Category Archives: Youth Sport

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

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

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

Coaching Up!: A Coaching Methodology for Multiple Contexts

It is not very often that someone you have never met from the coaching profession sends you a thank you gift in the mail. What made it special was that it was a thank you gift from, Jordan Fliegel a fellow Bowdoin alumnus, who has combined his passions for leadership, sport and business to create a profitable enterprise called CoachUp. Based on my knowledge of the coaching landscape in the United States, CoachUp is the only for-profit enterprise that addresses the market gaps in multiple sports through private coaching.

Thank You Gift from CoachUp. Photo credit: T.Mohammed, 2017.

Thank You Gift from CoachUp. Photo credit: T.Mohammed, 2017.

Jordan’s accomplishments in the classroom, on the court and now in the business of sport are no doubt impressive. His latest book titled “Coaching Up: Inspiring Peak Performance When it Matters Most,” gives readers a clear sense of Jordan’s model for coaching in both sport and non-sport settings. The coaching methodology he espouses enables coaches to build authentic connections, give genuine support and communicate concise directions. If I were a student or practitioner in coaching, looking to gain new approaches and methodologies then, this easy-to-read book would be worthy of your time.

Furthermore, if you are a coach, parent or volunteer looking to provide or procure private coaching to athletes of all ages, then consider booking an appointment with a CoachUp provider. The CoachUp platform is intuitive, secure and safe. All the CoachUp coaches have background checks and have access to insurance for greater customer satisfaction. Thanks Jordan and the rest of the CoachUp team for a copy of your latest publication and enabling private coaches and athletes to seek better results in sport and life.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Leadership, Literature Review, Professional Development, Youth Development, Youth Sport

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