FIVB international instructor Shihab Al Din Ahmed al Riyamy has completed yet another accomplishment with his club side Al Salam after they defended their title in the Oman volleyball first division league 2020-21 recently. The Asian Volleyball Confederation panel member talks in-depth about the game and its challenges in Oman.
What is the status of volleyball at present in Oman?
Oman is still a young country in sports and there is a long way to go. Volleyball is the second most popular game in Oman after soccer. The sport has witnessed rapid growth in 18 years due to the low-cost, easier equipment for playing. Also, Oman’s demography with a coastline of sandy beaches with a length of 1,700 kilometres makes it an ideal venue for beach volleyball. The presence of long beaches enables a lot of youngsters to play beach volleyball and extend the volleyball culture in all the wilayats.
Recently, the Oman government has built sports halls and infrastructures of modern facilities mostly in more than 35 clubs. Surely, this is a great step for developing all sports such as basketball, handball and especially volleyball in the governorates. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth has been coordinating with the Oman Volleyball Association (OVA) for technical assistance in youth volleyball training centres, which are considered as the factory of volleyball players. Lately, Oman has a good reputation in volleyball after great achievements in Gulf and Arab tournaments.
What are the challenges facing the sport here?
Oman’s main challenge is to improve the level of the game and players’ performance. I had presented a primary study that focused on the challenges facing the development of volleyball in the Sultanate.
I had conducted this study taking the opinions of 81 volleyball specialists, which reflected the staus of the game in Oman.
Also, it compared with similar studies on volleyball in the neighbouring countries. The output of this research has led to a greater understanding of the challenges facing the game’s development in Oman. In particular, the lack of qualified coaches, low presence in school sports, short coverage by media, sponsors and marketing issues were found.
In 2013, Lap Lambert Academy published my project as a primary study which reflected the current situation of volleyball in Arab countries. According to my international expertise in volleyball, the main problem is the lack of qualified volleyball coaches because most of the coaches in Oman aren’t certified, trained or professionals in the coaching field.
The OVA and Oman Olympic Committee (OOC) are trying to conduct several courses for coaches. But we need a national coaching programme which will help all national coaches upgrade their knowledge.
In 2014, I presented a second book which is about a coaching education programme. I had prepared for over five years in research on the topic. With my experience at the professional level and after having undertaken over 50 courses across the world, I am still insisting that the top sports authorities in the Ministry and OOC set up a national certified coaching programme that develops technically compatible national coaches.
Any remedies you suggest to meet these challenges?
Globally, sports is now an industry and has an impact on the economy of any country. So, sports needs a good plan from the government. In Oman, we hope it is integrated with the Oman Vision 2040.
Until that time, the authorities can plan the sports vision such as developing physical education programmes in schools, giving financial and logistical support to all clubs and training centres, building sports facilities and infrastructures, hosting international tournaments and main events for activating sports tourism and developing mechanisms for talent hunt. The main aim should be setting up a national certified coaching programme which will raise the number of qualified coaches and trainers in the sports field.
Are there many promising players coming up?
Actually, the Ministry of Sports (training youth centres) and national sports associations are coordinating in developing the new generation of players. But this is not enough as we need more focus on sports in school, which is the grass-roots level. Conducting youth and juniors’ volleyball league is vital for improving the upcoming players’ performance and developing their experience. Recently, we faced lack of talents and young players due to a lesser number of clubs.
How good is Oman’s league standard?
This season is an exceptional sports season in the world because of Covid- 19 pandemic. Honestly, it is a short duration for the league but we appreciated the OVA for conducting two events (volleyball league and OVA Cup).
Despite the pandemic situation, more than 22 clubs participated in this season and we saw great competition in the first and second divisions.
Personally, I am happy this season because I found former players in the national team, clubs and students became coaches with clubs such as Khalid al Shezawi, Darwesh al Aabi, Suleiman al Tobi, Mohammed al Aqamshoey, Assad al Battashi, Faisal al Muqbali and Qosai al Kalbani. I’m optimistic about the future of volleyball in Oman with the availability of advanced courses for players and technical experts. But we need longer leagues and more tournaments to really make the game develop.
How Oman team is performing internationally?
Since 2004, Oman have got more than six medals each in Arabian Gulf championships and GCC beach volleyball championships and 5 times medals in the Arab championships. Also, the national youth team got two medals in Arab championships. Lastly, Oman participated in AVC senior and youth championships with good results.
The Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB) has ranked Oman as 78th in the latest ranking, a rapid stride from 135 before 10 years.
To conclude, Oman volleyball requires a clear future plan and support from the government in setting up a coaching education programme and modern methods in talent hunt and player selection.