Category Archives: Squash

My Evolution as a Developmental Coach

Today happens to be my Mom’s birthday and the month in which Mothers are celebrated, among other national and international awareness activities (such as Mental Health Awareness Month). To readers of my blog, I hope you have a few minutes to read this post.

I’ve made a couple of references to my parents on this blog largely because I know it is thanks to them and many others, that I am able to stay healthy, volunteer my time with causes I care about and explore new places and things.

The video above is a culmination of my journey in squash. I have enjoyed every moment of playing, coaching and volunteering in squash at various levels, as well as being a team member on winning and losing teams.

I plan to stay physically active with and without squash, as it definitely keeps me well and balanced. Thanks, Mom and Happy Birthday!


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Keeping it Real in Spain?

My paternal grandfather and father, were both good amateur soccer players in their youth. While on a recent vacation in Spain, I was staying close to Real Madrid’s stadium. I must admit I did not intend to blog about the La Liga, Spain’s premier football division largely because I did not know much about the teams. When I found out that my hotel was near the stadium, I decided to take a walk around the Madrid neighborhood to see for myself.

Visit to Madrid, Spain, 2017. Photo credit: Unknown.

Like many Americans, sports coverage in the United States is mainly focused on the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. Major League Soccer in the United States has grown significantly and U.S.Soccer team has had some strong performances in previous World Cup Championships. In Europe, soccer is the sport that captures the public interest with international soccer starts like Real Madrid’s Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Messi. The best of the best players in developing countries sometimes make it into the soccer leagues of Europe and North America.

Economics drives the investment in sport stadiums like Read Madrid’s and other stadiums around the world. From Wimbledon to Fenway the infrastructure to compete and maintain in such stadiums costs millions. Many parts of Asia and Africa are prohibitively expensive for the public to bear such an investment (considering other competing demands) which is why only the best of the best players from developing countries make it to play in the West.

Squash is a minor sport relative the world’s love of football so my walk through this Madrid neighborhood, helped me to keep it real with more perspective on the urban squash movement.

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Revolutionizing Squash Through Outdoor Modular Courts

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!


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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.

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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.


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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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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.

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