Iran’s Maedeh Borhani Esfahani and Uganda’s Shilla Omuriwe to join Cohort 4 as Kenya’s Catherine Mabwi and Italy’s Federica Tonon share their positive experience in Cohort 1

Iran women’s national team captain and FIVB Level 1 coach Maedeh Borhani Esfahani will join Cohort 4 of the IOC’s WISH programme (Photo credits: AVC)

The FIVB has chosen Iran’s Maedeh Borhani Esfahani and Ugandan coach Shilla Omuriwe  to join Cohort 4 of the Women in Sport High-performance (WISH) pathway programme designed to empower female coaches.

WISH is a mentorship and training programme jointly supported by Olympic Solidarity and a number of International Federations (IF). It aims to help female coaches progress into high-performance coaching roles at national, continental and international competitions, including major events such as World Championships and the Olympic Games. 

The programme aligns with the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) long-term commitment to advancing gender equality and inclusion by promoting women’s leadership in sport. The 21-month programme gives participants access to leadership training, sport-specific training and mentoring led by their IFs, and engagement with the National Olympic Committees (NOCs).

Omuriwe and Borhani, who will have Canada’s national women’s team head coach Shannon Winzer as their sports specific mentor, will represent volleyball in Cohort 4, following in the footsteps of Kenya’s Catherine Mabwi and Italy’s Federica Tonon who participated in Cohort 1.

An elated Omuriwe, who recently guided Uganda’s Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) women’s team to the league title, expressed her optimism that the WISH programme will be her ladder to coaching at a higher level.

“I am very grateful to the FIVB for giving me this opportunity. I’m eager to learn more about leadership, meet female coaches from all parts of the world and hear about their experiences,” said Omuriwe who also serves as the coach of Uganda men’s national team.

“I hope this course will open more doors for me in my career since I’ve always wanted to work in a more structured system that embraces technology in player development. I hope my journey will inspire women in Uganda and Africa that you can excel if you put work into your craft,” she added.

For Iranian Borhani, 34, she is hoping that the WISH programme will help her transition fully into coaching after she retires from professional volleyball.

“It’s a really intense programme from what I have read, and it has come at the right time for me. I love coaching and I hope this programme will help me contribute to my country as I prepare to retire. There is a lot of talent in Iran, but they lack good coaches to develop them,” said Borhani, who captained Iran to a silver medal at the 2022 Islamic Solidarity Games.

Kenya’s Mabwi and Italy’s Tonon, who are set to graduate in January 2024, both shared their positive experiences in the programme. Both coaches had Louise Bawden, beach volleyball Olympian and FIVB Athletes’ Commission member, as their sport specific mentor.

“It’s an interesting programme because by exchanging ideas with coaches from other sports, it becomes clear that women face similar challenges. This has made me stronger and even more confident in myself. 

I’ve learnt a lot from my mentors, especially in terms of having a flexible mindset, thinking broadly when faced with challenges and the importance of collaboration in the decision-making process,” said the former Kenya national team player.

“It has also helped me in networking and making new friends. I hope to pass on this knowledge to female coaches and empower them during coaching courses,” said Mabwi, who is also a FIVB Instructor.

Kenya’s Catherine Mabwi (fourth left) and Italy’s Federica Tonon (fifth right) are part of Cohort 3 of IOC’s WISH programme and will graduate in January 2024. (Photo credits: IOC)

Meanwhile, Tonon said the course is a great step in closing the gap in the male-dominated field of coaching.

“It’s a great programme and we need to have more women taking part. Women will always have a different point of view compared to men, and they have to raise their voice about this to get more support in this field dominated by men,” noted Tonon, who served as Team Manager of Italy’s women’s national team between 2019 and 2020. 

“I’ve learnt a lot about managing larger groups and taking care of personal stuff especially among female players to ensure it doesn’t affect the team’s performance. You can have the right players but without chemistry in the team it’s like having two nice shoes but they are all for the right foot,” she underlined half-jokingly.

Olympic Solidarity is investing USD 1 million in the WISH Programme, and will run four cohorts during the current quadrennium, benefiting approximately 100 coaches.


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