Handball is getting a leg-up in North Devon

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By North Devon Journal | Thursday, October 17, 2013, 02:00

HANDBALL

Mark Jenkin

DASHING from one end of a sportshall to the other at punishing pace, handball has been described as a bleep test with balls.

The fitness benefits and frantic action have long made it a popular sport across Europe where millions of players regularly take part.

In the UK, the profile has always been much smaller but, after the success of the London 2012 Olympics, handball has been given a leg-up.

The sport is spreading to North Devon where, thanks to a coaching organisation based in Torridge, a new French coach and plenty of enthusiasm, there has been a surge in interest.

Since Handball Devon started free taster sessions in May, 435 children from Torrington, South Molton, Barnstaple, Chulmleigh and Bideford have had the opportunity to play the sport for the first time. Aym Dupuy is passing on his knowledge and passion.

"The thing I like about this sport is that it involves everyone," he said. "Everyone attacks, everyone defends, everyone is active and no one is left on the side.

"It's a bit like the bleep test – from one end to the other really quickly. It's really good for cardio and kids love it because everyone gets the ball and everyone gets a chance to score a goal."

Aym, who lives in Bideford, has 15 years' playing experience across the channel with Côtes d'Armor and Brittany.

"In France you play handball from the age of 5 until 16 when you finish your studies," he said. "When I was 8 I joined a club and I never looked back.

"It is massive in Europe. It is the second most-played sport for males and the third most-played for females. For some reason it never took off in England."

Until now. Such is the interest at East-the-Water Primary School that handball is now part of the PE curriculum with formal coaching every week. The school has two fully-subscribed after-school clubs.

Two community sessions for adults take place weekly at Kingsley School in Bideford and, thanks to a grant from Active Devon, at Petroc in Barnstaple.

At £1 for an hour, the Petroc sessions have proved popular and Steve Berry, the college sport maker, is optimistic a permanent club can be formed.

Last week, after only a few hours training together, players from the Kingsley sessions travelled to Truro for their first match. Despite their lack of experience, the North Devon team returned with a win against Newquay Handball Club.

Handball has proved a hit with players from other sports too.

Chris Farris, the co-ordinator at Handball Devon, said: "We did a taster session with Titans Netball Club. The fact they could move once they got the ball was something different for them but they loved it."

Chris believes, with such enthusiasm from newcomers, North Devon can become a handball hotbed.

"There's quite a buzz about it," he said. "Every school we have left, their eyes are shining bright."

Handball Devon's senior sessions take place on Wednesdays at Kingsley School from 5-6pm and at Petroc from 7.30-8.30pm.

To find out more call 07854 330823 or email aym@handball devon.co.uk. Keep up to date with Handball Devon on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @handballdevon

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