Having worked in global operations for Thermo Fisher Scientific for 37 years, where he served as regional president, the challenge for Syed Jafry always has been to find time to play squash outside of his demanding job.
The ability to dedicate more time to his lifelong passion for the game was one of the things he was looking forward to the most upon retirement.
Just days after saying goodbye to his corporate career, Jafry called it “an amazing gift for myself coming off retirement” to win the U.S. Masters championship in the 55-plus division.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” he told U.S. Squash Magazine following his April 3 win. “I’ve worked in corporate life for so many years, trying to run a big business while still trying to play squash.”
The love of squash is a family affair for Jafry. He met his wife, Brynn, playing squash, and his children, Zarena and Alexander, who both live in Boston, competed collegiately at Yale University and Northeastern, respectively. That family connection also extends across the county.
“My brother and his family on the West Coast are all into squash,” he said. “It is great to have something in common for the whole family.”
Jafry retired to spend more time with his family, which includes plenty of squash practice. His wife originally is from Warwick, and after years of visiting Rhode Island, the family decided to make Jamestown their home about two years ago by building a house on Battery Lane. Surrounded by stunning ocean views, Jafry incorporated his own squash court at home.
“I first came to the Newport area in 1982 to play a professional squash tournament and really loved the area,” he said. “Jamestown is a beautiful town. We have great neighbors. It also gives us the opportunity to be close to Boston.”
Now retired, Jafry gets the amount of practice he likes, and having an at-home squash court makes it much easier. During a recent visit, Frenchman Thierry Lincou, a former world No. 1 player who coaches the Massachusetts Institute of Technology team, played a few sets on the court that Jafry said “came out better than our expectations.”
Jafry began playing squash when he was 11 in his native Pakistan, a country known for some of the best squash players in the world, including his close friend, six-time world champion, and 10-time British champion Jahangir Khan.
When he was a student in the 1980s, Jafry played on the European squash circuit for two years, but opted to focus on his education and career.
“My education was also important to me,” he said. “I decided to build a career using my engineering background and was fortunate to grow through the ranks.”
Even with his demanding schedule, Jafry found time to keep up with squash and developed a way to balance his love of the sport along with his professional responsibilities.
“As a global executive, it was not easy with all my travel but I also forced myself to exercise to live a health-disciplined life,” he said. “I also found squash to be a great source of healthy competitive attitude.”
Jafry spends about 10 hours a week practicing for competitive events. His success on the competitive circuit is a testament to his preparation by playing with people of all ages.
“I play squash with friends ranging from 17 years to 60,” he said. “I find playing with people of various ages motivating, and squash has been a source of great friendship for us.”
Now that he’s got a flexible schedule, Jafry and his wife will be playing in June in the European championship in Scotland. In August, they will participate in the world championship in Poland.
“Squash keeps me energized and healthy,” he said. “I am as competitive today as I was as a teenager.”