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Pakistan’s Noorena Shams Foundation delivers free coaching for girls in Peshawar

Thirty girls from the state of Peshawar, Pakistan, have been provided with a free three-day coaching clinic led by WSF accredited coaches thanks to the Noorena Shams Foundation.

The clinic, which began on International Women’s Day and was organised by the Foundation’s founder, Pakistan’s former World No.120 Noorena Shams, and funded by VOA News, saw some of the biggest names in Pakistan squash attend to support the event. These included the legendary Qamar Zaman and Asian Games gold medalist Amir Atlas Khan, while the coaching sessions were delivered by Adil Atlas Khan and Owais Khan, who are currently completing their WSF Level 2 Coaching qualification.

At the Pakistan Squash Federation’s (PFS) Peshawar Jansher Khan Squash Courts, donated by the PSF, the thirty participants developed their squash and team skills, had fun and learned more about the game under expert tutelage.

Peshawar-native Shams, who has represented Pakistan in tournaments around the world, explained that the main objective of the event was to provide an opportunity to players who ordinarily might not be able to afford professional coaching, as well as to foster a team spirit amongst the participants.

Noorena Shams (right)

Shams, who balances her philanthropy with playing professionally, said: “As a professional player, I understand the importance of great teaching and having the right coach beside you. I have seen many players struggling with getting a coach with the right expertise, and for many of these girls the financial requirements for a top coach would be an issue.

“This is why I decided to bring my coach, Mr. Adil Atlas Khan, supported by Mr. Owais Khan, to the court with these girls to share his knowledge. He is a great coach and has worked with many names like Danish Atlas, Amir Atlas and Hamza Khan.

“The girls were mostly junior and senior players within Peshawar who have ambitions to play professionally, with a number already playing PSA and international junior circuits.

“Most of them come from really humble backgrounds when it comes to finances and their parents have dedicated their lives to this passion of their kids, and in part this session was to help support those parents, too.”

Coaches Adil Atlas Khan and Owais Khan use fun and creative teaching methodology to improve skills such as hand-eye coordination.

Shams added: “Such sessions are important because it promotes diversity and instills a sense of inclusion.

“Our country has sometimes struggled with acceptance of women in sports and so having activities like these in the public eye helps to further normalise this.

“Seeing players, coaches, media, parents, authorities and team mates celebrating with each other as well as helping each other, gives our young athletes the confidence to keep on going and not quit.

“For these girls, clinics like these can also be a celebration of oneself for how far they have come.”

“For example, there is one girl that I would want to highlight separately. Her name is Sana Bahadar, who has a speaking and listening disability. She is a national champion and has represented Pakistan in many PSA events. Throughout the event, she developed her skills as a leader and role model for other junior players, leading her team with confidence.

“The sight of her interacting with the players and coaches was extraordinary to watch. In a way, the session was more like a tribute to all these amazing players and their parents for coming out each day to live squash.”

Pakistan’s former World No.1 Qamar Zaman hands out certificates after the course

Two of the participants, Mahnoor Ali and Mehwish Ali, spoke afterwards about how much they had learnt during the clinic.

Mahnoor, aged 11 and a quarter-finalist at last year’s British Junior U11 Open, said: “It was the first time everyone gathered and supported each other and Adil Sir taught us many things I didn’t know, like how to clear my mind before playing.

“I had so much fun supporting my team!“

Mehwish, who last year won the Scottish U15 Open and was part of the Pakistan team that travelled to the Asian Games in Hangzhou, added: “It was a very good and new experience to join this workshop and have time learning with junior and senior players.

“The coaches taught us such good techniques that really helped me a lot, I want to thank everyone so much . It was great having us all together as a team and helping each other, such a beautiful and great experience and thanks to everyone involved!”

The Noorena Shams Foundation supports squash players around Pakistan with training and by connecting players with donors. To find out more about the foundation, and for support opportunities, head to noorenashamfoundation.org or contact noorenashamsfoundation@gmail.com.

Find out more about squash in Pakistan at pakistansquash.org.

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