As part of my rehabilitation and ongoing recovery I have strived to practice greater self-care to ensure my own health and wellbeing. While every individual is unique and may have their own limitations (medical or not) the importance of health and wellness takes on a greater role as we age if we seek longevity. Healthcare providers, employers, caregivers and well-wishers all play a role in managing recovery (as depicted in the graphic below). The reason why I am sharing this illustration is to provide guidance for others to learn from and develop coping strategies.
Recovery Enhancing Environment, 2015 (Source: Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation).
One of my coping strategies has been to travel which I have shared with various Youtube videos on this blog. I have been traveling internationally since I was an infant and find that it is still something I enjoy. Traveling internationally can become expensive overtime so staycations are also another good option especially if on a budget or have time constraints. While there are many memorable travel moments, the video below captures some of the highlights of my staycations in the New England area of the United States.
In the video one can notice images of the Sun and Moon at various stages. Native Americans believe the Sun and Moon represent life for all. We know that the Sun is an essential element for human existence and the Moon for dreams, high spirits and the assurance of a long and prosperous life. What is not visible in this video, but is another important coping strategy is managing Sleep, Time management, Relaxation, Exercises, Smiles and Self-Talk (STRESS). Through self-regulation, planning and implementation I continue to strive for a balanced, healthy life and long life while cherishing one’s freedom. Happy Independence Day to all Americans!
My Bowdoin 20th class reunion will be held in May/June 2019 and as such I’ve been reconnecting with staff, students and alumni at my alma mater. Any former government and legal studies majors and the general public may learn from a Distinguished Lecturer in Government Bradely Babson’s course “The Two Koreas and Geopolitics of Northeast Asia,” class podcast held back in May 2018, by current Bowdoin students Tim Ahn ’19 and Sam Jablonski ’18 on the role of sports diplomacy in the Koreas.
The recommendations set forth by researchers from George Mason University Center for Sport Management are based on the assumption that the “intent of sports diplomacy programs is to create meaningful change in local communities.” Though the costs of sports diplomacy can be expensive and time consuming, I tend to agree with the GMU researchers’ recommendations, since in my own small way I have lived as a volunteer, coach and administrator to play a role in fulfilling the intent of sports diplomacy.
Today happens to be the United Nations sponsored International Day of Peace, which prompted me to write this blog post. It relates to the notion of “peace of mind”. Readers of this entire blog, might ponder why the title has the word “explorations.” This is because I have attempted to balance personal and professional lines of thought and action which are outlined by numerous themes. As part of my exploration in physical spaces, I found an exhibit at the MIT Museum on the “Beautiful Brain” which sums up the essence of my exploration in mental health.
At the Santiago Cajal “Beautiful Brain” Exhibit at MIT Museum. Photo credit: Unknown, 2018
The founder of modern neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a Nobel-Prize winning scientist, was also a Madrid-based artist who drew intricate sketches of the brain as part of his study of its structure and function. The beautiful hand drawings (for example, see below) are very detailed and helped pave the way for modern neuroscience to make early discoveries about the brain and cognition.
Cajal drawing at MIT Museum, Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.
I could really relate to Cajal’s quote below from the way in which psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has helped in my mental health recovery. It has never been my intention to cause confusion (although it does happen unwittingly from time to time), but to seek greater understanding and balance of the boundaries of my personal and professional reflections. Many people (some known and unknown to me) have helped contribute to my health and wellness for which I am grateful. Many of them have reminded in small but simple ways to “stay happy, stay healthy.”
Cajal quote at MIT Museum, Cambridge, MA. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2018.
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!
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.
Summers are a good time to catch up on reading, reviewing or preparing for what the new academic year may bring. It is a good time to clear out any unwanted materials, articles or books. Sometimes, I find things that I want to keep or share with others. This Dutch documentary titled, “Peace Beyond Borders,” was released in 2011 and would be an insightful source for a college professor teaching a class on East Africa or international mediation.
Thanks to the International Sports Alliance (formerly the Netherlands Sports Alliance), a sport for development and peace, advocacy group whose representatives I met at a conference in Trinidad and Tobago, I received a copy of the DVD. This documentary illustrates how sport can play a role in creating peaceful dialogues and act as a means for conflict resolution by way of getting two sides to the “negotiating table.” The pursuit of peace is a continuous process of refining assumptions and moving towards a compromise which both sides can tolerate.
Among the books, I have kept and continue to refer to is the 1991 work of Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.” I shall not write a book review, but rather recommend it for anyone going through a process of discovery or rehabilitation. There will be those who question definitions or states of peace, but an unknown source stated peace as “it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” Definitely not easy to do and sustain.
On a global level, I would like to share the work of the Aga Khan Development Network which for the next year, starting from today (July 11, 2017) will be celebrating His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee, or 60th year as the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the world’s Shia Ismaili Muslims. The AKDN videos below (shared on the organization’s website) are part of the press releases for this year- long celebration.
I am a firm believer in experiential education such as internships, study abroad and exchange programs. My paid internship (almost 20 years ago) with the Aga Khan Foundation USA in Washington DC was a highly rewarding and fulfilling professional experience which led to many exciting professional experiences and conversations in the realm of international development management. The Aga Khan Development Network’s pluralistic approach to international relations and local community development make its programs compelling for both Sunnis and Shias as well as non-Muslims. Below is the positive impact of His Highnesses’ and AKDN’s work over the last 100 years.
At the local level, being a certified squash coach with ups and downs of mental illness, I am a strong believer in the health benefits of exercise and physical activity to aid in recovery. Through my ongoing professional and personal explorations in sport for development and peace at global and local levels, I would like to share a research study being conducted at Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation on “Exercise and Cognitive Training,“ If there is anyone reading this blog, who knows of individuals who fit the parameters for the study, please contact the principal investigators.
The reason I am sharing this study is that this important research may advance the knowledge and capacity to effectively treat others with severe mental illness and support them with their recovery, whether it be in the United States or overseas, particularly in developing countries. Without going into details, I know how tough it can be for others struggling with mental illness and therefore can relate with what experts call “lived experience.”
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!
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.
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.
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.