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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Handball's Homecoming: A Player's View

WITH just three months to go until the Great Britain women’s team are based in London, captain Lynn McCafferty has spoken of her excitement at ‘Project Homecoming’ and the benefits it will give to the team as they prepare for the London Olympics next year.

McCafferty has lived apart from her husband for five years as she chases her dreams. But apart from the obvious benefit of being closer to her home in Cumbernauld, she is looking forward to the extra progress the team will make thanks to living and training together permanently in the run-up to the games.

“I have mixed feelings about Project Homecoming but mostly really happy and positive about the next step in our adventure,” she said of the move to Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, where GLL will help the players with top class training and work opportunities.

“Leaving Denmark will be sad as I have made some really good friends here. Although I have had highs and lows with the handball I know I will miss it very much.

“The experience I have gained while being here has been absolutely priceless and I can only look back in awe and be thankful about how lucky I have been. I have been training with some world class players and have learned so much just by being part of the same training session.”

Returning to the UK a year earlier than planned has come as a surprise and a bonus to all the members of the team who had moved overseas to chase their handball dream, but McCafferty perhaps left most behind.

“I can’t contain how ecstatic I am about coming home a year early! After five years of living away from home I can’t actually believe that I will only be a mere hour away from visiting my husband!

“But of course my happy feelings are not all personal!

“I am 100 per cent sure that the squad will improve leaps and bounds by being together more often. We are always playing much better together near the end of the training camps, and it seems like 10 days just isn’t enough.

“It’s great that we have all gained experience in different handball cultures, but now it is time to bring it together and make it work.

“We will also all be better supported in London by all the staff, such as our Strength and Conditioning coach. The things he implements on camps can now be done more often under expert supervision thus making us even fitter, stronger and faster.”

Aside from the difficulties of living in a different country, something else the players will not miss is the unfavourable exchange rate.

“Financially I will be in a better situation as well as the others,” said McCafferty. “We receive our support money in GB pounds, but spending it on Danish Kroner or Norwegian Kroner means it doesn’t go far at all after the exchange rate and bank charges.

“This is a massive positive for the players who have been financially struggling for such a long time. Of course we will now have the opposite situation for our foreign-based players, but I am sure with us living in London a year before the Olympics will be positive exposure for potential sponsors which will help us fund our living and training costs.”

And while many of the talented British players will want to continue playing handball overseas, McCafferty - who will be 33 when she plays at the Olympics - will be staying firmly at home in Scotland.

“After 2012 I am 100 per cent going back home! I have not lived together with my husband as man and wife and I am desperate to just be at home.

“I already have some plans in place with regards to handball, my career - and of course starting a family. I am also very excited to see what opportunities arise after the Olympics, that’s going to be really exciting!”

* After spells in Norway and Italy, Lynn McCafferty is back playing in Denmark for a second spell this season, where her club AGF Aarhus are currently ninth in the table.

“I have been getting some good experience here,” she said. “The coach uses me more in defence than attack which has been working well for the team and for me.

“Of course I would like to get more court time in attack, but the other playmaker does a really good job and I respect this and just make sure I do what I can when I do get the opportunity in attack.

“I have many positive things that I have gained from my time here and I look forward to using this in the future.”

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