SMC's International Volleyball Ambassador
This May, Michael O'Hara, a former Santa Monica College volleyball coach and current assistant coach for the women's tennis team, was invited to speak at the eleventh annual "Enriching the Middle East's Economic Future" seminar in Doha, Qatar to discuss the importance of volleyball as one of world's fastest growing sports and the meaningful role it could play in the lives of middle eastern citizen's. While in Qatar, O'Hara addressed a ballroom of 1000 people that included the leadership of the 10 Middle Eastern countries as well as representatives from 30 western and eastern European countries and 11 Asian countries.
O'Hara, a former collegiate, professional and Olympic volleyball player, hopes that his book, "Volleyball: The Fastest Growing Sport in the World," will help introduce the sport the Middle East. The book is currently being sold in the three best bookstores in Qatar.
One of his main goals is to get children, boys and girls alike, involved in not only volleyball, but sports in general. "More kids are growing up overweight and unhealthy all over the world," said O'Hara, "too many kids are captivated by toys, games and cell phones."
He emphasized that if the money isn't spent now on the health and future of citizens by building proper facilities, that twice that amount would be spent in the future on hospitals and doctors.
O'Hara proposed that each of the ten Middle-Eastern countries work with their local school systems to add air conditioned gymnasiums that can not only be used for volleyball, but soccer and basketball as well. If the schools should not support the idea, O'Hara suggests that the local hotels could build the proper facilities.
However, in the event that those ideas are not set into motion he thinks it would be fitting to start an independent youth sports department to build and administrate this program that he feels is vital.
"I thinks it's important to have these resources," said O'Hara, "The sport is growing and I'd like to see it growing faster, I think it's the best answer because it's so safe and injury free and it helps both women and men."
O'Hara is no stranger to starting successful sports programs. In 1967 he helped form the American Basketball Association (ABA) which later merged with the National Basketball Association to form the NBA we know today.
He was also instrumental in making volleyball an Olympic sport in 1964 and competed in the first Olympic volleyball matches at the Tokyo games as a member of the U.S. Men's Volleyball team. "That was me," said O'Hara in regards to getting volleyball in the Olympics, "I plugged hard for that one."
Overall, his plan is to get his book into the hands of as many people as he can. "Volleyball was very good to me," said O'Hara, "Anything that helps the sport of volleyball around the world is home cooking."