JEDDAH: With basketball in hand, Saudi basketball player Mohanned Shobain has successfully scored many hoops in life and on the court.
Shobain is the CEO of the Jeddah Swish Basketball Academy and one of the first Saudi coaches to train Saudi female basketball players. He is also a licensed coach from FIBA (International Basketball Federation), and is currently in the second year of pursuing his FIBA Europe Coaching Certificate, which will enable him to coach anywhere in the world.
A Saudi Premier League champion, Shobain said: “I am the only Saudi and one of the two people selected from Asia to take this course. I am so thankful that I’ve been picked along with another Japanese coach because only NBA coaches take this course. It’s a very, very powerful license.”
For Shobain, basketball is more than just a sport.
“It’s a passion, and I feel like I can influence a lot of people to change the way they think, their mind toward the sport itself. It is not just a hobby, but it’s a lifestyle, and we can learn a lot from being inside the court such as dealing with people during the game, communication, leadership, sportsmanship, and anger management among others. It has taught me a lot of life lessons.”
After Shobain completed his master’s degree from Cleveland State University in 2016, he wanted to help the Saudi community through sports. “I saw there was a lot of demand in basketball as both male and female were hungry to learn,” he said, adding, “and, the programs that we had were exactly what they needed.”
In 2017, Shobain opened the doors to the Jeddah Swish Basketball Academy for budding basketball players both male and female. The academy played a pivotal role for Saudi female basketball players and coaches as it offered them both training programs and opportunities to grow.
The teams from the Swish academy have participated in national and international tournaments. “We have taken the girls’ team to Romania, Bucharest to play a three-on-three World Cup qualification tournament in 2019. We also took our boys team to Dubai once in 2018, and we’ve hosted the Saudi Kingdom Cup here in Jeddah in 2021,” he said proudly.
Shobain feels the new generation of Saudi female basketball has great potential, they just “need fine-tuning.”
“I do see that there’s a lot of skill, a lot of good talent, a lot of good potential. They just need the right training, the right equipment, and opportunity, such as this opportunity of playing in the Saudi Basketball Tournament to develop their game, gain experience, and influence others to love and start playing basketball.”
They just need the right training, the right equipment, and opportunity to develop their game, gain experience, and influence others to love and start playing basketball.
Mohanned Shobain, CEO of the Jeddah Swish Basketball Academy
The Jeddah Swish Basketball Academy has organized its first ever female Saudi Basketball Tournament with the Saudi Basketball Federation in Jeddah and Riyadh, which started on Jan. 22 and will finish on March 3.
During this summer, Shobain will take the girl’s basketball team to Europe for a basketball camp to further develop their skills. “The aim of this basketball camp is to get them ready for next year’s female Saudi Basketball Tournament,” said Shobain, who has previously assisted in coaching the Cleveland State basketball female team.
Saudi Arabia is embracing its first-ever female basketball generation.
“The performance is not expected to be of any comparison to WNBA level, but still, it’s just incredible to see these girls do what they do since they don’t have existing face-to-face role models here that they can talk to and see when it comes to female sports,” he said.
Dareen Sabban, 28, has been playing basketball since she was 17. She now wants to become a certified basketball player, recently joining one of Swish’s coaching programs. “I played with my university team at the first women’s basketball tournament at Al-Johara for an event that was organized by the Ministry of Health and the General Sports Authority in 2021, and we won first place,” said Sabban, who was also part of the Swish girls’ basketball team that went to Romania.
Sabban wishes to represent Saudi Arabia in basketball internationally and bring laurels to her country by winning championships and setting an example for future generations to take up the sport professionally. “Currently, I’m playing with my Swish team at the female Saudi Basketball Tournament and we have qualified for the semifinals,” she said.
Abrar Alghamri, 33, is another member of the Swish team and has been playing basketball since she was 10.
She told Arab News that basketball had taught her how to be patient, how to keep putting in efforts until you succeed and are satisfied with your performance. “It taught me sportsmanship, and how to deal with failures and successes. I realized that while I’m playing basketball, I’m learning about life as much as I’m learning about the game,” she said.