Category Archives: Squash

Classical Tour of Ancient Greece: Will Squash Ever Make it to the Modern Olympics?

I recently traveled to Greece to expand upon my educational horizon and to deepen my understanding of the field of sport for development and peace. Before flying to Athens I conducted basic desk research with guidebooks and on the internet while consulting a few friends who had prior travel experience in the country. Ancient Greek civilization was not something that was taught in international schools back in the 1980s and 1990s in the Middle East but upon completing my undergraduate government major at Bowdoin College, I had briefly studied the work of Aristotle, Plato and Thucididyes. Of course, traveling to Greece more than 15 years later after graduation meant taking my appreciation for the people, place and culture to another level.

For 3-days, I was a tour group member of Classical Greece that made stops in Athens, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Olympia, and Delphi. The sites that were of most interest to me were Athens and Ancient Olympia. At every stop and corner there was evidence of historical significance. Learning about the details of all the players and events in the Classical Greece period could make for pursuing another educational degree altogether. This is not something that I am interested in doing at the moment, but believe that traveling is one of the greatest educational gifts one can make for oneself. Visiting the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens was moving because in a way it was a pilgrimage for paying homage to my playing and coaching days while helping to find my place in the world.

Tariq Mohammed’s visit to Panathenaic Stadium, Greece 2017. Photo credit: Unknown.

Visiting Ancient Olympia was of even more significance at it is where the Olympic flame for the Olympic Games are lit. I missed watching the ceremony in Ancient Olympia but was able to tour the grounds and see up close the ruins of this UNESCO Heritage Site. The Greeks had incredible foresight to have built such facilities thousands of years ago, but perhaps could do more to restore or renovate them to preserve such attractions today. Like other members of the tour group, I questioned myself. Why did I travel so far to see ruins and rubbles of dirt? As mentioned my approach was from the standpoint of (a) deepening my own understanding of sport for development and peace (b) being a symbolic advocate for squash in the Olympic movement and (c) being a part of something greater than myself and sharing with interesting travelers along the way.

Tariq Mohammed’s visit to Ancient Olympia, Greece, 2017 (Photo Credit: Andy Berbeck).

Through my travels and formal education, I have been influenced by several mentors and teachers which led to taking such a journey. I would like to acknowledge their influence as for doing so would provide greater context for my trip. Thomas Hodgson, former Philosophy instructor at Phillips Academy Andover, Denis Corish, former Philosophy professor at Bowdoin College, Alexis Lyras, Founder and Director of Olympus for Humanity Alliance, and Popy Dimoulas-Graham of Charity Republic, Inc. I am grateful to have been able to take the time to make such a trip and explore a new region of the world for myself and advocate for squash’s inclusion in the Modern Olympic Games.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Olympic, Paralympic, Peace Building, Professional Development, Recreation, Rehabilitation, Squash, Stakeholder Engagement

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

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

Mind, Body, Game Connection: How it Works for Everyone

I played American collegiate squash for a Division 3 NCAA varsity team. In the larger sports universe, I would be considered an average amateur athlete. I was encouraged by my coaches and enjoyed participating in a variety of sports then onto coaching student athletes at the community, high school and collegiate levels and remaining physically active thereafter. During the winter season, most of us take time to slow down, reflect and recharge for the next calendar year.

During my mini-teaching assignment at the Acera School: The Massachusetts School of Science, Creativity and Leadership, I was lucky to be surrounded and challenged by high-ability middle schoolers. While learning about the school, its students, and their aspirations, I came across the mural below, that caught my attention. It may me ponder.

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Albert Einstein Quote in classroom at Acera School: The Massachusetts School for Science, Creativity and Leadership. Photo credit: T.Mohammed, 2016.

The Founders of Acera and Khelshala share similar struggles in that they aimed to create new and innovative educational institutions (in different settings – high-income and low-income settings respectively) with students whose thirst for knowledge and learning was on par with one another. The Acera students are more articulate advocates in global and current issues than the Khelshala students are, but that did not make Khelshala students any less studious, curious or analytical than their American counterparts.

Most trained teachers and coaches are familiar with the Bell-curve which they use for grading and evaluating students. This applies in sport where one has elite student-athletes at the Division 1 NCAA level and the more academically “balanced” students at the Division 3 NCAA level.

To think that “everyone is a genius” goes against the notion of the Bell Curve, but reaffirms the idea that “coaching happens in a context,” as Professor John McCarthy of Boston University’s Institute for Athletic Coach Education always reminds his students. Closing the student achievement gap between Khelshala students and Acera students comes down to giving the Khelshala students as many learning and enrichment opportunities to succeed and thrive.

Not all students will become the next Albert Einstein or Jansher Khan, but that’s okay. Students have it within themselves to tap their “inner” genius to their learning and life obstacles. Sadly, not all learning happens at the same rate and some students will be slower and perhaps left behind. This is where greater resources and support are necessary. Regardless, teachers light the fire in their students, at all ages and stages.

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