Category Archives: Youth Sport

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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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Conferences, Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, Foreign Policy, Gender, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Olympic, Peace Building, Philanthropy, Poverty, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Squash, Volunteering, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Collaborating, Learning and Adapting (CLA) in Sport for Development and Peace

Thanks to colleagues, Erika Mueller (Peace Corps),  Mori Taheripour, (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania), Eli Wolff (Brown University) and Sarah Hillyer (University of Tennessee) in the International Sport for Development and Peace Association (IDSPA) for the invitation to participate in the Sport for Development M&E Virtual Roundtable Series.

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.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, Coaching, Community Development, Education, Gender, HIV AIDS, International Development, Leadership, Literature Review, Networking, Planning, Poverty, Private Public Partnerships, Professional Development, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Coaching Up!: A Coaching Methodology for Multiple Contexts

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.

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.

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

What Happens to Athletic Coaches Living with Mental Illness?

I was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder in 2014 after 2 psychotic episodes in my early to late twenties when I literally lost touch with reality. Thanks to excellent treatment by mental health professionals and unconditional support from my caregivers, I was able to go back to work, but relapsed in my late thirties after two suicides in my family and social networks. A  few life changes later, I was unable to follow instructions, process information and became socially anxious. Today it is a burden for me and my loved ones that I need to undergo rehabilitation and find a new direction for my life.

The world of sport is not immune to mental illness as it can strike anyone regardless of age, race or socio-economic background. There are many professional athletes who struggle daily with their illnesses. Some athletes, are open about their diagnoses while others suffer in silence. Unfortunately, the stigma of mental illness does not align well with high performance situations. Athletes, musicians and entertainers are no different from any other human beings on this planet. A 2012, New York Times article titled “With no one looking, mental illnesses can stay hidden,” prompts me to ask the question about what are the long term outcomes of athletic coaches with mental health conditions?

Visit to United States Olympic Training Center, Colorado, Colorado Springs. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2008.

Visit to United States Olympic Training Center, Colorado, Colorado Springs. Photo credit: T. Mohammed, 2008.

My illness has no cure and it is something I will have to manage carefully for the rest of my life, by taking medication and undergoing therapy. During the summer of 2008, my sister Miriam, invited me to visit Colorado where I visited the United States Olympic Center’s Training Center in Colorado Springs. At the Center, I saw the above inspirational quote by Juan Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee. This resonated with me since my life has been enriched with, through and by sport. Setbacks occur, but life goes on. My onward journey will be to practice greater self-care and be a resource for others with mental illness, in a voluntary capacity, whenever possible.

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Filed under Coaching, Education, Poverty, Psycho-Social Support, Recreation, Rehabilitation, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Concerts for Sport for Development and Peace?

A few years ago I blogged about what the field of sports for development and peace can learn from the arts? Music is often considered a great communication tool to bring people together. There have been many types of benefit concerts during my lifetime. The LiveAid, Farm Aid and Live 8 concerts are some of the larger benefit concerts that have happened across the globe. Patrick Kabanda, a friend at the Office of the Chief Economist at the World Bank, has written extensively about the importance of the arts to economic and social development. His publications offer great insights.


I recently attended a Lampedusa, a Concert for Refugees in Boston at the Berklee College of Music. It was a sold out show with humorous dialogue and well crafted songs by all the musicians. Clearly, such an event is a win-win situation for the musicians, fans, sponsors and aid recipients. Small scale concerts may be just as good as large scale events in that they can draw loyal fans and supporters. Professional athletes and musicians are often grouped together in the entertainment business which may lead to ease of working together. Personally, the Lampedusa tour stop in Boston, happened to be on my birthday which made it all the more special and memorable.

As a member of the International Sport for Development and Peace Association (ISDPA), I would urge my colleagues in the field to explore ways in which benefit concerts can be used as a fundraising tool to benefit disadvantaged athletes. Choosing which non-governmental organization to benefit from the concerts could be done based on pooling of resources. For example ISDPA, could collect the funds and make equal distributions to its member organizations. In the United States, Up2Us, a sport-based youth development coalition would be a good starting point. An event organizer, may ask is there a demand for such a concert to benefit disadvantaged athletes? My answer would be, just ask around and you never know if there are a group of musicians passionate about similar issues.

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Filed under Capacity Buidling, International Development, Leadership, Leisure, Networking, Peace Building, Philanthropy, Poverty, Private Public Partnerships, Youth Development, Youth Sport

Coastal Cities and Towns: What role do they play in Promoting Boating for Recreation or Sport?

Since taking a break from coaching squash – an indoor winter sport in New England – I have had the opportunity to explore outdoor recreational and sporting activities this summer. Being on the water in the summertime can be very invigorating and many New Englanders are avid sailors, rowers and yachtsmen. Most of the coastal cities or towns in this area have some type of community boating program.

I was born in Dubai – a port city in the United Arab Emirates and have traveled through many coastal cities and towns over the years in New England and overseas. Some of these stops include Maine, Connecticut and Rhode Island in New England and Kochi, Kolkatta and Mumbai in India to name a few. One recent stop included New York City at Chelsea Piers (see below) where on the Hudson River New Yorkers and tourists could rent yachts, sailboats and windsurfers for recreational purposes.

Visit to Chelsea Piers, New York, summer 2016. Photo credit: unknown.

Visit to Chelsea Piers, New York, 2016. Photo credit: unknown.

Coastal cities and towns be they in New England or not play an important role in promoting tourism, leisure and economic development. Community boating programs are another means in which to foster community, share common experiences and develop new friendships. Coastal cities and towns also promote competitive water sports such as the Volvo Ocean Race or off-shore Powerboat Racing. Of course there are some within the sporting world who are purists and might question the athleticism required to partake in such activities.

Youth sport specialization and the desire to compete at the collegiate level places a considerable burden on families in terms of time, money and energy which can lead to a very narrow focus in their child’s education.  Perhaps specialization, limits a coach’s ability to see other perspectives, especially when trying to coach their own sport if they grew up with just one or two sports. Just as youth sport researchers and advocates urge parents not to let their children specialize in sport too early, I think the same could go for coaches in that they may benefit from coach observations and learning from other sports to improve their own coaching toolkit. In short, quality coaching is a mix of science and art that enables students to reach their full potential.

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Filed under Coaching, Community Development, Education, Leisure, Private Public Partnerships, Recreation, Stakeholder Engagement, Youth Sport

Kodaikanal International School Alumni Acknowledged for Community Service in India

Earlier in the year, I traveled almost 24 hours door to door from Andover, Massachusetts to Peermade, Kerala, India to see my maternal grandparents who were not keeping good health and (and have since March 2016 stabilized their health in old age and God-willing will continue to do so). As mentioned in an earlier blog post, it was an opportunity to spend time with family members and reconnect with positive childhood memories.

Near the Main Gate at Kodaikanal International School visit in 2016.

Near the Main Gate at Kodaikanal International School visit in 2016. Photo Credit: M. John

My Keralite cousins organized a trip to visit Kodaikanal International School, one of two international schools I attended as a boy. Thanks to Yvonne Dovlo, Alumni Officer and KIS alumni who work to support Khelshala, a registered charity in Chandigarh, India – we were featured in 7 Roads: The Kodai Alumni Magazine – something I never imagined would happen when I was student more than 20 years ago.

Cover of Kodai Alumni Magazine referencing Khelshala Project.

Cover of Kodai Alumni Magazine referencing Khelshala Project.

During my visit to KIS it was great to reconnect with staff, teachers and alumni who I had shared time with when I was a student there. These sorts of visits are “good for the soul” as my uncle – Tawheed Hazarika, likes to remind me. My cousins and I were lucky to get a personal tour of the school and eat lunch in the dining hall thanks to one of the new teachers.

Attending Sunday Service at Kodai School.

Attending Sunday Service at Margaret Eddy Memorial Chapel at Kodaikanal International School in 2016. Photo credit: M. John

KIS prides itself on multiculturalism and tolerance of all faiths and backgrounds which is expressed in the school’s motto of “unity in diversity.” On the whole, I was delighted to see the campus so well maintained with many improvements too. It was also great to briefly meet Corey Stixrud, Principal of KIS and to know that the school is continually striving for and meeting the educational needs of the next generation of Indian and international students.

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Filed under Community Development, Education, Networking, Philanthropy, Stakeholder Engagement, Uncategorized, Youth Development, Youth Sport