EHA Talent Development system
By Scott Harrington, National Performance Manager and Under-21s Head Coach at England Handball
At England Handball we’ve worked hard to put in place a joined-up and clear pathway for talented players.
Before 2014 elements of a pathway were in place. However, it was obvious improvements could be made. The Talent Pathway entry point was at 16 years via a County competition programme which identified players. Those players were invited to trial for the England National junior squad. However, there was no formal competition structure in place, making player identification and retention difficult. Also at 16 years, the transition to performance Handball from informal grassroots activity was arguably too late, and much time had been lost.
With that in mind we embarked on making changes in 2014 to:
- Build a clear, operational Talent Pathway model
- Engage aspiring players younger and earlier
- Improve the link between grassroots activity and performance structures
One of the changes is an under-14 County competition. Added to this, to bridge the gap between the under-16 County competition and under-16 England programme, we introduced what has arguably been the most important step in the Talent Pathway ladder - The Regional Academy Programme. Players who demonstrate key physical, technical, and mental competences within the county system are selected for monthly regional training sessions. These allow for accelerated learning and increase the quantity and quality of training the players receive.
These changes mean for the first time ever Handball in England has a pathway that starts in schools through to clubs, county, regional – and from those identified from regional programmes – national level. In other words it helps the identification of talented players, bringing them into the pathway earlier, and improving links with grassroots Handball.
Handball is a young sport in this country but its structure is becoming more mature every day. We already have a talented crop of Under-21 players and with the new pathway we can expect more top-class players to come through.