If I could give my teenage self two words of advice, it would be “Get Involved.” Why? When I was a teenager, I was under the mistaken belief that if you simply worked hard, people would recognise your talents and things would come your way. Whilst working hard is clearly important, without that drive to “Get Involved” and make things happen for yourself, you’ll only get so far.
This past weekend was a prime example of what can come from getting involved. It was the weekend of the national universities Handball tournament, which was held at SportHouse in London. I am not currently a student, nor am I likely to be again in the future, so I didn’t really need to be there. Yet I ended up spending pretty much the entire weekend there. My main reason for going was to catch up with some of my friends from Coventry Handball Club who were coming down with the Coventry University team, and it was great to see them again. I could have just come along as a spectator I suppose, but I wanted to be an active part of the championship, and the amount that I gained from the weekend was staggering. Here are just a few things I took away with me.
Pleasure from repaying the generosity of others
When I decided to try to found a club in Coventry, I had lots of ideas but fairly limited knowledge of the sport and particularly how it was organised in this country. Throughout my time with the club, Anselm Plummer from Warwick University had been a great help in this area in particular, and it’s certain that without his help Coventry HC wouldn’t have grown as fast as they have to date. Anselm was one of the organisers of the ABUHC championships, and so it was good to get the opportunity to repay the favour.
Becoming known to the referees
Every referee in every sport will deny this, but when it comes to 50:50 decisions, as a player it pays to be known for the right reasons by the referees. Socialising with them, helping them with the officiating by being a table official and simply knowing them by name are all things that might help me and my team in the future.
Establishing contacts at other clubs
A few sports clubs, particularly towards the top levels of professional sports, are under the mistaken impression that they don’t need other clubs, that looking after their own affairs is all they should concentrate on. But it doesn’t matter whether you are Real Madrid or Newham Flames, every club in every sport relies on other clubs in order to have competitive matches and a viable league/knockout tournament. Therefore it is always good to build some alliances with other clubs, and so being at a tournament where dozens of clubs were represented was a valuable way to spend a weekend.
Learning the game
I am still a relative novice in the sport, and so despite now being 26, the scope for improvement in my game is huge. Watching so many matches over the weekend was a great experience for my development as a player, as I gained even more appreciation of the difference between good and bad in terms of movement, technique, tactics and a few other areas that if I can learn from and put into practice should help me contribute positively to the team more regularly.
I would have quite happily paid for the food, but as a man who never needs a second invitation to some free food, the fact that I was rewarded for volunteering with two meals per day was a particular plus.
Downsides to the weekend? Well, I didn’t get to watch any of the Six Nations, which was a bit of a shame. And I didn’t really sleep on Saturday night, but overall it was a great experience, and easily my best weekend in London to date. And for anyone who says Handball is a minority sport that people in Britain don’t care about, come down to next year’s tournament and see if you still feel the same way.