Category Archives: Rehabilitation

How does One Learn to Improvise?

When I was coaching high school squash I found myself often repeating the same training exercises and drills with students to build strong fundamentals. This was largely due to adjust for skill levels and therefore as students showed signs of improvement in their matches, I would like to believe that I began to improvise more. Perhaps not enough, though in my opinion.

Having spent a considerable amount of time away from squash practices, I have found other areas, most notably in jazz performances where improvisation is almost the norm. For athletic coaches in the Boston area, I strongly recommend attending the Mandorla Music Series in Somerville’s Third Life Studio to listen to world-class musicians at very affordable prices, in support of important humanitarian causes.

John Funkhouser’s Quartet (featuring Greg Loughman, a Bowdoin College faculty member) and John Kordalewski Trio featuring Carlos Pino & Kesivan Naidoo are two shows I was fortunate to watch and listen to live. Given the intimate setting, the musicians were very approachable and generous in sharing their love for music. Above is a song titled “The Deep,” by Professor John Funkhauser‘s Quartet, who have a cache for creating eclectic sounding instrumental jazz music. Improvising in sport and music, definitely go together.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Leadership, Leisure, Peace Building, Philanthropy, Professional Development, Psycho-Social Support, Rehabilitation, 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

Celebrating a Decade of Common Good Days

As a Bowdoin alum living in the Boston area I have enjoyed participating in the Common Good Days organized by the College. In 2016, the Bowdoin College Common Good Day in Boston was held at Pine Street Inn, a homeless shelter for men. Over the years, the College has selected different nonprofits across the country to perform a day of service. This year’s event saw almost 500 alumni, faculty, staff and friends participated in Common Good Days with various nonprofits in different cities. In Boston, there were 12 alumni and friends stationed in the Pine Street Inn kitchen to assist the staff with basic meal preparation.

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Bowdoin Alumni and Friends at 2016 Bowdoin College Common Good Day at Pine Street Inn, Boston, MA. Photo credit: Pine Street Inn Staff.

Alumni from a wide range of years, professional backgrounds and communities enthusiastically cooperated with the Pine Street Inn staff in helping to cut tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and chicken to make sandwiches for residents. Pine Street staff were generous with their time and guidance to offer a personalized tour of the facility to see how the shelter fulfills its mission. We shared stories of our Bowdoin years, previous volunteer experiences and current professional roles. Though we had never met before our common links through Bowdoin allowed us to focus on the task at hand while seeking a greater understanding of the significance of Common Good Day.

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Pine Street Inn Kitchen and Cafe. 2016 Photo credit: T. Mohammed

This marked for me a decade of participating in Common Good Days organized by the Bowdoin Club of Boston. Based on the conversations with fellow alumni at Pine Street Inn, the meaning of service varies from individual to individual. Being part of a group, working towards a common goal, helping to improve society all with a bit of fun – are some of the many reasons why people participate in such events. However, a humble suggestion for future Common Good Day planning could entail greater follow through and assessment of the impact of days of service events for long term sustainability of the organizations and individuals it aims to benefit.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Homelessness, Leadership, Networking, Philanthropy, Planning, Poverty, Psycho-Social Support, Rehabilitation, Stakeholder Engagement

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Sustainable Coaching

On a recent trip to Blacksburg, Virginia to visit Tim Baird, Professor of Geography at Virginia Tech who is a college friend from Maine, we took a hike in Jefferson National Forest. During the hike we encountered stunning natural scenery below and shared ideas and thoughts of our respective academic pursuits. At the outset, let me state that Professor Baird’s academic performance and training has won him many awards and admiration from his students.

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Signpost at Jefferson National Forest Photo credit: T. Mohammed

The 2016 Rio Olympics are being broadcast worldwide so I thought I would add my bit of sporting commentary on elite amateur athletes and the rest of us. Many of the athletes have been training rigorously over 4 years or more and aim to reach peak performance during competition at the Olympics. Michael Phelps, Simone Biles or Katie Ledecky are perfect examples of athletes who are reaching peak performances at this year’s Olympics.

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“Water in Stream” in Jefferson National Forest. Photo credit: T. Mohammed

Just like water in a stream (see photo above), my hike with Professor Baird, reminded me of my graduate school readings by Mihaly Csikzektmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist known for his work on the concept of “flow,” in the field of positive psychology. The concept of “flow” has been applied in sport for development and peace and other disciplines.

According to Cziketmaihalyi and his 2004 TED Talk, everyone, be they an Olympian, student, coach or parent is always striving for their “A” game which means achieving a state of flow and staying in it. While Professor Baird and I are from different academic disciplines – geography and sport for development and peace  respectively- our liberal arts background allowed us to have an interdisciplinary discussion on sustainable coaching.

In Professor Baird’s case he was in the midst of publishing a new research paper on sustainable innovation which we also spoke about in depth. As for me, I am learning how to get “unstuck” and “out of my own way,” to stay in a state of flow in the field of sport for development and peace. Thanks Professor Baird for a terrific visit to Virginia and a meaningful hike!

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Education, International Development, Leisure, Literature Review, Networking, Olympic, Paralympic, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Rehabilitation, Uncategorized, Youth Development

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

Striving for Meditation and Mindfulness On and Off the Court

I recently traveled to the beautiful state of Oregon for a family vacation. It was my first visit to Oregon and home state of the world headquarters of Nike. I did inquire with my Uber driver about the possibility of doing a tour of the Nike campus but it was closed for the weekend.

However, my parents and I visited the Portland Japanese Garden which was a great reminder of the art of practicing mindfulness and meditation. The stones, waterfalls and fauna all created a sense of calm that Jon Kabat Zinn once spoke about during a lecture I attended in Boston’s Arlington Street Church.

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Visit to Portland Japanese Garden Photo Credit: T.Mohammed

Mindfulness and meditation are methods of coaching that are very much in the news and being written about by academics, medical professionals and sport researchers. Amy Baltzell recently published a book with several authors on Mindfulness and Performance and Sam Parfitt leads the True Athlete Project which both reinforce the sporting applications for mindfulness and meditation. The science behind meditation and mindfulness is helping with the evolution of sport for development and peace as a form of daily practice to aspire towards.

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Filed under Coaching, Education, Leisure, Literature Review, Networking, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Rehabilitation

What Can Sport for Development and Peace Learn from the Arts?: Lessons from Angkor’s Children in Cambodia

On Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday in India to celebrate the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, my parents and I were invited to attend a filming at the Bright Lights Film Series at Emerson College courtesy of Dr. Sughra Raza, a family friend in Boston and editor of 3 Quarks Daily, an interdisciplinary filter blog.

Lauren Shaw, a Professor at Emerson’s Department of Visual and Media Arts produced Angkor’s Children through a culmination of several years of work with her Kickstarter campaign.

As a Founding Member and Secretary of Khelshala, it was an inspiring and humbling experience to meet Sreypov and Phunam, two of the Angkor children featured in the film as well as social entrepreneurs from the Cambodian Living Arts and Phare Cambodian Circus who worked for decades to mobilize the Cambodian diaspora in the United States and elsewhere to empower the next generation in Cambodia.

Sreypov of Angkor’s Children and me at Paramount Theater, Boston, MA.

Sreypov of Angkor’s Children and me at Paramount Theater, Boston, MA.

What can Khelshala and others learn from those working to promote peace, development and human rights through the creative sector?

  • Sacrifice – the founders, artists and community members all had to give up something in their lives for the greater common good.
  • Commitment – staying true in the long term to their social justice cause was not expected, but came from within.
  • Community – an ecosystem of individuals and organizations nurtured the organizers to mobilize the diaspora.
  • Funding – sports and the arts are often first to be cut in public education.
  • Inter-generational dialogue – exchanges across generations in sport and music can keep traditions alive.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Gender, International Development, Leadership, Networking, Philanthropy, Psycho-Social Support, Rehabilitation, Uncategorized, Volunteering