Week Four

Wow, what a hectic night Thursday night was, but for all the right reasons. It started a little bit earlier than usual for me, as we had the BBC online team coming down, so for 90 minutes before the session we were doing various interviews and photos. You can read the article here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-19759719 . Once again, I’d like to thank the BBC for their coverage, and hopefully it will help us bring in a few more players, possibly help us attract some sponsorship and generally raise the level of awareness about the club.

Thursday’s session was also our first since Coventry University returned for their new academic year. We’d had a stall at their Sports and Societies Fayre on Wednesday, and from that we knew that there was huge interest amongst the students in playing Handball. How much of this interest would be converted into attendance though, we really weren’t sure. As it turned out, quite a lot. Having been getting around the 20 mark for each of our first three sessions, our attendance suddenly rocketed to over 50. Given that it was Freshers’ Week, we’ve also had plenty of other students telling us they couldn’t make this week’s session but will definitely attend next week. I think it’s fair to say that there is enough interest, and equally plenty of talent, to form a club of their own, although we’ll always be more than happy to see any student from either Coventry or Warwick Uni attend any of our sessions.

I’d be lying to say that trying to run a session that everyone would enjoy didn’t provide a few challenges given the numbers, but you can’t think of negatives when a turnout like that offers so many positives. So, we made the best use of the time and space we had available. First, we split the group into two. Those who had no previous Handball experience went into one half of the court and we ran through the basic skills and rules in much the same way as we had done for our very first session. The other half of the court was full of those who had some previous Handball experience, and they went through some new drills that Lukasz has put together. I didn’t get the chance to try them myself as I was working with the new players, but from what I saw they looked like a lot of fun.

Then, as we’ve been doing for the past two weeks, half way through the session we started playing games. Obviously the option to rotate three teams as we had been doing was no longer available, so we organised five teams of around ten, with each team using rolling subs and playing two matches each. It wasn’t quite as neat and tidy as last week, but it seemed to work.

One of the other big positives to come from the attendance figure was that we are now in a position to offer additional sessions. We’ve got the first of these booked for this Monday (1st October), at 20:30-21:30. Venue and cost will be the same as the Thursday session. For a variety of tedious reasons we have booked this session initially as a one-off, though we’re definitely hoping to run it as a regular session. As to what we do with this extra session, well, ultimately it’s down to you. The extra time gives us plenty of different options, so if you turn up on Monday we’ll ask at the start how you want the session to progress and tailor our session accordingly. Hopefully we’ll see plenty of you there, and as always if you have any questions, email me at coventryhandball@gmail.com.

Finally, once again I can thank every one who attended Thursday night’s session. Hopefully you will all want to come back to our sessions over the next few weeks. Those days leading up to the first session where we were worried we wouldn’t get enough people for a proper game seem like a long time ago now.

Colin.

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BBC Online This Thursday

Today’s good news came in the form of a phone call. Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to arrange a feature on the club with one of the BBC’s online team, and today I got the confirmation I’d been looking for that it is happening this Thursday. We think this article could be a great opportunity for us to raise the profile of our club, attract a few new players and potentially even some interest from sponsors, which would help us pay for some of the kit and equipment that we still need.

The guy who is writing the piece is looking to talk to a few of the people who’ve come to the sessions, and so if anybody who has attended at least one of the sessions so far would be interested in talking to him, send me an email via coventryhandball@gmail.com and I will send you the relevant details.

Hope to see you all on Thursday,

Colin.

Week Three Report

So, we’ve now racked up three hours of Handball sessions at Coventry Handball Club, and the latest session was another great success. We had more new faces through the door, and the standard of play improved yet again. Between week one and week two we seemed to eradicate the hopeful long distance passes. Between week two and week three, we seemed to eradicate the hopeful, prolonged dribbles. There was also clear growing appreciation of the tactical side of the game – defences held their shape well and the attacking team were forced to move the ball well in order to create a clear shooting opportunity. As the basic skills and the tactical awareness continue to improve, gradually the pace at which we are able to play the game will increase also, and with that the overall quality will go up and up.

We’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made so far, but we want everyone who attends our sessions to feel like they’re getting back from the sessions everything that they are looking for. Therefore we welcome any feedback about what you’d like to see us do during the sessions, and last night we got a few responses. There were requests for more time spent playing games, more time spent working on the tactical side of the game and different drills prior to the game.

To deal with the first two requests, clearly they would appear to contradict each other and it is difficult to fit everything into just the one hour. Therefore the solution we are currently investigating is to run an additional session at some stage during the week. The benefits of this would be considerable. We would have one session as a fun session, where after a brief warm-up we would spend the majority of the hour playing matches, thus providing more time playing games for those that are looking for that. We would then use the other session as a skills session, where we devote far more time to practicing skills, improving tactics and then perhaps just have a short game at the end. We think this solution can offer something for everyone, but unfortunately we are not quite up to the numbers we need before we can economically justify the additional session. So, if you’d like to see us trial this two session plan, bring some friends along so that we’ve got the numbers in place to do so.

Until that is the case though, we need to work with what we’ve got, and I think on balance the current split of 30 minutes warm up and skills, 30 minutes of games is about right. We do accept though that the passing and shooting drills over the past couple of weeks have been a bit too similar, so we are looking to bring some different drills into that first part of the session to freshen things up and practice a few different skills too. If there is any aspect of the game specifically that you would like to work on, let us know and we can devise drills to work on it.

The final request last night was for some fitness work to be incorporated into the sessions. With time on the court limited enough already, I’m reluctant to take any more time out of the sessions to work specifically on fitness, especially as once the pace of the games starts to increase the fitness aspect will build naturally. However, we would be willing to hold some specialist fitness sessions if there is sufficient demand. We’ve got someone in place to run such a session, so if that is something that sounds like a good idea then get in touch and we can make it happen.

If there’s anything that I haven’t touched on here that you’d like to see us do at the sessions, let me know via the usual email address of coventryhandball@gmail.com . Thanks again to everyone who attended last night – hopefully we’ll see you all there again next week, and keep an eye out on Monday or Tuesday next week for any announcements regarding if and when the BBC will be at next week’s session.

By Colin Littlewood, Chair of Coventry Handball Club.

Week Two Progress

Last night was our second session, and if anything it was even more encouraging than for the first session. Getting people to try something new can occasionally be a challenge, but in the long run the most important factor is to keep the people who have already gotten involved interested. With that in mind, it was great to see so many of the people who turned up for the first session turn up again last night. We had quite a few new faces too, and they all came straight in with high standards in terms of the basic Handball skills. These two factors meant that we were able to spend less time on the practice drills, and were able to spend half of our session playing games. We had enough for three teams, so everyone got about 20 minutes game time with 10 minutes to recover mixed into that. Last week the games had a distinctly route one flavour, but almost instantly this week the games settled into a shorter passing, more considered style which was a lot closer to the sport we all enjoyed watching at the Olympics. Throughout the games, the tactics continued to improve, with a more disciplined approach to defence starting to emerge. Practicing your skills is important, as is discussing the tactical side of the game, but last night’s session really reinforced the fact that there really is no substitute to actually getting out there and experiencing the game first-hand.

Such was the rate of improvement by the end of the session from the position we were at last week, it has encouraged me to think that our first game might not be too far away. Before we get to that stage though, there are a few roles within the club that we need to fill, and an opportunity to get more involved in the club for anyone looking to do so.

Welfare Officer

This is an important role, not least because it is one of the mandatory club roles set out by the England Handball Association (EHA) when applying for the membership that is needed to play in their official tournaments. I’m not going to pretend that this is the most glamourous role in the club, but it is an important one as we are a community club, and therefore high standards in terms of equality, diversity and inclusivity are key. Also, it’s the type of role that looks good on a CV, as my recent experience has taught me that equality, diversity and inclusivity are major priorities for a number of organisations at the moment.

Head of Women’s Development

Although the standard was high and the numbers were up on last week, we are still some way short of the numbers that we need to attract in order to run a proper women’s team. Therefore there is an opening for anyone who thinks they would like to focus on the task on getting more women to our sessions and molding the team into a competitive unit.

Head Coach

We’ve basically got two options in terms of appointing a coach. Our first option would be to place in advert for a Handball club, although qualified Handball coaches are fairly thin on the ground in Britain. If anyone who has the qualifications and lives within travelling distance of Coventry is interested, please get in touch. However, I think the more realistic option is to develop coaches from within. Both myself and Paul are looking to attend an EHA coaching course session in the not-too-distant future, and we would welcome anyone else who would like to attend to join us.

Social Secretary

It might not be a stated requirement of the EHA, but it is definitely a stated requirement of Coventry Handball Club. We judge our success as a club as much by off-court activities as by what happens on it, and so we’re looking for someone to taken charge of the social aspect of the club, so that we can become a club in every sense of the word.

Sponsorship Co-ordinator

Once we reach the stage of playing competitive games, we want to look like a team by wearing a team kit. Having done a little bit of investigation in this area already, it looks like the basic of a home top could be acquired for less than £10 each, and we could pick up a home and away kit (tops and shorts) for around £30 per head (potentially less depending on quantities). However, if we could find a sponsor willing to pay for part or even the whole cost of the kits and other equipment, that would be great. If anybody knows anyone who they think would be interested in getting involved as a sponsor, get in touch. If not, then the role of approaching potential sponsors is an important one.

If you’re interested in any of these roles, please email me at coventryhandball@gmail.com . There are also opportunities in less formal roles in terms of photography or video editing if anyone has any background in these areas. If anyone wants to get involved but isn’t really interested in these roles, please get in touch and we can find a role for you. All that remains to be said is thank you once again for everyone who attended the sessions – hopefully we should have exciting news to be able to announce at the next session, so we hope to see you there. And finally, here are a few of the photos from last week’s session that I didn’t have the chance to put on last week’s blog.

By Colin Littlewood, Chair of Coventry Handball Club.

The Story of the First Session

It’s been a bit of a hectic week personally. Hectic, but a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding one. In the middle of the week, I had a great trip down to watch the Paralympics at the ExCel, but the week started with a day spent contacting various parts of the local media, hoping to gain a bit of coverage that would help us raise awareness of the new club. In Coventry, we are lucky to live in a city of 300,000 people, and we are probably the nearest public Handball club for comfortably over half a million people. With such a large catchment area, I am sure there are plenty of people who want to play Handball – but they won’t come if they’re not aware of the club. The response from the media was almost instant, and on Tuesday Paul and myself went onto the Annie Othen show on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire radio station to discuss the club. We’ve got more media interest in the pipeline, so hopefully awareness of the club will grow rapidly over the next few weeks and months. And for any of the other newly-established Handball clubs out there looking to attract media attention to their club, my advice is that the magic words when pitching the story to them are “Olympic Legacy.”

On Tuesday afternoon, I was talking to a different person in the media about potential coverage. He said he liked the Olympic legacy angle, but our turnout would determine whether or not he’d be able to run the story. If we got a strong turnout, then it’s an interesting Olympic legacy story. If there were just five or six of us throwing a Handball around in a sports centre, that’s not really a strong enough story for him to run. I totally understood his point of view, and however hard we’d worked promoting the club, I’ll be honest and say there was a part of me that was worried that no one would show up.

It was therefore a delightful surprise to find that not only did people turn up, they turned up in numbers that surpassed all our expectations for the first session. In total, there were 20 of us there, 17 of whom were playing Handball for the first time. The exceptions were our secretary Duane, who was there in a non-playing capacity, and two of the guys from Warwick University Handball Club. We’ve been very lucky to be able to have the support of Warwick University HC in establishing this club, and last night we were able to utilise their goals, balls and most importantly expertise in running the session. We spent most of the session going through basic skills and rules, which was crucial stuff as the quicker we all become comfortable passing, shooting, dribbling, defending and appreciating tactics, the more fun playing games will become.

Not only was the turn out encouraging, the standard was also very encouraging. Okay, so the tactics were fairly route one once we started playing the game, but tactics in any sport always take time to learn and refine. But the basic skills were good. This again comes back to why Handball is a great sport to get involved in – almost everyone has thrown a ball of some description around in the past, and so the initial standard of the passing and shooting was strong. We might not be in a position to challenge for a place in the Super 8 any time soon, but after the session I’m confident we could play a game to a reasonably good standard in the not too distant future. Enthusiasm was high, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Hopefully everyone will come back next week, and we’d love to see a few new faces too.

Things didn’t all run entirely smoothly – we had a bit of trouble locating the hall we’d booked, and the ‘Getting to know everyone’ part of the evening didn’t exactly work out properly. Next week we’re going to introduce names into the passing drills to help rectify the problem. And whilst the turnout last night was better than we could have hoped for, we’re still on the look out for players, especially women. But the encouragement of the turnout and the level of skill on show has allowed us to start moving our attention towards the next phase for the club – registering the club for competitions, looking for sponsorship and a coach, sourcing a club kit and various other challenges that lie ahead. So, Paul, Duane and myself were in a very positive mood in the pub after the session as we reflected on the successes of the first session, so all that remains for me to say is thank you to everyone who turned up and made the session a success. We’re very much hoping to see you all again, same time, same place next week.

By Colin Littlewood, Chair of Coventry Handball Club.