Category Archives: Gender

Keep It Simple Student (KISS) Through a Healthy Lifestyle

Since approaching middle-age, I am learning more about the importance of both physical health and mental health through conversations with educators, artists, entrepreneurs, caregivers and medical professionals. It is really about balancing both and checking in with yourself, a friend, colleague or medical professional, if needed. The advice of a former Jeddah Prep and Grammar School swim coach was to “Keep it Simple Student,” or (KISS) in short which is a coaching philosophy based on avoiding complexity and focusing on doing a few things really well both in and out of the pool. Upon living in Massachusetts, I was impressed by the quality of the track and field at Danehy Park (seen below) which prompted me to remember Mr. Sither, a former Physical Education Teacher.

Danehy Park, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo Credit: T. Mohammed, 2017.

While enrolled at Kodaikanal International School (KIS) in India during the 1990s, our Physical Education class consisted of partaking in what was then called the United States’ Presidential Physical Fitness Award program. This program entailed passing various physical tests in strength, agility and conditioning for maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle. Seen below are my awards from the Presidential Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services. From a a coaching and policy standpoint, the Squash+Education Alliance and other sport-based programs would do well to integrate themselves with the Presidential Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

Presidential Physical Fitness Awards earned by Tariq Mohammed. Photo Credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.

For individuals seeking to maintain or improve mental health, the physical fitness awards can be instructive when having anxiety, paranoia or thought disorders by counting out aloud the numbers, 1, 2 and 3.  As I get older I have found that the simpler the activity or exercise the better I feel. This might not work for everyone, but if an individual finds a routine or activity that helps them maintain both physical and mental health then this will stand them in good stead. Not to sound too prescriptive, but from a policy perspective the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) would also do well to mainstream their programs with coaches, teachers and educators at the Squash + Education Alliance. I am writing based on personal and professional experience and perhaps this will be of help to future student-athletes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Foreign Policy, Gender, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Planning, Private Public Partnerships, Psycho-Social Support, Public Policy, Rehabilitation, Squash, Volunteering

Having Fun and Keeping the Attention of Student-Athletes

It amazes me how my primary and secondary family members have influenced my explorations in sport for development and peace. When I was 11 years old, my cousin Rosanna Tharakan gave me a copy of the 1987 Pocket Edition of “Trivial Pursuit: Sport – The Authorized Game Book” by Guinness Books (as seen below). I still have the book in my possession today which has traveled with me from various places of residence. I rediscovered the book after cleaning out my basement. What is interesting about this book is that it can help teachers (which Rosanna and her husband happened to be) and coaches (of which I was trained to do) to be better at holding the attention of young student-athletes during practices and matches.

Quizzes: A coaching tool for young student-athletes.

One of the most challenging aspects of coaching for me was keeping my practices focused on skills development while motivating students to be a better version of themselves. I found that there were many in-between moments such as bus rides, sharing team meals and warm-ups, where I felt at a loss on how to maximize my time and energy for teachable moments. In other words, practices and matches can get boring fast for both student-athletes and coaches. Master teachers are always good at knowing what to say to a particular student at the right time. I have still have a long way to go before I reach the master coach level but in the spirit of coach education I thought this blog post would help coaches prepare for the upcoming squash season in New England, so here goes.

Many coaches have developed their own repertoires and are always looking to find new ways of delivering them. Quizzing student-athletes on sport or more broadly about current events at school, in the community or national and international news – during warm-ups or long bus rides may help create a dynamic team to go beyond the acts of practicing and playing to one of social action. For example, in recent months the NFL has given us a lot to consider about the safety of athletes, the roles of players and coaches with respect to national anthems and societal issues such as sexual harassment or gender-based violence. The above book and many others like it are great tools for coaches and teachers to foster team dialogues that may lead to improved performances during practices and matches, enhance team unity as well as create positive social development. Good luck coaches and student-athletes!

 

 

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Gender, Leadership, Literature Review, Planning, Psycho-Social Support, Squash, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Indigenous Sport Innovation in South America

I recently returned from a 2 week tour of Southern Peru with stops in tourist destinations such as Cusco and Machu Picchu as well as the Sacred Valley. This was my first visit to a South American country and I chose Peru for a number of reasons. First, old friends and colleagues inspired me to visit, second, I was fascinated by Machu Picchu and third, I wanted to use up my vacation time wisely. Hiking up to Machu Picchu has always intrigued me.

Machu Picchu, Peru – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There were several highlights from my stay in Peru, but I would like to focus on the most striking issues relevant to sport for development and peace, that I was  fortunate to witness. Throughout my travels in Asia and Africa, I have had little experience interacting with indigenous people, but while in Puno, Peru a visit to Lake Titicaca‘s Uros island gave me a glimpse of the impact of modern life (including sport and recreation) on the Uros people.

Uros people on Lake Titicaca, Peru Photo credit: Tour company, 2017.

Traveling with a group of Western tourists, we were taken by boat from Puno to Lake Titicaca where we visited Uros island. When we arrived on the island we were greeted by a warm elderly woman dressed in bright, traditional attire who guided us to a semi-circular seating area. After being seated on reed benches, she gave us an overview of life on the island of Uros and its culture with the aide of a translator.

Interestingly, the island itself is made of reeds which are grown and stacked to produced a floating surface which is finally completed by playing sports, such as soccer and basketball to make the “ground” compact. This gives a whole new meaning to the concept of turf, especially in a remote region of the world. The Uros are connected to the modern world by modern communication and transportation systems, yet they retain their culture and way of life with a touch of sport.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Foreign Policy, Gender, International Development, Leisure, Networking, Peace Building, Recreation, Stakeholder Engagement

My Evolution as a Developmental Coach

Today happens to be my Mom’s birthday and the month in which Mothers are celebrated, among other national and international awareness activities (such as Mental Health Awareness Month). To readers of my blog, I hope you have a few minutes to read this post.

I’ve made a couple of references to my parents on this blog largely because I know it is thanks to them and many others, that I am able to stay healthy, volunteer my time with causes I care about and explore new places and things.

The video above is a culmination of my journey in squash. I have enjoyed every moment of playing, coaching and volunteering in squash at various levels, as well as being a team member on winning and losing teams.

I plan to stay physically active with and without squash, as it definitely keeps me well and balanced. Thanks, Mom and Happy Birthday!

 

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Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) in Sport for Development and Peace

Thanks to colleagues, Erika Mueller (Peace Corps),  Mori Taheripour, (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania), Eli Wolff (Brown University) and Sarah Hillyer (University of Tennessee) in the International Sport for Development and Peace Association (IDSPA) for the invitation to participate in the Sport for Development M&E Virtual Roundtable Series.

A concise, thorough and inspiring presentation, entitled “More Than A Game: Using Soccer to Create a Level Playing Field for Girls” was be led by Ben Sanders, Director of Programmes, Grassroot Soccer South Africa. Grassroot Soccer is an adolescent health organization that leverages the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilize youth in developing countries to overcome their greatest health challenges, live healthier, more productive lives, and be agents for change in their communities. 

The USAID Sport for Development M&E Learning Lab is a platform that allows USAID Missions, NGOs, academics, corporate partners and donors to identify and examine evaluation outcomes of programs that use sport to achieve development goals. Group members use this platform to share knowledge, identify best practices, and disseminate research outcomes. Through open information exchange and collaboration, the platform allows members to support the advancement of sport for development and peace programs globally.

Mr. Sanders and his colleagues also referenced a report and digital storytelling to share best practices and lessons learned from Grassroots Soccer. Both are highly recommended for additional reading and viewing. Overall, participating in the seminar was a cost-effective method of keeping up with one of the leading sport for development organizations in the world. Khelshala and others NGOs have a lot to learn from Grassroot Soccer.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Gender, HIV AIDS, International Development, Leadership, Literature Review, Networking, Planning, Poverty, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Comedy Sportz: Improvising Your Game While Laughing

Recently on a Friday evening, I visited the Riot Theater in Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts where I was fortunate to watch Comedy Sportz for my first time who are a fantastic group of improvisational actors. Without out really knowing much about the group or the content show I was blown away by their creative spin on blending creativity, dynamism and humor.

Comedy Sportz actors in The Zone at the Riot Theater. Photo credit. T. Mohammed, 2017.

Comedy Sportz actors in The Zone at the Riot Theater. Photo credit. T. Mohammed, 2017.

The Riot Theater is the Comedy Sportz, first location in the Greater Boston area. Being someone who has observed a fair amount of sports coaching, I was really struck by the actors energy, wit and participatory audience. In many ways coaching and teaching is like acting and so it was interesting to observe how others perform and what they can do better than some experienced but less theatrical coaches or teachers.

Courtney Pong, the Referee (GM and Owner) of Comedy Sportz,Boston leading the show.

Courtney Pong, the Referee (GM and Owner) of Comedy Sportz,Boston leading the show.

The way the show is structured has a sports element to it with a red team and a blue team with one referee plus scoreboard. Just like a sporting contest they are all in uniforms and are guided by the referee to play certain type of improvisational games. Audience participation is encouraged who are upwards of 7 years old. It is a great family atmosphere with candy for kids too! I hadn’t laughed in a long time and left in stitches. No pun intended.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Gender, Leisure, Networking, Professional Development, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Stakeholder Engagement

Community Sport: What are Transferable Methodologies and Approaches?

The 2016 Olympics in Rio has generated terrific event in the Greater Boston area, like the one I attended yesterday with guest speakers such as Ellen Minzer, World Champion rower and award-winning coach. From her experience at elite levels of rowing and more recently as a coach to athletes with disabilities preparing for the Paralympics in Rio, Coach Minzer highlighted the importance of social inclusion in sport.

Among Coach Minzer, many coaching roles she serves as the Director of Outreach with Community Rowing Inc a sport-based youth development program based in Boston. In listening to Coach Minzer presentation, I began to see linkages in the aspirations of what Kidsquash was striving for in Boston and Khelshala in India. Comparisons can be made in community sport – such as rowing and squash – though executed differently by athletes during competition.

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Squash is mostly an individual sport in that during competition on the court it is one versus one, although there are team events too such as doubles squash with two versus two. Rowing is more of a team sport although there can be events with single sculling. The question for program directors of sport-based youth development programs from different community sports becomes what best practice in coaching rowing can be applied to squash or vice versa? What coaching methodologies do coaches use with differently aged and abled athletes? What coaching philosophies or approaches can program directors help to implement?

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These questions have societal consequences for all stakeholders in sport and beyond. This is why it is important to create more qualified coaches such as Coach Minzer who gives back to the sport, no matter what the level of the athletes, as they can help raise standards in community sport practice and participation. The Institute of Athletic Coach Education at Boston University is a fantastic resource for program directors and coaches to begin or enhance their professional development with sport-based youth development programs.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Conferences, Education, Gender, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Paralympic, Professional Development, Rehabilitation, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development