Handball team in action

Focus on ... handball

School links enable sport to engage communities and young people

The Scottish Handball Association (SHA) have led by example in their commitment to growing their sport through community engagement.

Before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the SHA hosted several national school championships throughout the academic year.

Scottish schools handball

Due to the popularity of these events, combined with the development work promoting handball in schools, many local authorities now work alongside community handball clubs to host the qualifiers for both primary and secondary school events.

Using this connection, the SHA aims to bring together schools and clubs to create a handball community and a strong handball pathway for young people. 

Scottish Handball CEO Stevie Neilson said: "A key strategic priority for the Scottish Handball Association is promoting our game to young people, and many of our clubs are doing great work to help us achieve this."

Pre-pandemic initiatives

Keen to increase engagement at primary school level, handball clubs made a strong effort to strengthen the links with local schools. 

The Tryst 77 Handball Club in Cumbernauld took a lead through their school engagement programme, which included a six-week after-school initiative set up by Tryst coach Dennis Brown and local Active Schools coordinator Cara McBrearty. 

A school handball sessionIn addition, six volunteer coaches rolled out Tryst’s ‘Target Gold Framework’ which seeks to equip schools with a fun yet structured approach to introducing handball skills to young people.

As a result of this development work, Whitelees Primary School introduced ‘Handball Wednesday’ where Target Gold volunteers initially ran weekly sessions for 120 pupils throughout the day. Once established, teachers took over the running of the programme so that the club could focus on implementing the same model in more primary schools. 

This culmination of work across primary schools in the area led to a handball festival with almost 100 pupils taking part in February 2020. It’s hoped that the work in this programme will lead to a Cumbernauld school league in the future.

Similar initiatives were developed by East Kilbride’s EK82 Handball Club and West Lothian Handball Club, helping them reach hundreds of young people in their local areas. The SHA and clubs across Scotland are looking forward to restarting these programmes when the time is right.

Reacting to restrictions

While the pandemic has put a lot of this work within schools on hold, the SHA have adapted to ensure their sport has continued to put community engagement at the heart of their work.

To adapt and give schools the best chance of delivering handball, the SHA modified their introductory coaching courses, known as the ‘FUNdamentals of Handball’ (Level 1 & 2) to outdoor delivery and sought to equip teachers and young leaders with the skills to deliver handball recreationally, enabling the sport to be played with an outdoor alternative. 

These courses were a huge hit in schools with 137 sports leaders (S5 & S6 pupils) and teachers completing the course from October to December, with 15 additional courses set to take place once the restrictions allow.

This creative approach to supporting coaches in schools has been a key step in empowering schools to deliver handball outside when possible.

Looking to the future, the SHA is hopeful that the strong connections with schools and clubs will ensure that handball will continue to develop across Scotland’s communities.

Find out more 

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