Handball – Day 20
As I am writing my blog and taking on these 100 sports, in my mind, I am entitled to call myself either a wordsmith or a professional athlete if anybody asks me what I do. Professional athletes are not allowed to risk injury and this was the excuse I peddled out to the teachers when I was invited to line up for the mum’s race at sports day. Still fresh in my memory was the dark time which was last year’s sports day, when I was recovering from a hockey related ankle injury but still decided to participate, to show the kids that taking part was what mattered. As I was pity clapped to last place and the other mums were sticking on their prize badges, I glanced at my children, who were looking down in mortification at my efforts. This year, I had a prime excuse and I was happy to deploy it.
So, in tip top condition, I made my way down to Porth Beach to train with Newquay Handball Club. It was a beautiful evening as I walked over the golden sand to say hello. Geoff introduced me to the other players and gave me a brief description of the sport. It turned out that handball is an indoor game, so I was actually playing its sister sport, Sandball: a mixture of basketball, netball, football and much to my concern - rugby!
First up, we had a game of beach football. As the World Cup was on, we were used to seeing bronzed Brazilians playing skilfully on Copacabana beach; this was more like an un-skilled, free for all, with a pasty skinned, chubby girl running around like a headless chicken. I wasn’t sure how I was going to last the whole session, as I was exhausted already.
We moved onto an actual game and were split into teams. My poor team had to work extra hard to carry me, as I clung to the hope that there was a goal hanging position in the sport. It soon became apparent that you had to defend from the front, so I attempted to get back to help out and then ready to help out on a break. At half time, it was 4-4, so it was time for penalties. This involved throwing the ball to the keeper, who like a quarterback threw it back to you as you ran to catch it. You then had to take three steps and throw it, at speed, past the defending keeper.
This had disaster written all over it and it transpired that running; catching and counting were far out of my reach, on all levels. However, I was fashioning a role for myself as a pivot and when the ball was passed to me, I would pass it back as they carried on running – in the coaching manual this is called the “hot potato” method of passing.
Half time gave me the opportunity to talk to the guys about their club, which is relatively newly formed and about the challenges they face: attracting new players to play and sponsors to help with the expense of travelling around for league fixtures. Not only are they the only handball club in Cornwall, they are the only handball club in Devon and have to travel to places like Oxford and Swindon to compete. They are coached by renowned handball coach Jürgen Koenen, who was coaching us that evening. He described the progress the club had already made and I really admired the enthusiasm they all showed to move forward.
In the second half, I offered to swap teams to even out the imbalance but the guys were lovely and insisted that I was fine as I was. I didn’t manage to score a goal, or even get the technique of running three steps and throwing mid-air. I looked like a small, performing elephant in a zoo, waving a trunk around and tossing a ball but it didn’t matter, I had a great evening, met a great team with loads of banter and all under the backdrop of the beautiful setting sun.
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