Category Archives: Professional Development

India, Uganda and USA: What Can We Learn by Comparing and Contrasting in Youth Development?

As mentioned, in earlier blog posts thanks to my formative United Nations Volunteer experience in Uganda, I’ve spent considerable time and energy as a founding team member of Khelshala in India. In the last couple of weeks, I was fortunate to attend fundraisers at Khelshala in Boston and the The Child Is Innocent in Boston. For both of these non-governmental organizations, this was my second time attending their fundraisers.

Listening to Satinder Bajwa (an engineer by training, turned coach and teacher) and Kevin Schwartz (a pediatric oncologist), as co-founders of their respective non-governmental organizations, I was reminded by other inspirational leaders I’ve heard speak at the Harvard Kennedy School in the social enterprise movement such as Mohammed Yunus of Grameen Bank or Bill Drayton of Ashoka, who have used their talents to improve the lives of the next generation of leaders. The objectives and challenges facing both Khelshala and The Child is Innocent are simultaneously similar and different.

Today, perhaps more than ever, it is possible for young people to make a difference through grassroots activism, social justice campaigning and demonstrating solidarity with those who are disenfranchised. Small steps taken over a long horizon can and do make a difference for organizations like Khelshala and The Child Is Innocent. How and when will you make your next step?

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Community Development, Education, Grant Making, International Development, Leadership, Networking, Philanthropy, Poverty, Professional Development, 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.

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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.

 

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

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.

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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.

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

Community Sport: What are Transferable Methodologies and Approaches?

The 2016 Olympics in Rio has generated terrific event in the Greater Boston area, like the one I attended yesterday with guest speakers such as Ellen Minzer, World Champion rower and award-winning coach. From her experience at elite levels of rowing and more recently as a coach to athletes with disabilities preparing for the Paralympics in Rio, Coach Minzer highlighted the importance of social inclusion in sport.

Among Coach Minzer, many coaching roles she serves as the Director of Outreach with Community Rowing Inc a sport-based youth development program based in Boston. In listening to Coach Minzer presentation, I began to see linkages in the aspirations of what Kidsquash was striving for in Boston and Khelshala in India. Comparisons can be made in community sport – such as rowing and squash – though executed differently by athletes during competition.

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Squash is mostly an individual sport in that during competition on the court it is one versus one, although there are team events too such as doubles squash with two versus two. Rowing is more of a team sport although there can be events with single sculling. The question for program directors of sport-based youth development programs from different community sports becomes what best practice in coaching rowing can be applied to squash or vice versa? What coaching methodologies do coaches use with differently aged and abled athletes? What coaching philosophies or approaches can program directors help to implement?

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These questions have societal consequences for all stakeholders in sport and beyond. This is why it is important to create more qualified coaches such as Coach Minzer who gives back to the sport, no matter what the level of the athletes, as they can help raise standards in community sport practice and participation. The Institute of Athletic Coach Education at Boston University is a fantastic resource for program directors and coaches to begin or enhance their professional development with sport-based youth development programs.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Conferences, Education, Gender, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Paralympic, Professional Development, Rehabilitation, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development

Reconnecting, Re-learning and Reimagining Through Sport Tourism

As mentioned earlier, I visited Manchester, UK during my last squash season at Concord Academy. Thanks to Roshan Abraham, my aunt, I had great pleasure in doing a Manchester United Museum and Stadium Tour. Despite the Abraham family being ardent Liverpool Football Club supporters, they were kind to allow me to re-imagine childhood football fantasies at one of the most popular football clubs in the world.

Visiting the world renowned, Manchester United Football Club – November 2013.

Visiting the world renowned, Manchester United Football Club – November 2013.

Like many, as a young boy playing soccer in the United Arab Emirates during the 1980s and attending a British primary school, one could not help but be engrossed by the English Premier League. Ideally, it would have been great to watch a match live at Old Trafford, but the schedule did not allow it. Interestingly the World Rugby Championships were being held at the Stadium during that time.

Learning about the history, tradition and operations of Manchester United was fascinating. From a coaching perspective, it was exciting to set foot in the stadium of of its longest serving Manager – Sir Alex Ferguson who recently signed a long-term teaching contract at Harvard Business School. Though Manchester United has struggled since his departure, it was well worth the visit.

In addition, while in Manchester, I also visited United’s rival club Manchester City Football Club which also has an impressive stadium. I was unaware that Manchester City had a sponsorship connection to Abu Dhabi’s Eithad Airways. Overall, visiting all these sporting sites was like going to Mecca, in terms of scale but without the religious significance. Although some Manchester United and Manchester City fans may disagree.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, International Development, Peace Building, Professional Development, Recreation, Stakeholder Engagement

Reflecting and Moving On from Concord Academy

After more than six wonderful years, I chose to step aside this year as the Head Squash Coach at Concord Academy. It has been a joy, privilege and an honor to work in the Eastern Independent League, alongside Dana Hall School, Newton Country Day School, Portsmouth Abbey School and Winsor School as well as the broader New England Interscholastic Squash Association.

The 2013-14 Concord Academy boys varsity squash team had a respectable season with an even regular season record. The team earned a place in the B Division at the New England Interscholastic Squash Association Championships held at Pomfret School in Pomfret, CT. The coaching staff was proud to say that that, win or lose, our players gave all they could during their matches. All of our players showed great improvement this year, which bodes well for future teams.

Concord Academy Girls Varsity Squash Team – Coaches Thank You Gifts.

Concord Academy Girls Varsity Squash Team – Coaches Thank You Gifts.

Meanwhile, the 2013-2014 Concord Academy girls varsity squash team had a great season despite the fact that our competitors often outmatched us. Our main goal during every match was never to quit and to run down every single ball. The coaching staff was proud to say that this goal was met the majority of the time and that, win or lose, our players maintained their focus and determination. The girls squash team surprised the coaches with thank you gifts, as above. Many thanks to Concord Academy for a meaningful experience. Onwards we go!

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Filed under Coaching, Community Development, Education, Gender, Planning, Professional Development, Squash

Learning through Coach Observation at England Squash & Racketball

Coaches often find themselves teaching the way they were taught. This can have positive and negative consequences for athletes. Continual professional development is necessary for finding new approaches, methodologies and techniques of teaching a sport.

National Squash Center in the United Kingdom.

National Squash Center in the United Kingdom.

I reached out to Chris Lengthorn, Head Coach of the Manchester Squash Academy at the National Squash Center in the UK, to learn more about their junior development program by being both a participant and observer. As a participant, I assisted Chris in facilitating 7 junior beginners who were working on volleys, drops, drives and footwork.  Chris was very thorough in his introduction, demonstration and explanation. However as an observer, I noticed that the beginning students were more driven to play the 7 advanced players to see how far they could go against the best players in the Academy.

It was also enlightening to observe how Chris switched gears to teach advanced players on the concept of playing the ball in front of them. After a group discussion on the pros and cons of adjusting one’s body and racquet position to play the ball in front, Chris was able to highlight a nuance that allows for greater offensive play and efficiency of movement. Overall, I am thankful for Chris and the Manchester Squash Academy for the opportunity to learn more about squash in its country of birth.

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Filed under Coaching, Education, Gender, Leisure, Networking, Professional Development, Recreation, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Appreciating My Khelshala Service Trip Experience

I recently completed my 2+ months service trip in Chandigarh at Khelshala. While I have tried to keep you updated of the highlights along the way, I find myself a bit emotional after being so welcomed by the Khelshala family – Founders, Board members, staff, children, volunteers and well wishers.

Satinder Bajwa, Founder & Trustee of Khelshala presenting a “thank you” gift to Khelshala Secretary.

Satinder Bajwa, Founder & Trustee of Khelshala presenting a “thank you” gift to Khelshala Secretary.

It was truly an honor and privilege to help advance the mission of Khelshala while interacting with various stakeholders in India and abroad. My heartfelt thanks to Satinder Bajwa for encouraging me to make the journey and many thanks to my family and friends for donating to help fund this trip. I thought about each of you along the way.  This made me appreciate the experience even more.

We are not done though. We have set Khelshala on a higher path and so there is a lot more to do take the organization where it deserves to be. I will continue to stay connected to the Khelshala mission, but encourage others who read this to get involved as I hope you will find as much joy and satisfaction as I have experienced. Be strong!

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, International Development, Leadership, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Recreation, Squash, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Representing Khelshala and Kidsquash at the United Nations Headquarters

Over the past few days, I was fortunate to attend the 3rd International Forum on Sport for Peace and Development at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the Dr. Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee led the opening session of the Forum. Here is the official UN press release.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Dr. Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee leading the opening session.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Dr. Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee leading the opening session.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Dr. Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee leading the opening session.

As a member of the International Sport for Development and Peace Association, I attended the forum to represent Khelshala (India) and Kidsquash (USA) to learn, connect and collaborate with others working in the field of sport for development and peace. An informal meeting of practitioners, researchers and educators provided an opportunity for networking as well as an avenue for sharing updates on university programs, research and sport-based youth development initiatives.

There were several references made by Mr. Wilfred Lemke, UN Special Advisor on Sport, on the role of volunteerism in sport as a means to activate young people. As a former United Nations Volunteer, I believe this would be a valuable experience for aspiring development professionals. Thanks to the organizers of the event it was an opportunity to learn from the nuances in high-level, policy discussions as well as be at the forefront to mainstream sport-for development programming in the United Nations systems and beyond.

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Filed under Community Development, Conferences, Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Networking, Olympic, Paralympic, Peace Building, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Public Policy, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Engaging in a Day of Service with Bowdoin Alumni

Thanks to the Bowdoin Club of Boston, I volunteered on a Saturday afternoon at Gaining Ground, a Concord-based organic farm that draws upon community volunteers to donate food to local meal and food programs.

Bowdoin Alums at Gaining Ground, an organic farm for a “Day of Service.”

Bowdoin Alums at Gaining Ground, an organic farm for a “Day of Service.”

Beverly Halliday, a Bowdoin alum who is on the Board of Directors of Gaining Ground facilitated introductions and not long after we were in two groups – weeding, planting and sorting various types of vegetables and flowers.

Having facilitated service trips for Concord Academy students, it was good to get first hand experience about the importance of environmental sustainability right in one’s own neighborhood.

If you ever find yourself looking for meaningful things to do over a weekend, I highly recommend spending time at Gaining Ground. Go U Bears!

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Filed under Community Development, Education, Leadership, Networking, Philanthropy, Poverty, Professional Development, Stakeholder Engagement