John Fulham is not your typical college freshman. A member of the men’s squash team, the Belmont, Mass. native spent last year playing the sport professionally in England. Fulham had the opportunity to tour much of Europe — as well as cities up and down the East Coast — where he honed his game with England’s best. After deciding to come to Yale over the Naval Academy, the team’s latest victim over the weekend, Fulham is looking to help the Bulldogs win a national championship — and just enjoy college like any other freshman.
Squash isn’t a very popular sport; how and when did you first start playing squash?
I started playing when I was 12, in seventh grade. I actually used to be a hockey player, but a concussion ended that, so I picked up squash from Dad.
How did your dad influence you?
He sort of got me started after [I was] just watching him and hanging around squash clubs all the time when I was younger.
When did you realize you had a future in the sport?
I played and did well in a few tournaments after playing seriously for three or four months. I was ranked 20th [nationally] after a short time, so I thought that I could continue playing after doing so well in a short span of time.
Where did you play professionally last year?
I deferred last year and played the pro circuit in England. It was great. I trained with the English national team and got to tour the East Coast and Europe.
How has playing professionally before coming to Yale affected your game?
I learned a lot of things on and off the court. It was just great. I got to train nonstop for one year, usually doing two to three sessions a day, so I got to sharpen up my game.
What made you decide to come to Yale over joining the Naval Academy?
Honestly, I flipped a coin. Looking back, I’m happy because I can always join the military after college. I’m actually a reserve in the Marine Corps, so it’s the best of both worlds.
How was it to go down to Annapolis to play Navy this past weekend?
That was great to go down there and see the campus. I know all the guys on the team, so that was cool, too. Unfortunately, they didn’t have their No. 1, but they gave us a run for our money.
Not many college students, never mind Yale students, think about joining the military. Was there one thing that drove you to join the Marines?
I had always been interested in the military, since I was like seven or eight. I actually applied to the Naval Academy before I applied to any other schools. I’ve just always wanted to serve my country. People call me crazy, but you just need a certain mindset.
What are your goals for the season?
We have Princeton next week, and that pretty much is our whole season. We still have Brown, Harvard and the national championships after that. After playing Trinity last week, I feel like we learned a lot about ourselves as a team. We definitely think we have a great chance to win the national title. As good as Trinity is, anything can happen in squash, especially college squash.
What are your goals during your time here at Yale?
Just to enjoy the experience. It’s been great to meet people and just hang out and have a good time. Taking classes at one of the world’s best universities isn’t too shabby, either.
Do you hope to play squash professionally again at some point in your future?
I’ll look into it, but my future as of now is pretty much the Marine Corps. I’ve been trying to get as many workouts during the week as possible to get ready for training in South Carolina this summer. I had a decent chance last year — I was ranked as high as 180[th] in the world — but you need to be in around the top 50. You need to be pretty good to play with the big boys.