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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

From music to shopping: UAE coaches find creative solutions to keep team on toes

UAE bowling coach Samira Ouzmi has different techniques she deploys for each athlete

Saif Al Hashmi has 40 Special Olympics medals for swimming but is now competing in bowling for the UAE. Victor Besa / The National
Saif Al Hashmi has 40 Special Olympics medals for swimming but is now competing in bowling for the UAE. Victor Besa / The National

Some need music; others prefer the promise of a shopping trip but when it comes to the UAE’s Special Olympic athletes, their coaches know how to keep them motivated and prepare them for competition.

UAE bowling coach Samira Ouzmi has different techniques she deploys for each athlete under her charge to release much needed reserves of energy when the team trains twice a day.

“For Saif and Salih I need music. Some players like Maryam want us to joke with them and then they are happy. Every player has a key and I use this key when we need to double the training,” said Ms Ouzmi.

However, the coaches are always careful not to push the athletes too hard. But when practice stints extend to two-hour sessions in the morning and evening, they need to make sure their team remain interested throughout training.

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Ms Ouzmi has a routine to encourage Saif Al Hashmi, a former UAE Special Olympics swimming champion who has since moved to bowling. Placing both hands on his shoulders, she looks directly into his eyes and reminds him that he is a champion.

Another player, Saeed, requires small shopping jaunts as his break to refuel, while Maysa is content when her family is around.

If all else fails, coach Ms Ouzmi blows kisses to the tight knit team and promptly gets a mirror response.

Coaches focus on building up the athletes’ arms and upper body to support the bowling swing and release motion. They constantly move between the lanes, offering words of advice, support and encouragement to keep the team connected and driven.

The coaches understand that the self-confidence the game instills has a long lasting impact far beyond the challenge of the competition.

“Sport gives them heart. It gives them the strength to be with other people,” said co-bowling coach Amir Fayt. “They take on a new life when they play. It’s as if they change when they leave their home to go to the club and to stadium and when they play a game.”