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

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

2017 Emmaus Martin Luther King Day of Service

Bowdoin squash alum introduced me to VolunteerMatch, a wonderful website that connects nonprofit organizations with volunteers. Hence, in an effort to continue volunteering locally I was matched with Emmaus Inc, a Haverhill, Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization that addresses homelessness through empowerment. How did this happen?

T-shirt for Emmaus Volunteers, special event for 2017 MLK Day of Service.

Emmaus Volunteers received the T-shirt above for its 4th Annual 2017 Martin Luther King Day of Service.

The process to act upon my volunteer interest was to register with VolunteerMatch, express interest in organizations and causes near my zip code and then select volunteer opportunities based on mutual interest and availability. My first onsite meeting with Emmaus’s Empowerment Project Coordinator facilitated registration, identification verification and completing background (CORI) checks. I was then emailed by the coordinator the general volunteer responsibilities.

As a Family Guide, my volunteer role for the 2017 Emmaus Martin Luther King Day MLK Day was to provide a welcoming atmosphere for disadvantaged families and individuals at the Resource Fair and Family Theater  Almost 200 people from the Haverhill community attended the event and Emmaus Inc had over 130 volunteers respond to the call to work on various MLK day projects. Each volunteer received a free T-shirt, as seen above. For more information, check out pictures from the event on the Emmaus Inc. social media pages! Thank you to VolunteerMatch for helping me to make the Emmaus event a success.

If you are looking for ways to give back to your local community, connect with like-minded individuals and organizations as well as ease your way your back to full-time paid employment, VolunteerMatch, might be a useful tool to make your next steps in the new year.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Homelessness, Networking, Peace Building, Philanthropy, Poverty, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering

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

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

Concerts for Sport for Development and Peace?

A few years ago I blogged about what the field of sports for development and peace can learn from the arts? Music is often considered a great communication tool to bring people together. There have been many types of benefit concerts during my lifetime. The LiveAid, Farm Aid and Live 8 concerts are some of the larger benefit concerts that have happened across the globe. Patrick Kabanda, a friend at the Office of the Chief Economist at the World Bank, has written extensively about the importance of the arts to economic and social development. His publications offer great insights.

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I recently attended a Lampedusa, a Concert for Refugees in Boston at the Berklee College of Music. It was a sold out show with humorous dialogue and well crafted songs by all the musicians. Clearly, such an event is a win-win situation for the musicians, fans, sponsors and aid recipients. Small scale concerts may be just as good as large scale events in that they can draw loyal fans and supporters. Professional athletes and musicians are often grouped together in the entertainment business which may lead to ease of working together. Personally, the Lampedusa tour stop in Boston, happened to be on my birthday which made it all the more special and memorable.

As a member of the International Sport for Development and Peace Association (ISDPA), I would urge my colleagues in the field to explore ways in which benefit concerts can be used as a fundraising tool to benefit disadvantaged athletes. Choosing which non-governmental organization to benefit from the concerts could be done based on pooling of resources. For example ISDPA, could collect the funds and make equal distributions to its member organizations. In the United States, Up2Us, a sport-based youth development coalition would be a good starting point. An event organizer, may ask is there a demand for such a concert to benefit disadvantaged athletes? My answer would be, just ask around and you never know if there are a group of musicians passionate about similar issues.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Peace Building, Philanthropy, Poverty, Private Public Partnerships, Youth Development, Youth Sport