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NEWS: The key theme of grassroots handball was introduced as the fifth Scientific Conference began in Cologne on Thursday

Breathing new life in to grassroots handball

Three keynotes speeches on grassroots handball emphasised the message behind the importance of introducing grassroots initiatives at the fifth EHF Scientific Conference in Cologne on Thursday.

The tagline for the anniversary event, Handball for Life, was particularly apt following the first session of presentations on day one at the German Sport University.

Special attention was paid to the EHF’s own grassroots philosophy, plus those incorporating social aesthetics and that of the successful Handball 4 Health project.

Handball 4 Health

Susana Povoas led the discussion on the Handball 4 Health Project, an initiative which began in 2013 and that is currently being used in Portugal and Denmark with the help of both national federations and the EHF.

“Handball doesn’t need to end at a higher age,” Povoas told the audience, as she demonstrated how the project in particular helped improve the physical fitness and well-being of a group of men and women aged over 50 in Portugal who had no previous experience of playing handball.

The project’s intention is to show how handball can not only help improve fitness but also the general well-being and happiness of even in those people who had never thought of playing handball before.

The small-sided matches, using the GOALCHA ball, has led to those men and women participating seeing a decrease in body mass and body weight.

However, the most important change seen in the participants was their general well-being: they actually felt better.

“I feel like superwoman, I feel like a different person,” said one player. “Handball is like a treatment that doesn’t exist in the pharmacies.”

Social aesthetics success

From the older generation to the younger, next generation, Professor Michael Musalak from the Institute for Social Aesthetics and Mental Health at the Sigmund Freund University in Vienna, delivered a talk on the importance of public and mental health with grassroots handball methods.

Prof. Musalak pinpointed the aspect of ‘vitality’ within young players, not just focusing on their talent or physical condition, but how playing handball at a young age and being part of a group can help improve the chance of them enjoying a rich and more fulfilling life.

“Social aesthetics in grassroots handball can help youngsters flourish,” said Prof. Musalak. “At the very least it can be the opportunity to make good friends, but it can also help develop some wonderful handball players.”

No excuses!

The EHF’s Beata Kozlowska explained why it is important for clubs, federations and schools should implement grassroots handball.

The EHF’s own grassroots project plays a vital role in sending important messages to the greater handball community, aiming to promote the sport and reaching a community that can encourage lifelong habits and, ultimately creates health benefits.

Kozlowska further highlighted the good work carried out by many other organisations and federations, including the Handball 4 Life project.

However, the discussion also centred on the need to create a personal and active connection to the sport, helping those involved in all areas – from the very top, including teams involved in the EHF Champions League, to the very bottom, where education starts: in schools.

“The EHF is committed to supporting all federations investing in grassroots handball,” she said. “The projects we have helped so far have been very successful in spreading the positive message of how handball can help people of all ages and background stay active and engaged. There are no excuses.”

The final word from Kozlowska was reserved specifically for parents – whose support at such a crucial time in youngsters’ lives is particularly important.

“Parents are the best advocators and teachers,” she said. “Being a coach is one thing but at grassroots level we need additional values. Parents are there for their children, they want them to be part of something bigger, so if we can approach parents and have them on board, that will be help us achieve even more success.”

Day one of the fifth Scientific Conference saw all keynotes speakers take to the stage. You can watch them all back by watching the video below.

Day two throws off at 09:00 CET on Friday, and all the presentations will be available to watch live across the EHF CAN Facebook and YouTube channels.


TEXT: EHF/ab