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Friday, February 08, 2008

A COLD and blustery Thursday night down by the A13 at the Newham Leisure Centre may not inspire dreams of Olympic glory, but that is exactly what Newham Council and Leyton Orient Community Sports Programme (LOCSP) are aiming for with their innovative Handball Talent ID programme.

Over 35 Year 9, 10 & 11 boys, hand-picked from Newham schools by Miriam Pupalova, LOCSP Handball Development Officer descended on the leisure centre to have the rule run over them in the hope of being accepted into the Newham Sports Academy.

The Newham Sports Academy was launched in October 2006 and aims to give local young people the opportunity to reach their full sporting potential in time to compete - and hopefully win medals - at the 2012 Games.

Nicole Napier, Team Leader, London Borough of Newham Sports Development Team, explained how the programme came about.

“Newham is the Olympic Host Borough and the British Olympic Association are aiming to enter athletes at every sport in 2012, so the opportunity came about with LOCSP to try Handball.

“The young people here tonight absolutely love it. The programme is getting bigger and bigger every month. It’s a great turnout and we are really pleased.”

The night started off with a warm-up and skills, then a game, before ending with a British Handball coach giving a talk to those in attendance about what makes a good handball player.

Anish Somasekaram from Stratford who attends the City of London School for Boys caught his breath for a minute and explained why Handball is the game for him.

“I do sessions with Miriam at Score in Leyton and she told me about this night so I decided to come down. I never met any of the guys here before tonight, but they all seem to be really enjoying it.

“I love Handball because of the thrill and because it’s so fast-paced. It’s fun because you are always moving.

“I like passing, doing my tricks and trying new things. I hope to get some of my friends down to the next sessions as Miriam always keeps them entertaining.”

For Miriam, the night was a great success and a sign of how Handball is starting to take hold amongst young people.

“The guys here tonight were really responsive, enthusiastic and with potential to become great handball player. Handball is a relatively new sport for them to encounter and they are picking it up with ease – which is one of the great things about the sport.”

“The work we are doing here in Newham is getting more and more popular each month. This day is confirmation of success and I am looking forward to continue and raise the profile of Handball Development to the highest level. ”

Following these ID sessions the plan then is take the selected players up to a Handball camp in Liverpool to join up with local young people there, but for those wanting to get involved in the game there are plans for something a bit closer to home.

“Miriam is going out to do sessions in the community,” explained Nicole. “This February half term she will be in the Stratford Shopping Centre and anyone can just turn up and do some sessions - hopefully we can identify some people there that can join our Newham Sports Academy.”

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