US Squash has appointed Ong Beng Hee—a two-time Asian Games gold medalist and former world No. 7 —as the Ganek Family US Squash Head National Coach. Ong, who is originally from Malaysia, has most recently served as the Head National Coach of Qatar. He succeeds Paul Assaiante, who will now serve in an Emeritus role after a thirteen-year tenure as Head National Coach.
Assaiante had served US Squash in various national coaching roles for World and Pan American team competitions since 1998. He was formally named to the role and volunteered his time beginning in 2008. By 2014, Assaiante had been elevated to a part-time position, splitting his time as the Head Men’s Coach for Trinity College, a move solely enabled by the generosity of the Ganek Family who made, what was at the time, the largest contribution to US Squash in its history, to establish the role in perpetuity.
Ong (surname: Ong, first name: Beng Hee), who started formally last week, is based at the Arlen Specter US Squash Center in Philadelphia where he will lead Team USA’s pursuit of excellence from junior development to US Squash’s High Performance Program (HPP). Ong’s illustrious squash career took root an hour away from Philadelphia at Princeton University, where he won the 1998 World Juniors. Over the course of his seventeen-year professional career, Ong won fifteen PSA titles and was consistently ranked among the world’s best, including thirty-one months in the top ten and nine years in the top twenty. Ong represented Malaysia in four Asian Games and two Commonwealth Games, earning Asian Games singles gold medals in 2002 and 2006 and eight medals total. Following his professional retirement in 2015, Ong led the Qatar national squash program for the past four years.
“I’m extremely proud and humbled to be given the opportunity to head the U.S. national program,” Ong said. “This is my biggest achievement as a coach, and to be leading the program supported by the amazing facilities at the Specter Center is a dream come true for any coach in the world. I’m grateful to the Ganek family, US Squash and Paul Assaiante. I have known Coach Assaiante for years and look forward to continuing to work with him to help build a bigger and better program.”
Ong will work extensively with U.S. athletes at the Specter Center, including Team USA’s four top twenty-five-ranked women who are all based in Philadelphia: Amanda Sobhy, Olivia Blatchford Clyne, Sabrina Sobhy and Olivia Fiechter.
“The Specter Center creates a perfect environment for both the players and coaches, it’s the best squash facility in the world.” Ong said. “All of the U.S. players are self-driven and motivated to achieve success at the highest level. I’ve come here to share my experience with them, but at the same time learn and grow together. It’s very important that I’m constantly learning about our players’ games and the modern game itself. We will do our best. I don’t see why we can’t challenge Egypt, the world No. 1, and I feel that we’re not far away.”
“It’s been a long time coming and for him to actually be here has given the athletes a huge boost of excitement and confidence,” said Amanda Sobhy, world No. 6. “The reality is hitting us that our national coach is here at our national center, a moment we’ve all been looking forward to for so long. I’m excited to learn from Beng Hee, someone who knows the mindset and training required at the highest level. I’m excited to pick his brain and have another perspective in my corner to develop my game. I hope having him here encourages more U.S. players to want to base themselves at the center to work with Beng Hee and train with all of us. The environment is slowly coming together and we’re all looking forward to the season ahead.”
Assaiante leaves behind a medal-laden legacy including record-setting performances at the 2015 and 2019 Pan American Games, the biggest international stage for American athletes in multi-sport international competition.
“This is a really big day in US Squash history,” Assaiante said. “I’m proud of the success we’ve had and foundation the program has built since I began in 2008. David Ganek and his family helped us reach another level of success internationally with his gift in 2014. David is so engaged and focused on the big picture stuff, making sure that our players are afforded the opportunities and representing the country with character and integrity. And doing it in the ways that the game was meant to be played. It’s more than just endowing a coach, it’s endowing a program to compete on the world stage on the highest levels in ways that would make Team USA proud. Now Beng Hee can harness our potential and take Team USA to the next level.”
“When we established this coaching position, we hoped that it would elevate Team USA in every aspect, and we couldn’t be prouder of the progress the program has made under Coach Assaiante,” Ganek said. “After an extensive search process, we have the right person to take the program even further in Beng Hee. With Beng Hee’s wealth of experience, skill and knowledge, and the potential of the Specter Center, the possibilities for Team USA are endless. We look forward to taking US Squash to the next level.”
“It’s really gratifying to see steps of various sizes lead us to where we are today, which is positioned to realize our full potential as Team USA,” added Kevin Klipstein, President and CEO of US Squash. “Coach [Assaiante] called me in early 2005 when I had just started and told me essentially ‘I will help you in absolutely any way you need’. Our national team program reached an inflection point in 2008 when US Squash started fully funding all World Championship teams from juniors to adults, and incredibly, Paul stepped in and volunteered his time to help us manage.” Klipstein continued, “David Ganek has seen our potential, and our struggles, and to his credit, pushed us hard over a period of time to think bigger, more creatively, and systematically for the long term. He and Danielle’s foundational gift allowed Paul to lean into the role even more, and has been the catalyst for our continued progress. To now be able to have someone of Beng Hee’s caliber and character in this role, to continue to benefit from Paul’s involvement, and to have the benefit of our athletes together at the Specter Center certainly bodes well for the future – we couldn’t be more grateful, or excited.”