The future of women’s handball in this country is bright, a GB youth coach has said, after his team returned from an “important” tournament in Kosovo with their heads held high.
The U19s side, featuring several English players, battled valiantly at the EHF European Championships earlier this month, putting in good displays against teams including eventual winners Italy.
Among the squad were several players that have come through England Handball’s Elite Performance Academy, including Alicia Smith and Heidi Warren, who have both just graduated from the programme.
With the talented young GB side, the majority of whom play handball in England, now looking ahead to the IHF Trophy Europe this October, head coach Bill Baillie is optimistic for their chances.
He said: “Having had a little time to reflect on the tournament, the performances were far better than we gave ourselves credit for and in that respect, we couldn’t have done any more.
“It was brilliant to see the side give eventual tournament winners Italy a run for their money, with our game only spoilt by a spell of unforced errors.
“They will learn from this and come back stronger in the next tournament – this experience will act as a great incentive for them. The team has an excellent core, and we can’t wait to see where they’ll all be in four or five years’ time.
“Up next is the IHF Trophy Europe, for which the winners go through to the IHF Trophy Finals. That’s a big incentive, and I would expect the girls to win some of their games. If they can smell blood in those early games, I think they will go on and do well for themselves.”
The EHF European Championships was an “important” tournament for the U19s side, Bill said, particularly after missing out on entering two years ago due to the pandemic.
The team gave a good account of themselves against all opponents, who also included Finland, Slovakia and hosts Kosovo – but were unlucky not to pick up a victory – in part due to frustrating spells of injuries and suspensions.
Despite the disappointment, Bill said delegates at the tournament were impressed with the squad.
He said: “It was a brand-new experience for a lot of the girls. We had great success in terms of comments from EHF delegates, and interest from other countries regarding potential signings. Many were hugely surprised at the level most of our girls were playing at. So it was job done, in that sense.
“In terms of reinvigorating interest in the British women’s game, it was fantastic, and it was nice to get that feeling of reestablishment.”