Video and photo gallery: London 2012 Olympic handball star Bobby White takes class at Cliff Park High School
18:15 15 November 2012
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012
An Olympic star delivered masterclasses in a fast emerging sport to eager youngsters at a school that has seen vast improvements since choosing to specialise in sport.
Handball: An emerging sport
Handball, also known as Borden ball, is a team sport in which two teams of seven players each (six outfield players and a goalkeeper) pass a ball to throw it into the goal of the other team. A match consists of two periods of 30 minutes, and the team with the most goals scored wins.
Modern handball is usually played indoors, but outdoor types exist in the forms of field handball and Czech handball and beach handball, also called sandball.
The game is fast and includes body contact as the defenders try to stop the attackers from approaching the goal. Contact is only allowed when the defensive player is completely in front of the offensive player; i.e., between the offensive player and the goal. Any contact from the side or especially from behind is considered dangerous and is usually met with penalties. When a defender successfully stops an attacking player (who loses the ball over a line), the play is stopped and restarted by the attacking team from the spot of the infraction or on the nine-meter line.
Unlike in basketball, where players are allowed to commit five fouls in a game, handball players are allowed an unlimited number of faults, which are considered good defence and disruptive to the attacking team’s rhythm.
Certain elements of the game are reminiscent of rugby. The degree of force the defence may use to stop the attacker with the ball, together with the lack of protection and helmets.
Goals are scored frequently, usually both teams score at least 20 goals each, and it is not uncommon for both teams to score more than 30 goals. This was not true in the earliest history of the game, when the scores were lower. But, as offensive play has improved since the late 1980s, particularly the use of counter-attacks (fast breaks) after a failed attack from the other team, goal-scoring has increased.
Team GB Handball Team captain and goalkeeper Bobby White was at Cliff park High School in Gorleston all day today, [Thursday] teaching about 100 of the school’s pupils the fast, high scoring sport of Team Handball.
The 6ft 4in sportsman taught the youngsters the ways of the game, which is said to have some of the physicality of rugby, the speed of football and the high scoring of basketball.
The school is one of the few that practise handball in P.E class and watched keenly as the Olympics showcased the sport, which is hugely popular in countries such as Germany and Denmark - Mr White himself is a handball star in France.
Pupil Demi Puter, 14, from Gorleston, said: “It was really good, I liked how Bobby focused on different aspects of the sport.
“I like how it gets you active, keeps you fit and you have fun being around friends.
“I think if we do a club in the morning it gets us ready for the rest of the day.”
Pupil Chloe Sutherland, 13, from Southtown, said: “It taught me how to work with a team. I like doing sport, being involved and competing. I am quite competitive.
“Sport helps me make friends, and makes me more comfortable around school.”
Mr White captained the Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympic Games, where they played well but lost out in the group stages.
He is now dedicating his time to coaching and promoting the sport which he says could benefit British Society.
Mr White, 29, said: “This is about providing opportunities for the kids to try the sport. As soon as you try it you fall in love with it, it’s different. The average goals scored is 25 a game, what fan doesn’t want to see that?
“If we can provide something different we can get more people into sport, it is about promoting fitness and an exiting, fun, new sport like this could go some way to tackling childhood obesity if taught in schools.
“I believe so much in the sport, there is so much potential for its growth in this country. The chance for one of these kids to be the next Bobby White is higher than their chances of being the next Wayne Rooney.
“The sport is so big in Europe, especially the women’s side of it.”
Mr White added: “The kids were great today, I was really impressed with the level they have shown.”
Cliff Park High School is a specialist sports school that was placed on special measures in May but has seen its best ever GCSE results this year.
And headteacher Robert Sherington believes their progress since may - which Ofsted described in July as “satisfactory” - is directly linked to the pupil’s increased involvement in sport.
Mr Sherington said that roughly 65pc of the pupils are now involved with sports clubs or programmes in the school, with many getting up early to play before school.
“The pupils really took to handball when we started it two years ago, boys and girls. We do clubs before and after school and it is now part of our curriculum, so we are really glad Bobby could visit.
“We are a massively sporty school, one of the major successes is the number of girls who have got involved this year.
“The attendance level of those pupils who got involved with sport here is higher and their effort ratings are much higher. Our challenge is to encourage more students to get involved in sport as it improves attitudes towards learning.”
The school has its own gym and modern sports equipment, and staff believe that more schools should take up handball as an alternative to established sports.
It has a director of specialism, Richard Stocking, charged with pushing the focus on sport forward.
Mr Stocking said: “The kids are absolutely buzzing with handball. To have an Olympian in school is brilliant.
“The sport is something they have been doing, and today they have seen it done at its best and can develop it further.
“We will be training teachers to teach it, and will be taking it to the next level.
“It is very accessible to teach and learn, we have never had so many kids turn up early for school!”