Category Archives: Squash

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

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

The Journey into Infinity

After a hiatus from playing squash, I chose to start again in the Adult Open of the Newport Steamer at St. George’s School in Rhode Island. The event was organized by Chris Smith, Head Squash Coach of St. Paul’s School and Pat Cosquer, Head Squash Coach of Bates College. Both Chris and Pat have produced championship teams under their tutelage over the years with various squash programs and organized numerous successful squash events.

What was unique about this tournament was that it was in a beautiful setting with options for both kids and adults to compete thereby a pleasant experience for all. Making the effort to drive to Newport, stay in a hotel and play multiple matches required effort on my part but it was worth it and fun to explore a new side of New England. Among the many sights and sounds, the image below resonated with me about the infinite journey we are all on through space and time, both in the real world and the life-thereafter.

Artwork by St. George's students titled "The Journey."

Artwork by St. George’s School students in Newport, Rhode Island, USA titled “The Journey.” Photo credit: T. Mohammed

Overall, It was good to get on court again albeit this time around for exercise and enjoyment. It was also an apt reminder of how to put oneself in the shoes of former players and coaches, who work very hard to make such events available to the public – often with competing demands of academics, family and work. Furthermore, I have more admiration and respect for the “master’s” level players who despite age – demonstrated dedication to compete and still enjoy the benefits of the sport all with a smile.

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Filed under Community Development, Education, Leadership, Leisure, Recreation, Squash, 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.

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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

Reflect, Renergize and Restart: Where to Next?

         As you are probably aware this blog is outdated and no longer being updated. I didn’t want to stop without being able to reflect with you upon three lessons gained from life experiences, which I believe can be one of our greatest teachers. My hope is that it will help you think about your own life.

         The first lesson was learned while I was a high school student in the United Arab Emirates. This was among the several countries my siblings and I grew up.

         After a long day at school, I decided to go for a run to take my mind off homework. At the time, Laylah, my youngest sister was the only person home. I asked her to let my parents know that I had gone for a run and that I would be back home in time for dinner. Little did I know I would not make it home for dinner that evening.

         I set forth on my usual route with Walkman in hand. (For those of you too young to remember what a Walkman is, it is one of the early precursors to the iPod). My memory of what happened next is unclear. All I remember is waking up in a hospital emergency room and my entire upper body soaked in blood with my mother at my bedside. I have no recollection of how I ended up there.

         From police reports it appeared that while running, I was knocked down and unconscious by a car. Except for the shattered glass that had scared my face and back, there were, fortunately, no serious injuries. No broken bones. No lost limbs. Nonetheless, doctors told me that I had experienced a severe shock to the body and mind (deemed a concussion) and that I would need to miss the remainder of my 11th grade.

         On one hand I was relieved, that I wouldn’t have to take final exams, but on the other hand disappointed that I had to stay home and could not spend time with fellow classmates. During the recovery, I had time to reflect upon the seriousness of what had happened and came to the conclusion I had a near death experience.

         At first this troubled me, but as I thought more deeply I came to understand that I had been given a second chance to live. I felt fortunate to be blessed with a miracle. While not everyone believes in God, I do believe there is a force greater than humanity.

         Some call this force God. Some call it Jesus. Some call it Allah. I’m not a very religious person, but I could not help think about this force. It kept me alive and is why I am here today.  Thus the first lesson, I would like to share with you is that, I believe, we are each here to serve a purpose.

         My second lesson stems from an international childhood and brief career in international affairs. I am an American citizen of Indian heritage but was born in the United Arab Emirates and educated in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, India and the United States. My multicultural upbringing might appear unique, but there are a growing number of Americans and international students, who also hail from diverse backgrounds and venture to and from foreign lands.

         During 2003-2004 I served as a United Nations Volunteer under Kofi Annan, former Secretary General’s initiative called United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) in Kampala, Uganda to promote volunteerism as well as foster peace and sustainable development. Based at Makerere University, a leading institution of higher education in East Africa, I was living in a country with a history of Indophobia.

         In the early 1970s, Idi Amin, a former President of Uganda expelled thousands of Indian immigrants due to fear of economic insecurity for ethnic Ugandans. Fast-forward to present day Uganda, Indians are gradually returning to Uganda – mostly in small numbers – to reclaim their properties.

         Given the historical plight of Indians in Uganda I was anxious as to how I would be received by my Ugandan counterparts. Would they see me as another Indian threatening their livelihood? Would I be considered a naïve, twenty something Indian-American aid worker imposing Western values? Would they just accept me for my ideas, thoughts and actions while being a guest in their country?

         My mission in Uganda was to strengthen and expand the Cisco Networking Academy Program, a global online curriculum for schools and universities across the country. The Cisco program prepares students and working professionals to design, build and maintain computer networks.

         I am not an expert in networking computers, but did have prior work experience publishing research on the intersection of business, technology and policy under the direction of Jeffrey Sachs, a highly acclaimed economist, at the Center for International Development at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

         Fortunately with hard work, openness and a willingness to learn about Ugandan culture I was able to build trust among Ugandan colleagues. Living in a foreign country, far away from family and close friends, I learned how to make new friends and appreciate how human bonds tie us together. This is what truly enriches our lives.

          At Concord Academy everyone is valued for their individuality and at the same time their is a respect of common beliefs. Hence, the second lesson I would like to share with you is that while everyone is unique in their own way, we must not forget to celebrate our common values in this increasingly complex world.

         My third lesson is a culmination from my lifelong passion for squash – the sport, not the vegetable (Although after living in New England, I have also grown to like squash soup!). I became acquainted with the sport when my mother would go for her squash lessons.

         Curious to know how this racquet sport was played, I eventually made my way on to a squash court by the age of 12. Living in Saudi Arabia it was also a way to beat the heat and exercise in an air-conditioned room.

         Looking back, squash has opened many doors for me. During my college admissions process Dan Hammond, an All-American squash player at West Point and Head Squash Coach at Bowdoin College, a highly selective liberal arts college in Maine, actively recruited me as a student-athlete. I would not have gained admission based solely on my academics. Squash opened the door.

         Also, my first paycheck in the United States was thanks to squash. During the summer of my freshmen year in college, I worked as a counselor at the Harvard Junior Squash Camp under the direction Bill Doyle, a former Head Squash Coach at Harvard. Squash opened the door.

         During my junior year of college I was invited to attend an alumni function with key donors and was seated, by the organizers, at a table with Robert Edwards, a former President of Bowdoin College and his wife, along with several accomplished alumni.

         Puzzled at first, I came to understand that I was selected to be seated at that particular table, not because of my academic prowess, but because I happened to be co-captain of the varsity squash team under the direction of Satinder Bajwa, a world renowned squash coach who was subsequently the Head Squash Coach at Bowdoin College during my senior year. Looking back, meeting Baj (as he is known in the squash world), was a tremendous, positive life-changing experience.

         Squash has continued to provide many opportunities even after college. For instance I got my first desk job at Harvard, because Geoffrey Kirkman, Managing Director of the Information Technologies Group at the Center for International Development liked the fact that I was a squash player and coach who showed promise beyond academics.

         Again, if it were not for my interest in squash, I would not have been able to coach at various New England colleges, universities and prep schools. Neither would I have had the opportunity to help implement the 2006 Super Series Squash Finals, featuring the world’s top 8 players in London, England.

         Neither would I have received a travel grant to visit a poor village in India to conduct coaching clinics for underprivileged children. I could go on.

         I am very grateful and honored for being involved with Khelshala, a non-governmental organization, that allows me to play a part in helping other students can gain education and career opportunities through sport. Thus the third, lesson I would like to share with you is that don’t underestimate the value of your extra-curricular activities.

         In short, my three lessons for you are: (i) live a purposeful life because you never know when it may end (ii) embrace all the diversity the world has to offer and remain inclusive and (iii) last, but not least, don’t forget to nurture your talents. It sounds simple to say, but, at times, it can be difficult to put into practice.

My name is Tariq Mohammed, which among other things, in Arabic means “he who knocks at the door.”

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Filed under Coaching, Community Development, Education, Foreign Policy, International Development, Leadership, Peace Building, Private Public Partnerships, Psycho-Social Support, Public Policy, Squash, Stakeholder Engagement, Volunteering, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Appreciating SquashBusters and the Future of Urban Squash

Thanks to Tom Hodgson, a veteran teacher of philosophy and coach at Phillips Academy Andover (also a friend and squash colleague), he invited me to the SquashBusters Lawrence end-of-year celebration at Brooks School. SquashBusters Lawrence students, parents, staff, coaches and volunteers had fun with free-play, eating a pot-luck dinner and recognizing outstanding performers for the 2013-14 year.

SquashBusters Lawrence Staff recognizing students for 2013-14 achievements.

SquashBusters Lawrence Staff recognizing students for 2013-14 achievements.

As an admirer and follower of SquashBusters, it was great to be in the company of Greg Zaff, CEO and Founder and his team to share developments about Khelshala in India as well as Kidsquash in Cambridge, MA. Given the National Urban Squash and Education Association’s international outreach to countries such as Colombia, South Africa and India (including Khelshala) – there is a lot of potential in terms of grant making, student-exchanges and North-South as well as South-South collaboration.

Though squash is not yet an Olympic sport, programs such as SquashBusters and the like  – when done right with capable staff and adequate resources – produce balanced, active and socially responsible citizens. Surely this is a win-win for all stakeholders!

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, International Development, Networking, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Squash, Uncategorized, Volunteering, Youth Development, Youth Sport

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Today the Athletics Department at Concord Academy organized an “Athletics Assembly” to celebrate the Class of 2014 student-athletes for their performance over the last 4 years. I was unable to attend the event, but wanted to recognize and thank the CA community members who I did not get a chance to bid farewell.

First, thanks to former CA Athletic Director, Carol Anne Beach for bringing me on board as a squash coach and who, once eloquently reminded me after a tough day of coaching, that “we are all in it together.” Many thanks to current Head of School, Rick Hardy and Dean of Students and Community Life, David Rost for allowing me to live on campus and grow as a house parent.

Many thanks to Jenny Brennan, Director of Athletics and my colleagues in the Athletic Department for being part of teams that won with grace and lost with dignity. I would particularly like to extend my gratitude to Assistant Squash Coaches Marty Blue, Danielle Babcock, Josh Parker, Jon Ross, Roger Hunt and Charlotte Whitmore as well as all the numerous captains of the girls and boys varsity squash teams. Furthermore members of the Athletics Department – Kellie Smith, Reed Young, Mike Bouzan and Warren Samuels – deserve special thanks as well for critical support and programming.

2013-14 Concord Academy Girls Varsity Squash with Coaches, Charlotte Whitmore and Tariq Mohammed.

2013-14 Concord Academy Girls Varsity Squash with Coaches, Charlotte Whitmore and Tariq Mohammed.

2013-14 Concord Academy Boys Varsity Squash with Coaches, Charlotte Whitmore and Tariq Mohammed.

2013-14 Concord Academy Boys Varsity Squash with Coaches, Charlotte Whitmore and Tariq Mohammed.

2013-14 Concord Academy Girls Varsity Squash with Coaches, Roger Hunt and Tariq Mohammed

2012-13 Concord Academy Girls Varsity Squash with Coaches, Roger Hunt and Tariq Mohammed

2012-13 Concord Academy Boys Varsity Squash with Coaches, Roger Hunt and Tariq Mohammed

2012-13 Concord Academy Boys Varsity Squash with Coaches, Roger Hunt and Tariq Mohammed

2011-12 Concord Academy Girls Varsity Squash with Coaches, Jon Ross and Tariq Mohammed

2011-12 Concord Academy Girls Varsity Squash with Coaches, Jon Ross and Tariq Mohammed

2013-14 Concord Academy Boys Varsity Squash with Coaches, Jon Ross and Tariq Mohammed

2013-14 Concord Academy Boys Varsity Squash with Coaches, Jon Ross and Tariq Mohammed

2010-11 Concord Academy Girls Varsity Squash with Coaches, Josh Parker and Tariq Mohammed

2010-11 Concord Academy Girls Varsity Squash with Coaches, Josh Parker and Tariq Mohammed

2010-11 Concord Academy Girls Varsity Squash with Coaches, Josh Parker and Tariq Mohammed.

2010-11 Concord Academy Boys Varsity Squash with Coaches, Josh Parker and Tariq Mohammed.

2010-11 Concord Academy Boys Varsity Squash with Coaches, Danielle Balocca and Tariq Mohammed.

2010-11 Concord Academy Boys Varsity Squash with Coaches, Danielle Balocca and Tariq Mohammed.

Many thanks to Annie Bailey in Residential Life and Don Kingman in Operations as well as the broader residential life team for helping to foster a sense of community. Long live, Bradfordfosoras rex. Many thanks to CA Dining for providing food and a space to share meals with colleagues and friends. Many thanks to CA parents, both past and present for their cooperation in helping to guide their children. Many thanks to CA students and alumni for teaching me to be a better person. Go Chameleons!

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Filed under Coaching, Community Development, Education, Recreation, Squash, Uncategorized, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Kidsquash Alum On a Roll

Today, on the 118th Boston Marathon, I am proud to blog in the spirt of “Boston Strong” about Joey Raskin Lantos, a Kidsquash alum who “graduated” from the program in 2012, and has maintained his interest in the sport.  Joey showed impressive results in recent junior squash events.

Joey (kneeling on right) “graduating” at the 2012 In-House Kidsquash Tournament

Joey (kneeling on right) “graduating” at the 2012 In-House Kidsquash Tournament

As a 12 year old, playing in the boys under-15 division, he finished in 1st place at the SquashBusters Silver, (April 4-6, 2014). He then continued to win the 3.0 Massachusetts State Softball Championships at the Murr Center at Harvard (April, 10th, 2014) and traveled to play at the Junior Silver National Championships in Philadelphia, PA (April 11-13, 2014), where he finished in first place overall for the boys under-13 division.

Joey thriving at the Junior Silver National Championships in Philadelphia, April, 2014.

Joey thriving at the Junior Silver National Championships in Philadelphia, April, 2014.

He continues to work on his game weekly with Seth Packard, former Lead Coach at Kidsquash at the Z-Center MIT squash courts. Joey and his dad Steve Lantos, a long-time teacher at Brookline High School, “think back to Kidsquash fondly.”  All, I can say is this reconfirms the notion, “it takes a village” to support the positive growth and development of youth.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Leisure, Recreation, Squash, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development, Youth Sport

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

Kidsquash Finishes 9th Season with Motivated Students

During the 2013-14 season 20 students between the ages of 8 to 17 from 12 towns in the Greater Boston area participated in 21 hours of instructional squash clinics at the Murr Squash Center at Harvard University. Majority of the students were beginners who were new to the game and eager to learn a new sport.

The 9th season of Kidsquash season ran from October to March and covered various squash shots, etiquette, refereeing, marking, match play and concluded with an end of year tournament. Students made significant progress with their game, as demonstrated in the end of year tournament where they were divided into 2 round robin groups and some had long rallies – which they could not do at the start of the season. All 10 students in the tournament were able to receive prizes courtesy of Head, leaving them motivated for next season.

2014 Kidsquash Tournament Players and Coaches

2014 Kidsquash Tournament Players and Coaches

Making Kidsquash happen is a team effort so, many thanks to Coach Bajwa, Founder of Kidsquash – though not visible at clinics his guidance and presence was much appreciated; Coaches – Hameed, Luke and Liam – thanks for your teaching and coaching throughout the season; Parents – many thanks for your generosity and bringing your children to the Murr Squash Center almost every week and Sponors – US Squash, Mass Squash, Harvard University, Head and Whole Foods Market.

For transparency and sustainability purposes here are some important figures to consider from the 2013-14 season. For the 21 hours of instruction provided to 20 students, Kidsquash raised $3,144.  At approximately $150 per Kidsquash student, parents received $2100 of coaching value (had they received private, commercial instruction the average hourly rate would be $100 from qualified coaches). Hopefully, the value created through the Kidsquash program, will be sustained in the future by sponsors, donors and friends.

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