Learn from Expert PlaySquash Academy Coach Hashem Choudhry
What do three top racket sports (badminton, squash, and pickleball) all have in common? Beyond the obvious use of rackets, these popular sports provide a litany of benefits to young players, from increasing self-esteem to developing lifelong health habits. PlaySquash Academy coach Hashem Choudhry breaks down the sports, what makes them great, and what defines and drives his coaching style.
Overview of Badminton, Pickleball, and Squash
- The Rules
For anyone new to badminton, here’s an official breakdown of Olympic badminton rules.
- The Culture
Badminton is a small but tight-knit community. This becomes especially true at the higher, more competitive levels.
The sport is extremely popular across Asia, but it’s played worldwide and has a large following in the United States.
While badminton can be played at an extremely competitive level, the sport overall contains a mix of competitive players and those who just want to play socially.
- Other Notes
In any racket sport, the way you hold the racket determines the kinds of shots you can make.
Because of the nature of the game, badminton is played three-dimensionally. This means players find themselves switching grips a lot. This allows them to hit the birdie when it’s to the side of, in front of, or behind them. Doing this well requires quick reflexes, dexterity, and mental acuity.
- The Rules
To learn how to play, see this full breakdown of all official pickleball rules.
- The Culture
Pickleball is a fun sport that’s very popular with the retired community.
“Pickleball helps retirees stay healthy, active, and social, and that’s what I love most about it,” said Choudhry. “If you’re just trying to get some exercise, play with friends, and be low on the competitive side, pickleball will feel very welcoming to you.”
- Other Notes
For anyone looking to get into pickleball, competence and experience in badminton do transfer well to the sport. If you’re a badminton player who’s looking for a more social, less overtly competitive game, pickleball is a great option.
It’s also easy to learn, and the gateway to entry is very small.
Pickleball players tend to be set in the way they hold their rackets, optimizing their holds for shots directly in front of them.
- The Rules
To discover everything you need to know about the sport, including the rules, check out this ultimate guide to squash.
- The Culture
While squash has a reputation as being a game for high-earners and the social elite, it’s an accessible sport that’s played around the world. The United States, Egypt, and England lead the way in popularity, but it’s estimated to be played in over 185 countries.
Across those nations, it’s played at the competitive and recreational levels.
- Other Notes
Like pickleball, squash players tend to have a set way they hold their rackets. Because the ball is often coming from either side of a player, that racket hold is optimized for side shots.
Advantages of All Racket Sports
Whether you’re considering pickleball, squash, or badminton, you can reap numerous benefits from these racket sports.
- Year-round play. As indoor sports, you can continue lessons, competitions, and play throughout the year.
- Longevity. In one study, badminton emerged in the top three sports offering the longest increase in life expectancy. This is partly because badminton keeps you active, but it’s about the social aspect as well. It can also be enjoyed into later years in a way cycling, football, or running often can’t.
“Whether you’re ninety or a Paralympian or twenty, you can always find a similar group to play badminton,” said Choudhry. “Racket sports can be played at any level.”
- Self-esteem. Sports teach you about discipline and accountability, and they push you to be better. The result of that growth is increased self-esteem.
- Social advantages. When you play a sport, you immediately have a group of like-minded peers. This opens opportunities for new friendships and other social advantages.
- Health habits. It’s no surprise childhood obesity is a serious national health concern (one that only got worse during the pandemic). If children learn positive health habits early on through organized sports, they are more inclined to continue those healthy habits into adulthood.
- Mental health. With physical health and mental health so closely linked, anything that gets people more active and social is positive for overall health.
- Mental game of strategy and technique. Many racket sports are extremely strategic and mental. This means you don’t have to be the strongest, tallest, or fastest to excel or to achieve a high level of success.
Meet PlaySquash Academy Coach Hashem Choudhry
- Background and Education
Hashem Choudhry was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland.
He has numerous degrees, including a bachelor’s and master’s in sports science, as well as various certifications from top sports organizations (National Strength and Conditioning Association, Brookbush Institute, and others).
He also studied cardiac sonography at Johns Hopkins. After graduation, he began practicing in that medical field and has been doing this for several years.
- Badminton Career
In the sports arena, he’s been playing badminton for about twelve years and coaching for ten. A former Maryland state badminton champion, Choudhry was at one point ranked number seventeen in the entire United States. He earned numerous sponsorships throughout his badminton career.
“I still actively compete,” said Choudhry. “My goal is to continue improving. Improving my ranking. Improving my accolades. Improving my skills so I can always bring something greater to my coaching.”
- As a Coach
Choudhry describes his coaching style as “customer based.” If the player is new to the sport or obviously nervous or shy, his priority becomes making sure that player has fun.
“A player’s relationship to the sport should always be a positive one. I never want a player associating negative emotions or thoughts with that physical activity,” said Choudhry. “A positive, sustainable relationship with exercise is priority number one.”
While he’s always invested in helping players improve, he lets students determine the pace of that improvement.
“I’m not here to produce world-class athletes. You can traumatize a lot of students going in with that goal,” said Choudry. “If it happens, great, but the goal is to give them something good for the future. Self-esteem. Healthy habits. Friends in the sports community. Fun. If you want the lessons to stay casual, they’ll stay fun and casual. If you want more, I’ll push more.”
Choudhry also views his coaching as a hands-on feedback system. He goes in with a lesson plan and then engages in a conversation to determine how that lesson should play out.
“I’m always asking, Does this make sense? What do you want to work on today? I want the students involved and engaged in the direction of their coaching, so it’s more of a conversation and less of a list of directions.”
- Success Stories
Nearly all Baltimore County public and private schools have badminton teams, and much of the success of those individual players can be tied back to Choudhry and PlaySquash Academy.
“Almost all the winners from that school district have come from our club and have been students of mine,” said Choudhry. “I take a lot of pride in that.”
Interested in Squash, Pickleball, or Badminton Lessons
Want to enroll yourself or a loved one in squash, pickleball, or badminton lessons?
Join us at our Columbia, Maryland, location:
- Columbia Squash & Athletic Club
- 9315 Snowden River Parkway Columbia, Maryland 21046
If you’re interested in working with Coach Choudhry, contact him directly to schedule your sessions today.