Grubisic: “We never had anything like this”

EHF / Danijela Vekić

All is set for second edition of EHF’s Respect Your Talent camp in Vienna. From 16 until 18 December, All-Star team players from the Women’s Under-17 EHF EURO and Championship will have an opportunity to meet their role models and learn from first-hand what it means to be a top professional player – something they all dream of.

This special off-court training camp brings the other side of handball closer to young talents outside of the court. One of the Respect Your Talent ambassadors is Croatian goalkeeper Jelena Grubisic, who will try to pass all her knowledge and experience the bright stars of the future.

Grubisic began her career with Lokomotiva Zagreb and her determination between the posts gave her the opportunity to play for some of Europe’s top clubs including Krim, Gyor and CSM Bucuresti, as well as the national team. The highlight of her career came in 2016 when she won the DELO Champions League with CSM Bucuresti and was awarded MVP of the final tournament.

Today, she is a role model for younger generations, but how was it when she was walking in their shoes? Who taught her, who was her support and did she have opportunity to meet her role models? Grubisic reveals all that ahead of the start of the camp.

“I was happy enough to be part of Lokomotiva, a club with tradition and many good players,” she says.

“However, I am aware that not all players had an opportunity like that, I’m very grateful. I was able to play with Klaudija Bubalo and Natasa Kolega in the beginning, later with Maida Arslanagic, Lidija Horvat and Nikica Pusic; all great players. I was lucky enough that I was being able to share court and locker room with them, and I learned a lot from them, as well as my coaches.”

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“This project is very important for young players’’

This will be Grubisic’s second time at the camp in Vienna after also being part of Respect Your Talent programme during various Younger Age Category events - including in the summer in Lithuania in the photographs in this article - and she pointed out just why this project is so important.

“It is a beautiful experience for both me and young players,” says Grubisic. “I enjoy that I am able to tell my story, teach them and prepare for situations that can be of a great importance for their career.

“When I was growing up we didn’t have anything like this and it’s really a shame. I think talking to our role models back then, going through different activities as we are now, would have helped us a lot.

“When I think of me at their age, I just imagine hanging out with great handball players, ones you’re watching on TV, to be able to ask them questions about life and things off-court, it’s something unbelievable. That’s why this project is so important, and I hope it will last for a long time.

“I remember two years ago I received so many interesting questions about sports life, getting back from injuries and so on, and you can really tell it means a lot to those players to hear advice from you.”

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“I want to help young players with my experience” 

When Grubisic was growing up and was starting her handball story, women’s handball was not that popular media coverage was scarce. That’s why her role models were primarily from the men’s game.

Among those players she looked up to included Croatian star goalkeepers Venio Losert and Valter Matosevic, as well as Sweden’s golden boy Tomas Svensson.

Today, young players in women’s handball have chance to look up into best players in the world. Having the opportunity to meet your heroes and stars of the game is one of the main draws of Respect Your Talent.

“We talk about many different topics on camp and I love to inspire them how to get back from injuries, how not to give up and always push harder,” says Grubisic. “I had three big knee injuries among others and I know how mental strength and support of your family is important in that process.”

When we talk to players, they all say one thing: family is a key for everything and Grubisic is no exception.

“My biggest support was my family, especially in those beginnings,” she adds. “They drove me to training, tournaments; anywhere I needed to go, they gave everything so I can be happy and pursuit my dream. That’s why I’m here today. They are wind beneath my wings.

“I hope that we as ambassadors can help those young players, as these off-court sessions are just as important as on-court training I want for all of them to have rich handball careers and that one day they will walk in our shoes. We already learn a lot from them too, even though we are older and more experienced.”

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