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4th April 2019

Handball flourishing in South London

New handball club SE18 has been overwhelmed with interest in its taster sessions for primary-aged girls.

Coach Mary Gee is the driving force behind SE18. The handball activation sessions, based at Plumstead Manor School, are inspired by her lifelong passion for handball.

When Mary arrived in London over three decades ago as a 14 year old, she had no idea that the UK had little tradition of handball. She laughs, “I grew up in Denmark, and if you didn’t play handball you didn’t have friends.”

At that point, there was little handball to be found in the capital and Mary was introduced to netball. As someone who grew up with the fast pace of handball, where players can run with the ball, “I couldn’t get with the fact that when you get the ball you have to stand still!”

As a result of the enthusiasm generated by the London 2012 Olympic Games, the sport took off in England. It seemed that fate would lead Mary back towards her childhood passion: “After the Olympics there was a club that opened up near my sister in central London, and she twisted my arm to go along to it. Which I did, and within a very short time I was doing Levels 1 and 2 coaching certificates, and my whole house was full of handballs and I was working on activation!”

SE18’s taster sessions are for primary school-aged girls, mainly because Mary’s daughter is in that category. She has been impressed with the response so far. “The taster sessions have been really good. On the first day when I was expecting maybe five, I had 12. And they were really into it! They came back every week for those five weeks. When I finished I had 14 girls and three boy siblings that wanted to run around with them.

“We’ve got 11 primary schools in this area, around where the taster session is.”

Mary has been running the sessions largely on her own but is keen to hear from any handball players local to Greenwich, Lewisham and Plumstead. The ultimate aim is to get a proper club established in south-east London. Once the younger age category is established, Mary will move to include older girls.

“In the past I’ve coached mainly secondary school girls. There are a couple of schools in my area that are playing handball, but they don’t necessarily have a handball coach and out of school, those girls don’t have anywhere to play.”

Remembering her childhood playing in Denmark, Mary recently visited her old club’s website. She was amazed. “5000 people live in my home town. [The club] now has two massive sports hall and 33 teams!”

From these beginnings in Plumstead, could SE18 one day be a similar force in British handball?

Posted in London