjoyed the challenges of tournaments and leagues and quickly established myself as one of the fitter and most dedicated players around. I had relatively early success on the tour, managing to reach the finals of my second professional tournament, the alcartaz open in switzerland in august 2002. This boosted my ranking off the bottom and I was able to use this early success as a spring board to build my world ranking.

During the early stages of my professional career I was selected for the zimbabwe mens squash team to participate in the 2002 commonwealth games in manchester. I had a good tournament, eventually winning the plate event on the final day of the games. This is one of my most prestigious awards, being presented with the plate title by prince edward on the centre court in the manchester sport city arena.​ I was only 19 at the time of this success.

In mid 2005 I uprooted from hertforshire and travelled down south to surrey to make this my new squash base. The standard of surrey squash is high and the mens team had won the national title for a number of years running. I based myself in west byfleet for my squash while living with my sister, claire, in redhill. Neil frankland guided me for 2 years giving me valuable advice and together they we some great reults as a coach/player team.

During this period zimbabwe was in a state of crisis. My parents, ettienne and diane, were struggling to hold together the farm while all around the country was being plundered and pillaged. Eventually it all became too much and my parents were forced to leave the country and start afresh in south africa. Luckily some planning had been in place and my parents moved onto a farm to manage in white river, mpumulanga. Seeing as now I had no more ties with zimbabwe, besides my granparents living in bulawayo at the time, I decided it was time to apply for south african citizenship and make it a goal to be a part of squash south africa.

​I obtained my south african citizenship in late 2006. My first tournament was the south african nationals in may 2007, I finished a respectable 3rd. I remained in south africa for the squash season and managed to win the sab grand prix in johannesburg and the western province open in cape town. I was also part of the winning team at the jarvis cup 2007 playing for gauteng. I had to win the deciding match on the final day of the event for the team to be victorious against a player I had lost to recentley in the sa nationals.

Because of my consistent results and work ethic, I was selected for the south african national team at the number one position to tour to india for the world team event in december 2007. The team finished one position higher than seeded coming a respectable 11th. It was a young team and squash south africa had a bright future ahead.

​I was once again selected to represent south africa at the 2009 world team championships in denmark in october. South africa entered the tournament as humble 12th seeds. All the players punched above their weights for the whole tournament and the team managed to beat pakistan, the 5th seeds, in the final game of the group stages to top group c.

South africa then went on to beat the usa (14th seeds) and italy (6th seeds) eventually losing to france (3rd seeds) in the quarter final stage. South africa finished the event in 6th place. A massive achievement for the team and the second best result a south african team has ever achieved.

​I took up a coaching position at lord wandsworth college in hampshire in january 2008. Tony eysele, my headmaster at st. Johns college in zimbabwe, who at the time worked at lord wandsworth college, got in touch with me and offered me an interview for a job. My role was to improve the standard and interest of squash in the college.

I retired from the professional circuit in january 2010 to focus more on a coaching and development role. In october 2010 I formed the jesse engelbrecht squash academy ltd. Which has continued to grow from strength to strength and has built up a solid reputation in the squash community. My previous experience, I believe, will have a major advantage for the students I work with and I am a passionate and dedicated coach always curious to learn new skills to pass onto the players I work with.

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