Tag Archives: Newham Flames

The ABUHC Championships

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.


A Question of Habits

When I was much younger, tennis was at the same time one of my favourite sports and one of the most frustrating. During my final year at primary school, I started playing tennis once per week even through the winter (playing indoors naturally), and the standard of my game improved a lot. By the end of the summer I was playing to a pretty decent standard.

Then came the problem – I stopped playing throughout the winter once I reached secondary school. From this point on, every summer told the same story. I’d start out incredibly rusty, and was playing by instincts rather than a game based on good habits. I’d struggle to anticipate the play, meaning I was too slow to chase down shots that really shouldn’t have been winners. I’d forget to adjust my grip for the backhand, so that side, which was never a strength, was suddenly a real weakness. And in terms of power, I did what I always do, and take the option of if in doubt, whack it, and so sent a lot of shots long.

Eventually I would pick up those old habits again. I’d chase down the shots, stay in the rally on my backhand, and shots that were going long were now dropping just inside the baseline. The problem was it would usually take me a few weeks to get to this point, and because my school had a particularly short summer term, I’d only have a few weeks to enjoy playing good tennis before stopping playing until the next summer.

All of which brings me to my first Handball match for Newham Flames which took place over the weekend. Whilst I’ve only had about a month off from playing Handball, because I’m fairly new to the sport the good habits that I had picked up have not yet imbedded themselves inside my brain. From feeling like a moderately experienced player in my last game (no doubt helped that in that particular game, I was a relatively experienced player), someone who could be depended on to produce a certain standard of performance, I went into the game feeling like a novice because I hadn’t played for a month.

At this point, instinct takes over. And unfortunately for me, my instincts are derived from a sport that I did play a lot when I was young, rugby. My defensive discipline in the first 10 minutes of the game was very poor. Twice my opponent got past me, but in a position where the shot was difficult. In these situations, what you are supposed to do is let them shoot, and if they score, so be it. What I did was to give him a nudge in the back both times. It wasn’t malicious, but that rugby mentality of not letting the man get past you at almost any cost was coming through. I wasn’t penalised, but easily could have been. Eventually my luck ran out though. I made a defensive hit that initially was clean, but as the attacker wrestled to get through, my arms slipped to around his neck. Again, in this situation what you should do is let him go, but again that’s not what I would have done in a rugby match, so what I actually did was maintain my grip and try to wrestle him to the floor. My first ever 2 minute suspension was well deserved.

Thankfully as the game progressed, I felt those good habits that I had learned in my time with Coventry Handball Club slowly start to come back to me. I started to use move my feet as the primary method of defence rather than keeping my feet static and grab with the arms. I didn’t pose too much of a threat in attack – it was the weakness in my game anyway, and I was playing with my teammates for the first time so I was unfamiliar with their playing style – but I thought I put in a solid stint second half defensively.

And then came the moment to turn my game around – we were awarded a penalty and with the game effectively lost, my teammates gave me the opportunity to take it to register my first goal for the club. It was a gesture I appreciated, but I can’t say I was in the right frame of mind to take it. All I was thinking of was to make sure I didn’t take the shot before the whistle or cross the line, either of which would have constituted an illegal penalty. And I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss the target.

Both of these goals were achieved. Unfortunately what I didn’t achieve was scoring a goal. My shot was a weak effort, and even though it was going towards the top corner, the keeper made what looked like a fairly comfortable save.

Still, onwards and upwards. We lost the game but we have a chance to put things right next week. I’m sure my game will improve, both as those good habits start to come back to me and I start to get used to my teammates’ style of play. But what I’d really like next week is to score a scrappy goal early on, just to rewrite the statistic of never having scored in a competitive match. Once I’ve got that out of the way, the confidence to trust my abilities will grow and grow.