Successful RYT events heralded a "great initiative"
It has been a chance for the top young players from across Europe to pick the brains of the players whose footsteps they are following in, but also the legends themselves have enjoyed the chance to share their expertise at the Respect Your Talent (RYT) events this summer.
Running in conjunction with three Younger Age Category (YAC) competitions; W19 EHF EURO 2023, W19 EHF Championship 2023 (Klaipeda, LTU) and W19 EHF Championship 2023 (Prishtina, KOS), the RYT programme has seen its ambassadors spreading their message across the continent.
Anja Althaus and Jovanka Radicevic have been at the EHF EURO in Romania, Carmen Martin in Kosovo and Béatrice Edwige in Lithuania.
For the youngsters on the court, being awarded Player of the Match after each fixture not only brings honour, but a ticket to an RYT Player of the Match event, where each awardee gets the chance to meet up with a legend of the game.
At the Player of the Match events, the ambassadors have been sharing their knowledge and experience with the young talents, who can learn invaluable off-court skills and more about what it takes to become high-level athletes. The events cover topics such as media, sports law, anti-doping, mental fitness, dual career, and nutrition.
Carmen Martin, in Pristina, identified the main topics that interested the youngsters, and what she wanted to focus on. "I hope that I could help them as much as my knowledge allowed. The topic that interested them the most was the media, and they talked a lot about nutrition, fitness and mental health. One thing that I tried to share in a little more profound way was the dual career - having an education and understanding that handball is not forever - it is really, really important to find other things that they like in their lives, to give them a good step forward in their lives."
One of the players lucky enough to participate was Romania's Diana Lixăndroiu. "I think it is a great initiative and a great programme done by the EHF in order to help players develop. There were many things that we learnt and many interesting things still to explore, therefore it is a huge help for younger players," said the left back.
While the players have been gaining valuable insights, the ambassadors themselves have been enjoying sharing their knowledge with the next generation.
Montenegrin star Jovanka Radicevic shared her thoughts: "It is a good project, it is really great for players, I did not have this chance to learn many things when I was young and I missed this, to be honest. It is important that from this moment on, the players will learn something about the things they have to do off the court, in my opinion, it is even more important than what they do on the court."
Over in Klaipeda, France's Béatrice Edwige loved every minute of the event. "It was an amazing experience! I think I was more stressed than the girls! It was really impressive for me to be able to speak in front of 23 young players. I hope I did a great job and explained to them what Respect Your Talent is and how lucky they were to be there. To be honest, what they really appreciated was the questions at the end when you could ask what you want about the experience."
This will not be a fleeting interaction for the talents; in the next step of the RYT program in 2023, the All-star Team players of all YAC events will be invited to a three-day RYT Camp in December, where those off-court topics will be explored in more detail with RYT experts and ambassadors.
Also, the RYT app has become available for the potential stars of the future. In the app, they will be able to sharpen their off-court skills, for instance through learning content, quizzes, and how-to guides from the ambassadors.
Edwige also touched on the benefits of such technology. "I think they were really surprised about the app. They all downloaded the app directly and they all registered. I asked them to share the QR code with their teammates.
"I really hope that they understand the aim and the goal of this app - it's an app to help them in off-court training sessions and a lot of things."
Photos copyright: Sabin Malisevschi / EHF, Marius Ionescu / RHF, Lithuanian Handball Federation & Kosovo Handball Federation