Category Archives: Youth Development

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

Managing Expectations and Over-specialization in Youth Sport

This post is not meant to relive my past or prolong my future. Much has been written in academic journals about the negative effects of specialization in youth sports and unrealistic expectations of players, coaches and parents. For example – increased injuries, parental abuse and corruption – all of which can vary, depending on a variety of factors ranging from location of events, league organizers to player participation. I am a firm believer in playing multiple youth sports and then choosing one to focus on in adult years. In my case, I played a variety of sports, one of which was swimming – which I enjoyed throughly thanks to competent coaches, good infrastructure and well-organized leagues.

Saudi Arabian Western Region Expatriate Swim League (WRESL) medals won by Tariq Mohammed 1988-89.

After winning a few swim meets for my age group and going on to break national swimming records, I went through a process of readjusting my expectations and hopes. My parents and coaches provided positive encouragement during my swimming years. I was guided by them to take an alternative route in my sport journey because I did not have the height or reach to compete as an elite swimmer. This was tough to hear for a 12 year old especially when my swimming times were good enough to compete at an international level. Nonetheless, I chose to listen to my coaches and parents who suggested I try a different sport. By turning my attention and focus to squash I was able to continue to enjoy the benefits of playing a sport while balancing my academics. I had the opportunity to play squash in college and the rest is history.

Swimming ribbons and awards won by Tariq Mohammed 1986-92.

I know 30 years later of switching from swimming to squash was a good decision. Both of these individual sports are also lifetime sports. If I were a parent of a young child or a practicing coach today, I would encourage student-athletes to make the right choice for the long run to avoid over-specialization. It can be a tedious and difficult process but if players, coaches and parents can arrive at an understanding where the best interest of the player is put first then they will be able to succeed in the long run. The “professionalization” of youth sports today, in terms of sponsorships, travel teams and increasing adult participation, make it more challenging for parents and their children to arrive at decisions that will benefit them for the long run. If you are a player, coach or parent in a similar predicament – I recommend start having the conversation – to help you arrive at the right decision.

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Filed under Coaching, Community Development, Education, Leadership, Leisure, Literature Review, Planning, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Harnessing Star Power for Sport and Philanthropy

Sport and philanthropy is a decades old practice for many professional athletes, both active and retired.  As ambassadors of their sport, the athletes establish family foundations or have supported the work of existing philanthropic organizations through their charitable work.

An international development project which allowed me to gain first-hand exposure to sport and philanthropy was while helping to organize a fundraiser in 2002 for the Harvard Dominican Initiative. The premise was to leverage diaspora for philanthropic efforts, to reap rewards for community members both in the homeland and adopted countries.

Hall of Fame pitcher, Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox is one example – of many professional athletes – who has given back to his native country – the Dominican Republic – by raising funds and awareness for a variety of social and economic issues. Pedro’s generosity and appreciation towards baseball fans was demonstrated when he donated hundreds of Red Sox tickets and personally autographed baseballs to help raise money for progressive causes. All attendees of the event co-sponsored by Harvard, received a baseball autographed by Pedro Martinez.

Pedro Martinez, Hall of Fame pitcher of the Boston Red Sox autographed baseball. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2017.

Professional athletes and celebrities bring star power to philanthropy. They can help fuel donations to important causes and help bring about positive social change to communities at the local, national and international levels. This is considered a best practice and a win-win for stakeholders. Essentially professional athletes and professional ambassadors remind us of the importance of good stewardship to help balance people, planet and profits.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, International Development, Leadership, Networking, Philanthropy, Planning, Private Public Partnerships, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development

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