Kuwait City, Kuwait, June 6, 2022: Athletics coach Wadih El-Hawly from Lebanon is a picture of concentration as he laps up all the information at the OCA Phase Three Development Programme for 12 West Asian countries on Monday, June 6.
Wadih, 46, is the youth national coach in athletics in Lebanon, and with his country about to implement a long-term plan focusing on youth, he is keenly absorbing ideas from the World Athletics instructor running the show for athletics coaches at the OCA Headquarters in Salmiya.
“This summer, the Lebanese Athletic Federation will put in place a five-year plan targeting children under-14 years. We are looking at this age group so as to unearth young talent and try and develop them, so that when they are in their prime, they can hopefully win medals for us on the international arena,” says Wadih.
A pool of around 300 youngsters will be initially picked, both boys and girls, across all disciplines in track and field by the end of August.
“At the moment our base is very small. We have only around six athletes in the senior national squad. We have to increase this number and that is why we will put in place this five-year plan,” reveals Wadih, a full-time school PE teacher.
In 2019, at the Under-18 West Asia Athletic Championships, Lebanon topped the 10-country standings with 11 gold medals – all won by girls – with Syria and Saudi Arabia second and third respectively.
“It is no surprise that we dominated thanks to the women. At this same level, other countries are far ahead of us when it comes to male athletes. But this does not mean that we will be focusing mainly on girls in our long-term planning, rather we will be looking at both sexes,” Wadih said.
His younger brother Wassim El-Hawly is the general secretary of the Lebanese Athletic Federation. So Wadih is confident the idea to invest in youth will be implemented and followed through.
“We need to get more youngsters involved,” says Wadih, before leaving for a practical session with other coaches from around the region.