Saudi Arabia has been working on encouraging more women to get into sports by implementing leadership changes and working to increase participation on the ground as well. In this transformative atmosphere, it perhaps comes as no surprise that Saudi women are making headlines this week, this time in Amman, Jordan, where two Saudi Arabian women, Hatoun Al-Sadhan and Ruba Al-Lehaidan, are set to participate for the first time as umpires in the Arab and West Asian badminton championships. According to Saudi Gazette, Al-Sadhan is member and an umpire in the Saudi Badminton Federation and a female coach in the first recognized badminton academy.
Speaking to Al-Arabiya.net, Al-Sadhan explained that she began her journey into badminton as a hobby – having spent most of her childhood participating in various sports, including basketball, soccer, volleyball, and squash – before taking it up professionally. She started playing the sport under the guidance of her Korean coach at the time. She also explained how the Saudi Badminton Federation has always been a key supporter “of all the women umpires, coaches and players,” helping them to develop and enhance their skills, saying, as well as providing them with “local championships and training courses that elevated our skills both as a player and as an official.”
With regards to hers and Al-Lehaidan’s selection to umpire the upcoming games in Amman, Al-Sadhan said, “Selecting me as one among the umpires is a challenge and a new opportunity for me to represent my country in this important sports event, along with an elite panel of Arab and international umpires […] My experience of becoming an umpire and then officiating in games in every aspect helped me grow as I learned not only from my mistakes but from the mistakes made by players and officials, understood the handling of some exceptional cases in counting points, in addition to becoming proficient on how to manage big competitions efficiently and skillfully.”
Over the last two years, Saudi Arabian women have been excelling more than ever in all aspects of sports. For instance, Haila Al-Farraj became the first-every woman in Saudi Arabia to become a sports commentator, Al Anoud Al Khalifi and Afnan Sabbagh who became the first-ever Saudi women to take part in the West Asia and GCC Weightlifting Championship in Oman, taking home a total of 12 medals, and Mariam Hamidaddin joined team of four women from the region and seven from Europe on the 2018 Euro-Arabian North Pole Expedition.