Category Archives: Literature Review

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.


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.

Leave a comment

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

What are Indicators of Youth Development?

Thanks to big data and increasingly shared datasets, the concept of youth development is being qualitatively measured across countries. The Commonwealth Secretariat recently released its third “Global Youth Development Index and Report” to measure how young people in 183 countries are positioned for the future.

Artistic Interpretation of Youth Development.

Source: Artistic interpretation of Youth Development in Key West, Florida. Photo Credit: T. Mohammed, 2015.

The report uses 5 domains which the authors see as critical to youth development: education, health, employment civic participation and political participation. My previous post gave examples of social entrepreneurs and policy makers working to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This report acts as an impressive data-advocacy tool to focus attention and investment where needed the most.

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Global Youth Development Index (GYDI) allows the public to compare and contrast countries where youth development is going well and not so well. Based on the GYDI, what attention and investment can you or your organization make in youth development?


Leave a comment

Filed under Capacity Buidling, Education, Foreign Policy, Grant Making, International Development, Leadership, Literature Review, Philanthropy, Planning, Private Public Partnerships, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development

What does Peace Look Like?

The 2016 Positive Peace Report by the Institute of Economics and Peace, helps non-experts understand what peace looks like from a macro perspective. I found the diagram below from the report to be a very noteworthy depiction of what the positive elements of peace look like for a nation. I shall not repeat the content of the report, but would like to elaborate on a couple of contemporary issues.


Source: 2016 Positive Peace Report by Institute of Economics and Peace.

The humanitarian crisis in Syria according to Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations is “appauling,” with the thousands of deaths, especially young children. The Secretary General and the international community are taking steps for a peaceful solution to the conflict using diplomatic tools and maneuvers for a constructive dialogue that intends to put an end to the violence. However, many innocent Syrians and peacekeepers are being caught in the middle of the violence.

Approximately 5 years ago, I had the honor and privilege of attending a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who has authored many self-help books on health and wellness. Perhaps the Syrian government and its people would benefit from listening, reading and learning from Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. When a cease-fire is reached by the Syrians themselves, they may wish to look at themselves in the mirror and make peace with themselves. In my humble opinion, by rejecting violence, it is easier to accept peace.



Leave a comment

Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Conflict Resolution, Education, Foreign Policy, Leadership, Literature Review, Peace Building, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized

Archiving Sport: How Do Libraries Connect Sport for Development and Peace?

It is really amazing how much there is to learn from being in a library. There are numerous types of libraries across the country on college campuses, in almost every neighborhood as public libraries and then the elite Presidential libraries to identify a few. The Boston Public Library in Copley Square, a newly renovated library in the heart of Boston reaches out to its community in numerous ways.


Squash Photos of Bostonions at the Boston Public Library’s Electronic Information Kiosk. Photo Credit: T.Mohammed.

On a recent visit to the newly renovated Boston Public Library in Copley Square, I came across a fascinating electronic information kiosks in the main entrance hall. At a touch screen information kiosk, there was an archive of photos of various subjects (including squash photos of Bostonians as seen above) from the City of Boston. If you click on the photo you can see the details.

This impressive kiosk with information retrieval and storage (at a cost to the taxpayers of Massachusetts) is a tremendous leap forward in understanding and connecting the sport for development and peace field to the general public. My suggestion for the many aspiring young professionals in the emerging field of sport for development and peace would be to examine the evolution of sport at your local library. You may be surprised what you find.


Leave a comment

Filed under Community Development, Education, Leadership, Literature Review, Networking, Planning, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Public Policy, Squash, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized

Practicing Being Present with Yourself in Non-Sport Settings

Thanks to the Boston Public Library’s Honan-Allston Branch, which makes Adult Coloring books available to the public, one can practice being present with oneself. This may seem a little far from a student-athlete’s reality. Nonetheless, I am all for mixing up one’s training and approach to maintain interest and focus on training.

Photo credit: T.Mohammed, 2016.

“Ancient Mexican Designs,” by Marty Noble, Photo credit: T.Mohammed, 2016.

There is a small selection of adult coloring books along with erasable coloring pencils. Above is one of the books which I chose to do my practice. I have to say it felt like being a kid all over again in kindergarten, but I was surprised how I felt after I completed the coloring in the drawings (see below). There were three things I noticed from this exercise. They were a sense of concentration, calm and achievement.

Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2016.

Drawing by Marty Noble in “Ancient Mexican Designs,” and coloring by Tariq Mohammed. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2016.

Of course, I don’t want to blow such a simple exercise out of proportion when applying it to the field of sport for development and peace. However, it does have value for children, adolescents and even young adults to practice being in the moment. The end result are the finished pieces of art for which in an educational setting can provide students with a sense of accomplishment and pride. Even adults need this from time to time. Thanks again to Boston Public Library!.

Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2016.

Drawing by Marty Noble in “Ancient Mexican Designs,” and coloring by Tariq Mohammed. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2016.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Education, Leisure, Literature Review, Peace Building, Psycho-Social Support, Youth Development

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Sustainable Coaching

On a recent trip to Blacksburg, Virginia to visit Tim Baird, Professor of Geography at Virginia Tech who is a college friend from Maine, we took a hike in Jefferson National Forest. During the hike we encountered stunning natural scenery below and shared ideas and thoughts of our respective academic pursuits. At the outset, let me state that Professor Baird’s academic performance and training has won him many awards and admiration from his students.


Signpost at Jefferson National Forest Photo credit: T. Mohammed

The 2016 Rio Olympics are being broadcast worldwide so I thought I would add my bit of sporting commentary on elite amateur athletes and the rest of us. Many of the athletes have been training rigorously over 4 years or more and aim to reach peak performance during competition at the Olympics. Michael Phelps, Simone Biles or Katie Ledecky are perfect examples of athletes who are reaching peak performances at this year’s Olympics.


“Water in Stream” in Jefferson National Forest. Photo credit: T. Mohammed

Just like water in a stream (see photo above), my hike with Professor Baird, reminded me of my graduate school readings by Mihaly Csikzektmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist known for his work on the concept of “flow,” in the field of positive psychology. The concept of “flow” has been applied in sport for development and peace and other disciplines.

According to Cziketmaihalyi and his 2004 TED Talk, everyone, be they an Olympian, student, coach or parent is always striving for their “A” game which means achieving a state of flow and staying in it. While Professor Baird and I are from different academic disciplines – geography and sport for development and peace  respectively- our liberal arts background allowed us to have an interdisciplinary discussion on sustainable coaching.

In Professor Baird’s case he was in the midst of publishing a new research paper on sustainable innovation which we also spoke about in depth. As for me, I am learning how to get “unstuck” and “out of my own way,” to stay in a state of flow in the field of sport for development and peace. Thanks Professor Baird for a terrific visit to Virginia and a meaningful hike!

Leave a comment

Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Education, International Development, Leisure, Literature Review, Networking, Olympic, Paralympic, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Rehabilitation, Uncategorized, Youth Development

Squashing Barriers: Sources of Inspiration

The Stevens Memorial Library in North Andover, MA has a wonderful 2016 summer sport film series which is free and open to the public. As part of my exploration in sport and development, I chose to watch the movie 42, for the first time which is a biographical portrayal about Jackie Robinson. Race and racism, unfortunately still exists in America today as we have seen by the repeated incidents of gun violence.

When I was a teenager in Saudi Arabia and India in the late 1980s and early 1990s, one did not know much of the struggles of Jackie Robinson and his role in the civil rights movement in the United States. Perhaps this was ignorance or because one was consumed by the political events in the Persian Gulf. Today, being a naturalized American of color, I am even more moved by the words “we shall overcome” and Jackie’s story of resilience and courage.


I have blogged about Khelshala, a sport-based youth development program in Chandigarh, India – founded by Coach Satinder Bajwa – the first person of color to be the Head Coach of Harvard Men’s and Women’s Squash – but I have not given much thought to how Khelshala and its mission fits with the wider world of sport.

It helps to understand the legacies of Jackie Robinson and more recently the passing of Mohammad Ali also known as the “The Greatest” and put squash -a minor sport – into context. James Zug, an American author of Squash: A History of the Game, which mostly discusses the sport in the United States of America is seen as the go-to-guy on writing books about squash. Zug acknowledges squash players of color (such as Anil Nayar of Harvard, Wendell Chestnut of Williams College and of course Hashim Khan, the legendary squash professional of the Khan squash dynasty) who like Jackie Robinson “squash barriers.”

“Squashing barriers” is the essence of Khelshala (an international affiliate of the National Urban Squash and Education Association) in India where social stratification is common. Just as Mahatma Gandhi served as a source of inspiration to Martin Luther King, perhaps Jackie Robinson’s story will serve as a source of inspiration to the children of Khelshala and many others around the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Community Development, Conflict Resolution, Education, Leadership, Literature Review, Peace Building, Philanthropy, Professional Development, Squash, Youth Development

Striving for Meditation and Mindfulness On and Off the Court

I recently traveled to the beautiful state of Oregon for a family vacation. It was my first visit to Oregon and home state of the world headquarters of Nike. I did inquire with my Uber driver about the possibility of doing a tour of the Nike campus but it was closed for the weekend.

However, my parents and I visited the Portland Japanese Garden which was a great reminder of the art of practicing mindfulness and meditation. The stones, waterfalls and fauna all created a sense of calm that Jon Kabat Zinn once spoke about during a lecture I attended in Boston’s Arlington Street Church.

Portland Japanese Garden

Visit to Portland Japanese Garden Photo Credit: T.Mohammed

Mindfulness and meditation are methods of coaching that are very much in the news and being written about by academics, medical professionals and sport researchers. Amy Baltzell recently published a book with several authors on Mindfulness and Performance and Sam Parfitt leads the True Athlete Project which both reinforce the sporting applications for mindfulness and meditation. The science behind meditation and mindfulness is helping with the evolution of sport for development and peace as a form of daily practice to aspire towards.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Education, Leisure, Literature Review, Networking, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Rehabilitation

Sport and Development Documentary Filmmaking: Khelshala Next?

Earlier this month, I attended the 2013 UMass Boston Film Series to watch the movie China Heavyweight and listen to a question and answer session with the Director of the movie. Without giving away too much, for friends and colleagues in the sport and development field I recommend watching the movie. Below is the trailer.

The movie resonated with me since the master coach’s triumphs and tribulations were parallel to my observations of Coach Bajwa’s vision for Khelshala. While Khelshala graduates will be making their career decisions in the coming years, the young boxers in China Heavyweight illustrate the challenges of collective action versus individual pursuits in a resource-constrained environment.

In listening to the Director Yung Chang speak about the production process behind the film, I could not help but think that a Bollywood Director or documentary filmmaker would find an equally enriching storyline behind the children of Khelshala. A “Champion from Chandigarh” would be a fun movie to make.

Leave a comment

Filed under Coaching, Community Development, Education, International Development, Leadership, Literature Review, Networking, Poverty, Professional Development, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized

Facilitating Greater Growth and Learning in Sport for Development and Peace

In my early 2009 blog post titled, “A good starting point,” I encouraged those new to the field of sport for development and peace to view Youtube videos as means of becoming more familiar with current programs. Not that I can claim any credit for this, but fast forward to 2013, I was pleased to discover a website dedicated to raising awareness of the sport for development and peace sector.

Those of you who are interested in learning more about sport and social change programs, I recommend visiting and joining, an emerging site that allows viewers to be active participants in the sport for development community.

Not only is it a good way of sharing one’s involvement (like I have already done with various Khelshala’s videos) but to learn about other sport for development programs in numerous countries and by sector, such as health, gender or disaster response. As the world becomes increasingly connected, communities of practice such as will hopefully facilitate greater growth and learning for all stakeholders.

Leave a comment

Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, International Development, Literature Review, Networking, Professional Development, Stakeholder Engagement