A tall man with a warm demeanour and an energetic aura walked towards us and introduced himself as Shihab Al Riyami, the first international volleyball instructor in Oman. Al Riyami is an internationally certified volleyball coach, who has been training students at the Sultan Qaboos University for the last 15 years. What makes Al Riyami different from the other coaches is the fact that he takes the word professional very seriously and has dedicated a huge chunk of his life to the development of the sport in the nation.
“I’ve taken 25 courses in volleyball worldwide and have travelled to different countries, including the GCC, China, United States, Sri Lanka, and many more.”
Talking about the potential of volleyball in Oman, Al Riyami said Oman is still a young country and there is a long way to go. However, volleyball is the second biggest sport in the country after football, he added. “Volleyball is the second most popular game in Oman after football because it is low-cost, and uses easier equipment.”
The main problem, according to Al Riyami, is the lack of volleyball coaches in the country. “We have only seven to eight (professional) coaches.” Most coaches in Oman aren’t certified, trained or professional.
Al Riyami became Oman’s first international volleyball instructor in 2008 and is also the second trained volleyball instructor in Asia. But he has taken it upon himself to give the country a few well qualified coaches so that the 160 players in the country can be converted to a few thousands, who are all receiving the training they deserve.
“I’m also going to conduct courses for coaches to give them a licence. Now I’m a member of the general committee for the Sultan Qaboos Sports Academy. We are trying to build fundamentals and infrastructure for qualified coaches. It is going to be a local coaching and educational programme.
Al Riyami has already written two books on volleyball and is currently working on his third book. His first book was about problems the sport faces in Oman for which he met hundreds of people and took 75 interviews.
“The first book was about the obstacles and challenges facing volleyball in Oman; comparing it with Bahrain and Qatar, and focusing on themes, such as government vision, media, clubs, and players’ knowledge.”
The second book is about a coach education programme on which he has worked ardently for over five years. Being experienced himself and having undertaken so many courses across the world, Al Riyami can well understand the significance of a full-fledged coach training programme in the Sultanate.
The third book that he is currently working on is a little more scientific and is related to fitness, oxygen consumption by players, and looks at practice and game time oxygen levels that can enhance performance.
With someone so dedicated and motivated, and who has given his heart and soul to the game, looks like volleyball will have a great future in the Sultanate.