The Bahrain national youth volleyball team recently reeled off five consecutive victories to win the 13th GCC Youth Volleyball Championship in the capital of UAE, Abu Dhabi.
This was the team's third Gulf title, having won the Gulf Cup in Saudi Arabia in 1998 and again in Doha in 2002.
Bahrain also garnered three individual awards in the competition, with player Mahmoud Abdulwahed winning the best striker award, Mahmoud al-Afia the best setter award, and Captain Hussain Ali Khalifa the best overall player award.
Tunisian-born Saber Abdulwahed, coach of the Bahraini national youth volleyball team, attributed his team's achievement to several factors, including advance preparation for the championship, superior physical training and sound technical instruction in a suitable facility.
He also lauded the "spirit of co-operation and discipline" among the players and the team's technical and administrative staff.
In an interview with Al-Shorfa, Abdulwahed said the Bahraini team has a promising future, with its technical capabilities and its young players with the athletic and physical abilities that can win future Arab, regional and even continental championships.
Al-Shorfa: What is the secret behind the Bahraini team's distinguished performance in the 13th GCC Youth Volleyball Championship?
Saber Abdulwahed: The team excelled as a result of the concerted efforts of the Sports Federation, the players and the technical staff, wherein all the means for success were provided to the players, from gear and equipment to camps and training.
The administrative and coaching staffs work as one family unit, with an emphasis on ethics and discipline. The national team-members were also highly disciplined and helped us meet our objectives and achieve a state of 100% readiness.
The young players' commitment reached such a high level that they preferred to train, relax and unwind over going to a youth festival held in our last camp in Europe.
We also dealt with the Gulf tournament with a higher level of preparation than the other teams, which was evident in our implementation of advanced techniques, a clear strategy and exact knowledge of how to interpret the opponents' moves.
Al-Shorfa: When did the preparations for the Gulf championship start?
Abdulwahed: We started our preparations in mid-June and conducted them in three stages. In the first stage, we developed technical skills and how to manipulate the ball. In the second, we experimented with various game plans and tried players in different positions to assess their proficiency.
In the third stage, we finalized the makeup of the team, assigned players to their final positions, and sought to develop our players at the individual level to improve their performance and their execution of the championship game plans.
Al-Shorfa: Can you tell us about the details of the training programme?
Abdulwahed: Training was intense and was held four-to-six days a week during Ramadan. We set up scrimmage matches with Bahrain's top-tier team every weekend to learn from our mistakes and identify our points of weakness through the use of video and statistics. The team benefitted tremendously from this program. We also set up an in-house camp before the tournament to improve the player's nutrition levels and rest patterns.
What distinguishes our team is that they played 20 friendly matches this summer, the best five being the recent Gulf Cup in which the team recorded its best figures, according to our statistics.
Al-Shorfa: How were you able to succeed as a coach in a short period of three months?
Abdulwahed: I was able to do that because I was handed a team that was founded on sound technical and physical principles. A coach can take a team to the highest levels of development, provided he has the requisite capabilities and committed players. Bahrain's young players excelled at everything, especially at executing their game plan with every team they competed against in the tournament.
I was entrusted with this group of young players who were already at respectable physical and technical proficiency levels. I worked with them in a professional manner, applied advanced volleyball techniques in their training and worked on raising their individual and group levels of play.
Al-Shorfa: Where do you rank the Bahraini team after the Gulf championship?
Abdulwahed: The team won every one of its tournament matches three-games-to-none, which clearly shows Bahrain's superiority on the Gulf level. This would not have been possible if it were not for the productive joint effort with the clubs and the sound physical and technical training that the players underwent.
Al-Shorfa: How did the camp in Europe help get the team physically prepared?
Abdulwahed: It was excellent indeed. We held it in Slovenia a month and a half before the start of the Gulf championship, and it was the first youth [volleyball] camp held in Europe. Friendly matches were set up with the Austrian and Slovenian national youth teams, who were at our level, and we competed strongly against them.
Al-Shorfa: What about future competition events?
Abdulwahed: A number of the members of the youth team will play alongside the [nation's] top-tier team, and preparations are under way for the junior team to participate in the Arab youth championship (for those born after 1995) in Tunisia in 2013, in addition to preparing for the Gulf Championship, also in 2013.