Mover & Shaker | Olga & Oleg (ISR)

In Israel two people are responsible for the “Sitting Volleyball” project which continues to gain momentum. Olga Gomberg and Oleg Or have been working as a team since the beginning of the project in 2021. Each one of them has a different set of responsibilities and their own individual view, but the main goal is the same for them both.

Oleg is responsible for the practical side of things, therefore everything that sets the ground for the creation of an athletically capable sitting volleyball team, e.g. physical training sessions and the holding of public sports events for awareness.

On Olga’s shoulders lies the responsibility for all of the administrative, logistic and organizational activities, e.g. setting networks of connections with the necessary Israeli organizations and relevant figures, as well as the physical preparation of the team’s players.  Here we talk with both in our first ever double Mover & Shakers…

1 – How did you get involved in Sitting Volleyball?

Oleg – I’ve been playing volleyball since the age of 12. By the age of 40 I’d achieved lots of success in this field. After suffering physical trauma I started working as a trainer and a judge. I’ve decided to join the project immediately after hearing that there are active attempts to start sitting volleyball to Israel. I was finally able to return to this sports field!

Olga – I’ve been working in the sphere of adaptive sports for more than 20 years. At some point it was clear to me that the Israeli system doesn’t function that effectively. For many of the players who have a very high competitive potential there’s not much access to any kinds of athletic opportunities. The situation gets even worse for those who don’t want to take part in this sport competitively, but only wish to do so for their own health and pleasure. The project “Sitting Volleyball” was initiated and established by me two years ago in order to make this game and sport accessible to everyone who wishes to take part in it, no matter what their level is. In order to achieve this a small revolution needs to be made in the existing system, but we are ready for it.

2 – What is it that motivates you each day to further develop our sport?

Oleg – I took part in many kinds of sports before the trauma, and afterwards tried to find my place in different fields of paralympic sports. Even though volleyball remains my life’s main passion and love. I wish that people with disabilities would also be able to find themselves in, enjoy and take part in this wonderful sport and game. I’m very happy that I can use my vast experience and savvy in this field for a big and important goal such as this.

Olga – Aside from the training, we also take part in many public and educational events. I see how these events help change the minds of those who have previously thought that this game is boring.  Our goal is not only achieving victories in competitions, but also to affect and speed up the creation of a more accessible, inclusive environment for people with disabilities. Also, we strive to change the general attitude towards adaptive and paralympic sports on both state and individual levels. For me these are the most important things to strive for.

3 – What has been your biggest achievement in Sitting Volleyball to date?

Oleg – We started our project not long ago at all. For now we mainly try to break through the bureaucracy, convince major Israeli sports organizations to support us and our goal. Our players are just at the very beginning of the journey. There’s still a very long way ahead, but the most important thing is to keep the enthusiasm alive and for everyone to enjoy the way, because that, after all, is what will help them and all of us achieve great heights.

Olga – Currently we have two mixed groups (men and women) of beach volleyball, as well as one female group training inside. The general level of physical disability in the female group is a little higher than the standard norms. Despite that, these women also happily throw the ball over the net. The fact that the training sessions happen regularly is already a big achievement for us.

4 – How would you explain Sitting Volleyball to someone in 12 words or less?

Oleg – The game itself is very dynamic. The players constantly have to be very aware of their surroundings and always put all of their skills into practice.

Olga – This is the most body positive kind of sport of all, as it doesn’t require the use of any auxiliary fixtures or devices aside from the ball and the net.

5 – Where/how do you see Sitting Volleyball in 10 years time?

Oleg – Israel takes part in a Paralympic Games and nothing less!

Olga – The goals that I’m focused on right now are a near-future kind of goals. Our next step is to achieve the official recognition needed for our project to grow its wings. In the meantime, due to a lack of official recognition, all of our activities rely on volunteer work. This limits our work and abilities as well as slows down the process. 

The ‘Movers & Shakers’ initiative is aimed at giving more recognition to those that are developing Sitting Volleyball around the globe.

It can be anyone working in the sport, whether they have excelled at promoting it, ran a successful competition, started a new club/activity, organised events to increase awareness, influenced people for the greater benefit of the sport or a combination of the above.

Please do let us know if you know of someone who deserves to be highlighted by e-mailing with the following:

  • Full name
  • e-mail address
  • Country in which they mainly work
  • A short justification of why you are putting them forward

Their story will also offer others a chance for others to learn from their good practise and use what works in their area for even greater benefit.  This is your chance to give recognition to those who promote and build the sport of sitting volleyball.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Previous Mover & Shakers:

Robinson Tunwesigye (UGA)

Isabelle Collot (FRA)

Daniel Lopez (ESP)

Anton Raimondo (RSA)

Nello Calleja (MLT)

Richard Stacey-Chapman (GBR)

Robert Grylak (GER)

Elliot Blake (USA)

Stephane Girodat (FRA)