Handball legends pass on knowledge to future generation
While Europe’s best teams are battling for a medal on the court, some of the biggest talents on the continent are investing in their off-court development to advance their young handball careers, being exclusively supported by big names of the game such as Carlos Prieto, Laszlo Nagy, Vid Kavticnik and Stefan Lövgren.
The Respect Your Talent Camp 2022 was held in Budapest between 20 and 22 January, alongside the EHF EURO 2022. The programme is intended to provide players with systematic off-court development, both from a personal and an athletic point of view as in the belief of the EHF it contributes to sustainable pathways and athletic performance.
“The EHF recognises the need to support young players in their challenging development stage. The unique setting with ambassadors sharing their experiences and passion for handball with the young players is the best way to inspire and prepare them for their pro career,” said EHF President Michael Wiederer in his opening to the event.
In collaboration with leading field experts such as Maria Grunwald, Simona Margetic, Andreas Joklik, Hans Holdhaus, Bojana Jelicic, and Respect Your Talent co-creator Wolfgang Stockinger, the ambassadors held a set of interactive training sessions, covering the topics of dual career, mental fitness, media, anti-doping and sports law.
Having just retired last summer, former EHF Champions League winner Vid Kavticnik is aware of the importance of these topics for young players.
“I am happy and proud to be part of the ambassadors’ team, where we are all trying to help and shape young handball diamonds. I strongly believe that this program is a game-changer for many of the talents on their mission to become a pro player,” says the former Slovenia national player.
Stefan Lövgren, four-time European champion with Sweden, adds: “The Respect Your Talent project is for the further development of the talents, on the way of being as essential as on court practice”.
Carlos Prieto, three-time EHF Champions League winner, says: “The Respect Your Talent programme is an inspiring way for young players to see the big picture and the different topics involved in a pro athlete career. I wish I could have had this kind of mentorship when I was this age.”
The trailblazing approach of Respect Your Talent by elevating the concept of role models seem to have made an impression on the talented players.
“I really enjoyed the camp. The fact that former professional handball players were involved made it very inspiring,” says 19-year-old Dutch goalkeeper Ivo Verberne.
“I think that after this camp I developed some skills that will definitely help me off and on-court. These 3 days were great and I hope that there will be more Respect Your Talent camps in the future because this was a big opportunity for us to improve our careers and success,” adds 18-year-old Alexandru Mihai Pasca, a young talent from Romania.
Some of the players who have been part of Respect Your Talent in the past have already made it to the highest level of European handball, likely also fuelled by the ambassadors’ advice they had received in previous programme activities.
Seven of them – Radojica Cepic (Montenegro), Tomas Smetanka (Slovakia), Marko Mitev (North Macedonia), Ihar Bialiauski and Kyril Samoila (Belarus), Niko Blaauw (Netherlands) and Felix Möller (Sweden) – all played in the EHF EURO 2022, while several others successfully play in the EHF competitions during the season.
“Talent alone is not enough to succeed. Improving your off-court skills will help you build your personality, increase balance in your life and thereby become an even better player,” says EHF Secretary General Martin Hausleitner. “The ambassadors are perfect role models to inspire you as young players, and when you return home you should in turn become a role model for your peers.”