Gilly Lane, a true multi-hyphenate in the squash world and now announcer for the U.S. Open, did not like squash.
“Growing up, I played soccer, squash, and baseball, and to be honest, squash was my least favorite sport,” Lane said, who at one point was the 48th-best male squash player in the world.
A knee injury in his senior year of high school at the local Chestnut Hill Academy ended his soccer career — a career he intended to continue into his undergraduate years.
'So, squash it is, I guess,' he said to himself.
Penn offered him a spot on the team, and the rest is history.
“I was very fortunate to be admitted here in the spring of 2003, and, honestly, it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.
From there, his squash career took off into the stratosphere. In the waning days of his senior year, when students set their sights on the future and their careers, Lane was faced with a dilemma: take a gamble and become a professional squash player, or take the easier road and enter the working world.
“I had to ask my dad — I asked, ‘what do you think about playing pro?’, and he goes, ‘Gil, if you don’t do it now, you’ll never get to do it for the rest of your life,’” he reminisced. “That was all I needed to hear.”
The gamble paid off.
Lane was a member of the US National Team, played on the US national team that won gold at the 2008 Pan American Games, and his No. 48 ranking is still the second highest ever for an American in the Professional Squash Association.
In 2013, he returned to his alma mater to give back to the program that had given him so much. In 2016, nine years after his graduation, he became head coach of the men’s squash team.
Now, at 33 years old, Lane is wise beyond his years. The future of Penn squash looks bright with him at the helm. This season has been record-breaking for the program, with the Red and Blue ascending to the top of the collegiate squash world for the first time in team history.
But for all the excitement about the future, Lane’s reverence for the past and history of Penn athletics is impressive.
“We’re sitting here in the Palestra and I’m here every day. I look up at the banners and history and just think, ‘what kind of history can we create in our new building?’ But I also know what came before and that’s a big piece to it,” he said. “I want [the men’s team] to really love being here and to love playing for this University.”
Penn, and perhaps the United States, has no better ambassador of squash than Lane, so it makes sense that he is starting down a new path as the voice of the U.S. Open.
As usual with anything pertaining to Lane, his approach to his new gig as an announcer is one of total selflessness.
“It’s all about the players, it’s not about me. It’s about trying to figure out how we maximize and showcase our sport,” Lane said. “How do we give the players the credit they deserve.”
Lane may not have anticipated being where he is now, but it has certainly paid off for him.