Sports Spotlight: UKC Handball

A sport for anybody, though not many of us have ever tried it.

UKC Handball is in full preparation mode for their National Final competitions on 2 and 3 March, but they took some time out to share with us more about their sport and what it’s like to be a part of their club—the impression we received, and we hope you’ll find the same, was friendly, inclusive and fun.

Handball teams consist of 6 outfield players and a goalkeeper, who pass a ball using their hands and attempt to throw in it the goal of the opposing team; it’s a sport where it’s simple to grasp the rules, although harder to master. Leon Bohn, UKC Handball’s Treasurer, sums up the sport as “like Basketball but with a goal”, and while he acknowledges some physical contact and body checks are involved, he stresses nothing to the extent of Rugby. It’s a fast-paced game requiring strength, speed, and agility and therefore an excellent workout in itself. Swift gameplay often leads to high scores. For this reason, it is not unusual for each side to generate 20 or more goals a game; it seems using your hands is more exciting than using your feet.

Alex Elena, President of UKC Handball, shares how she entered the world of Handball: “I started when I was around 6 years old, growing up in Romania. Handball is very popular in Eastern Europe”. In the UK, however, Handball is only just emerging on the scene. No previous experience is necessary to join the club so it’s okay if you have never played before—most members join UKC Handball in the same position.

Erasmus students, Daniel and George, were first attracted to join the club by UKC Handball’s welcoming stand at freshers, which led them to sign up: “Everyone was very open and friendly at the taster sessions. The coaches are great, you’ll pick it up in no time.” Freshers, Postgraduates and Erasmus students are plenty in number, adding to the diverse nature of the club; taking full advantage of this great mix, the club organised an ‘International food evening’, which was a huge hit.

UKC Handball is a mixed club, with all the boys’ and girls’ teams training together on Mondays from 8pm - 10pm, Friday’s from 8am- 10am, and Saturday’s from 10am - 12pm. Sessions often end with a mini-game, so there’s always the opportunity to test out your competitive edge, without having to represent the club in outside competitions.

Unusually, rather than competing at BUCS, England Handball hold the University Championships instead; the tournament consists of 2 regional qualifying rounds, taking place in November and February, and the fiercely fought National Final is shortly coming up in March. The competition has been steadily growing and last year attracted a considerable 60 teams from 25 institutions.

BUCS’s, however, did recently confirm a plan to officially hold the event for its inaugural occasion in 2020; undeniably a sought-after triumph for the University Handball community. The University Championships utilise initial seeding rounds to split the teams up into the Cup, Plate, and Shield competitions; this ensures the tournament is open for all levels of players and clubs, as everyone has a greater chance at success. Bohn contends, “It’s competitive, but because it’s not BUCS, it’s not overly serious. Everyone has a good time together!”

The Southern qualifying rounds and the National Final all take place in Medway, making competing extremely convenient and cheap for UKC Handball. Teams play all 4 games, with 2 halves of 20 minutes, in one day.

Participating in first Southern qualifying round in November, UKC’S Men’s 1s and 2s put in strong performances to both finish 3rd overall. However, the Men’s 1s put on an even better display in the second qualifying round, demolishing all opposition to win all their games.

Josh, a player in the Men 1s team, notes: “It took us a game to get into it, but then we smashed the second game and kept up our winning streak.” Teammate Matt agrees: “the qualifying rounds went really well”, although cautious to say too much before the finals, added: “I’m quite nervous, as it’s a big step up to the next bracket”.

The girl’s team is currently in its infancy as most of its players last year were third years and are no longer around; in 2018, the team achieved an impressive 2nd in the National Finals—these new girls have a lot to aspire to and the same coaches to help them on their path.

Unlike BUCS, competitions aren’t every week, providing an opportunity to fully prepare for a long-term goal. That said, UKC Handball have organised some successful friendlies with neighbouring London Universities, including Imperial and UCL, so that their new members can gain some match experience.

Sound like a sport you’d enjoy? Pop along to a session as this friendly bunch will guarantee you’ll have a great time on and off the court.

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