Category Archives: Recreation

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

Do you have an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Tennis Coach?

Before I learned how to play squash, my Dad introduced me to tennis as a kid. Recently, my Dad, a tennis enthusiast, shared a link to an innovative sport technology product – Coach T. This simple design, but easy to use technological innovation has lots of potential. To learn more about this product, check out the video below from Yanni Peng, Founder of Coach T.

As a certified squash coach who taught squash novices and beginners at Phillips Academy Andover, Concord Academy and Commonwealth School to name a few, I think Coach T could be customized into Coach S (squash). This would not replace a traditional human coach, rather supplement on-court coaching time with portable technology that a student could use on his or her own time.

In the meantime, to help make Coach T a reality for tennis enthusiasts, Yanni Peng and her team at Coach T, are conducting a crowdsourcing campaign for the “first AI tennis assistant. To make learning tennis more efficient, flexible and save you money.” I am happy to spread the word about Coach T.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Education, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Recreation, Squash, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development, Youth Sport

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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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Conferences, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, Foreign Policy, Gender, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Olympic, Peace Building, Philanthropy, Poverty, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Squash, Volunteering, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Keeping it Real in Spain?

My paternal grandfather and father, were both good amateur soccer players in their youth. While on a recent vacation in Spain, I was staying close to Real Madrid’s stadium. I must admit I did not intend to blog about the La Liga, Spain’s premier football division largely because I did not know much about the teams. When I found out that my hotel was near the stadium, I decided to take a walk around the Madrid neighborhood to see for myself.

Visit to Madrid, Spain, 2017. Photo credit: Unknown.

Like many Americans, sports coverage in the United States is mainly focused on the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. Major League Soccer in the United States has grown significantly and U.S.Soccer team has had some strong performances in previous World Cup Championships. In Europe, soccer is the sport that captures the public interest with international soccer starts like Real Madrid’s Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Messi. The best of the best players in developing countries sometimes make it into the soccer leagues of Europe and North America.

Economics drives the investment in sport stadiums like Read Madrid’s and other stadiums around the world. From Wimbledon to Fenway the infrastructure to compete and maintain in such stadiums costs millions. Many parts of Asia and Africa are prohibitively expensive for the public to bear such an investment (considering other competing demands) which is why only the best of the best players from developing countries make it to play in the West.

Squash is a minor sport relative the world’s love of football so my walk through this Madrid neighborhood, helped me to keep it real with more perspective on the urban squash movement.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Public Policy, Recreation, Squash, Youth Development

Revolutionizing Squash Through Outdoor Modular Courts

As a squash enthusiast, I am very excited by a new initiative from T-point, a private squash company to make squash accessible by investing in outdoor modular squash courts. This is an innovative architectural design that I am yet to see in reality, but is very appealing from multiple perspectives such as an amateur player, coach and administrator. Words do not do justice to the concept, so please watch the video.

As you can see there are several possible sites for such a court. One may ask, how does this help advance sport for development and peace in relation to sport of squash?

In developing economies in Latin America, Asia and Africa such courts may help attract a wider base of players rather than private clubs, help generate interest in professional aspects of the sport of squash and enhance community-building activities and well-being of villages, towns or municipalities. All in all, a high-end squash solution with long-term health, educational, economic and social benefits for individuals and society. Can’t wait to see the roll out of T-point courts!

 

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, International Development, Leadership, Literature Review, Networking, Planning, Recreation, Squash, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development

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

What Happens to Athletic Coaches Living with Mental Illness?

I was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder in 2014 after 2 psychotic episodes in my early to late twenties when I literally lost touch with reality. Thanks to excellent treatment by mental health professionals and unconditional support from my caregivers, I was able to go back to work, but relapsed in my late thirties after two suicides in my family and social networks. A  few life changes later, I was unable to follow instructions, process information and became socially anxious. Today it is a burden for me and my loved ones that I need to undergo rehabilitation and find a new direction for my life.

The world of sport is not immune to mental illness as it can strike anyone regardless of age, race or socio-economic background. There are many professional athletes who struggle daily with their illnesses. Some athletes, are open about their diagnoses while others suffer in silence. Unfortunately, the stigma of mental illness does not align well with high performance situations. Athletes, musicians and entertainers are no different from any other human beings on this planet. A 2012, New York Times article titled “With no one looking, mental illnesses can stay hidden,” prompts me to ask the question about what are the long term outcomes of athletic coaches with mental health conditions?

Visit to United States Olympic Training Center, Colorado, Colorado Springs. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2008.

Visit to United States Olympic Training Center, Colorado, Colorado Springs. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2008.

My illness has no cure and it is something I will have to manage carefully for the rest of my life, by taking medication and undergoing therapy. During the summer of 2008, my sister Miriam, invited me to visit Colorado where I visited the United States Olympic Center’s Training Center in Colorado Springs. At the Center, I saw the above inspirational quote by Juan Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee. This resonated with me since my life has been enriched with, through and by sport. Setbacks occur, but life goes on. My onward journey will be to practice greater self-care and be a resource for others with mental illness, in a voluntary capacity, whenever possible.

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Filed under Coaching, Education, Poverty, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Rehabilitation, Youth Development, Youth Sport