Mini handball lays foundation for future generation of Serbian players
What are the chances that young kids, once they have picked up a ball with their own hands, will continue to play handball when they grow up? Arguably the bigger, the earlier they get exposed to the sport.
It is one of the reasons why the Serbian Handball Federation (RSS) has reached out to schools all across the country, asking for cooperation and offering assistance, if they include mini handball in their curriculum.
What first started as a national project in 2009, has now been supported under the European Handball Federation’s SMART development programme since September 2010.
Following a first agreement of support between the RSS and the EHF over three project phases came to an end in June after three project phases, a new agreement was signed at the EHF Conference of Presidents on 2 June 2013 in Cologne.
“When we started this project, there was almost no handball at primary schools, and the teachers weren’t very much aware of it,” remembers RSS Project Coordinator, Milan Petronijevic.
That has changed completely: By now more than 250 public elementary schools were involved and mini handball has been presented to 25,000 young students.
For the RSS it is an investment into their very own future. “When we infect kids with the handball virus, we are not doing this just to impress them, but to foster the links between the schools and clubs,” explains Petronijevic.
“Therefore the local clubs play an important role in all our activities. Mini handball is an extremely powerful tool which we have to recognise, which we have to foster and continue to use. And it is a great way to develop new players.”
To date more than 5,000 new handball players registered in Serbia as a result of the mini handball project.
The support from the European Handball came in forms of balls and bibs as well as financial support to purchase mini handball goals and also to nominate an EHF Lecturer for the sport.
Without the support of the EHF, the programme wouldn’t have been that successful. Having the backing of the EHF opened many doors for us,” says Petronijevic.
“It means a lot for us to have a partner like the EHF.”
Changing the image of the sport
Besides the mini handball presentations and activities at elementary schools, the RSS also launched regional leagues for the sport allowing kids to continue playing mini handball.
Another milestone for the project was getting the Serbian Ministry of Education on board which included a ‘mini handball seminar for school teacher and physical education teachers’ to the education seminars which Serbian teachers are obliged to attend on a regular base.
“Parents and teachers tended to avoid handball because they thought it to be very, very tough. But with mini handball where there is almost no body contact and plenty of physical activity, we have completely changed the image of the sport.”
The new SMART agreement between the RSS and the European Handball Federation for new three-year long promotion of mini handball will start in September 2013.
The basics of SMART
Initiated in 2001, SMART projects offer long-term support to developing nations via a three-year agreement.
The aim is 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.
Photos courtesy of the RSS
TEXT: EHF / ts