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EnglandScotland
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14.03.2013, 09:06
The SMART way to promote handball
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With the help of the EHF, the England Handball Association has supported 30 clubs to establish youth and junior sections
 

The SMART way to promote handball

It all started with a four-page a document back in June 2010.  “Whilst young people may get their first experience of handball at school, sustaining interest and developing exit routes are essential to ensure that young people have opportunities to continue playing handball in a community club environment,” the very first lines of the first paragraph read.

It was the foundation on which the English Handball Association (EHA) had based its idea of establishing youth and junior sections for as many as 30 clubs over the course of three years and with which they were back then approaching the European Handball Federation asking for support under the federation’s SMART programme.

SMART stands for “specific, milestones, accepted, realistic, and time-limited” and is one of the EHF’s four development programmes.

It was initiated in 2001 offering long-term support to developing nations via a three-year agreement.

The aim was to foster the development of grassroots handball for 10 to 18-year-olds based on three supporting activities: the nomination of EHF lecturers, equipment supply and limited financial project-based support.

The EHA’s idea fell on good ground; a mutual agreement with the EHF was signed already in September 2010 and speaking from his office in Warrington these days, Tom Smith, South England Development Manager and responsible for the implementation of the SMART programme, looks back at almost three successful years as the project’s third phase comes to an end in June 2013.

“The project fitted in with our national target as we want more and more young people to take up the sport,” Smith remembers.

While in the first year clubs from the national league had been the targets, the focus more and more shifted towards clubs from the development league in the second and third year with all but one club coming from that group in the third year.

Support for the clubs was, for example, given in the form of handball starter kit bags, volunteer and coach education, promotion material and participation at the national youth conference for which two EHF lecturers were nominated each year – a package that was only possible thanks to the EHF grant.

“The cooperation with the EHF has been fantastic, it has been a really good initiative that we would love to see replicated,” Tom Smith said.

“The real positive was that the funding was defined to go into different things, with the coaching seminars with top level coaches probably being the biggest pro.”

The EHA initiative has seen many clubs establishing the envisioned youth and junior sections with some teams sharing their resources and many players already rising through the ranks, knocking on the doors of the adult teams as well as occasionally even on the doors of the national team.

“A lot of that goes back to the support we received from the EHF. The learning curve has been steep sometimes and it’s a lot of commitment for new clubs but we will continue to work on it,” promises Smith.

“There are a lot of new clubs coming as we are expecting an 86 per cent rise until March 2014, both for adult and junior clubs, based on the 56 we had in summer 2012.”

“We have also seen a rapid rise in handball in schools thanks to the excellent and innovative school resources the EHA have developed for each year group. Helping increase school teams by 48 per cent.”

The handball development manager acknowledges that English handball benefitted from the sport getting such prominent coverage in the United Kingdom during the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“The number of registered members playing regular club handball has increased significantly since the London 2012 Olympic Games. This is the first time in the history of the game in England that participation has exceeded 1,000 club members.”

It is a momentum that the EHA wants to see continue for as long as possible.

“We don’t want this boost to drop off. For us it’s not an option not to stay and not continue supporting our clubs,” says Tom Smith.


TEXT: EHF / ts
 
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