15th February 2020
Image: Nathan Grant-Williams
Nathan and Aston-Grant Williams have gone from taking up handball during their GCSEs to playing and studying in Denmark. Here’s their story.
Our Handball journey began when we were introduced to the sport aged 14, in our school GCSE P.E. class. To be honest we didn't think much of it in the beginning. I'm not sure what happened on that day for us to not enjoy it but we didn't. However, a few weeks later a friend of ours convinced us to join the school team, which is when we started to develop a real liking for the game. Within the first few months of trying handball we went to a school tournament which allowed us showcase our new skills. It took a bit longer for Aston as he spent the duration of the competition as a goalkeeper. He performed well though, making multiple crucial saves in both active play and from penalties against a lot of strong teams. I think he might have missed his calling as a handball goalkeeper!
The following year we were selected for the Bedfordshire county team where we participated in both county and regional competitions. It was during a county tournament that we were spotted by our future coach Bobby White. Apparently, Bobby asked our teacher and coach: "Why does number 15 keep changing his shirt number to 8 when he comes off?" When he got the reply "Oh no there are two of them, twin brothers" he said: "Perfect I'll have them both". To this day we still find this an amusing story!
We were then invited to our first England Handball trials. We were super nervous to say the least, but we worked hard and made the necessary improvements asked of us for the following training session a few months later. It was amazing that we were selected for an Under-16 Tri-nations competition between England, Scotland and Germany. It was the biggest sporting moment of our lives at the time and we achieved it all within a space of a year - all playing for the age group above us and not being part of a handball club.
The following year we were approached by Bobby to join his handball team, along with a few other local players who hadn't found a club yet, to form the first Under-18 Oly Cats team. We played for Oly Cats at both youth and senior level for three years, all the time developing as players. During this period we were honoured with the opportunity to take part in the AASE programme. This gave us the chance to train and play, and also learn about areas such as nutrition, psychology and lifestyle management. That is learning which we can put on our CV's or for university applications. The course also gave us a chance to travel to different locations like Denmark to represent England in international games and tournaments.
After finishing AASE you are presented with an opportunity to attend Idrætshøjskole in Aarhus, Denmark to take part in their handball academy on a scholarship. We decided to do this to better ourselves as handball players - and to experience the life and culture of Denmark. This was one of our best decisions. The time there was not just enjoyable but our skill level developed rapidly through keeping up with the pace of Danish Handball, and learning from excellent coaches, as well as former and current players. Nathan was nominated to the GB Under-20's longlist and was selected take part in the IHF emerging nations in Kosovo in 2018. After our year in Denmark we returned to England but dreamed of going back to Denmark after falling in love with the culture and, of course, handball.
We re-joined Oly Cats, which had been renamed 'Bucks Bullets', helping them to stay in the National League. We also helped guide and develop some of their younger members. During that year we were accepted by the University of our choice in Aarhus to study Global nutrition and Health. In September 2019 we moved there to start our new life in Denmark. We continue our training in handball with local side AGF. We had a great handball education in England and feel we can keep developing in Denmark and become the best handball players we can be.
Our goal is to keep working hard, get selected for the GB men’s team, and hopefully to help them to get better, and achieve more, so the national team gets global recognition. In our eyes the Olympic dream is not dead. It is very much a possibility for Great Britain.
And that's our story.