Coaches debate 7v6 in latest EHF Webinar

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European Handball Federation

The EHF Webinar Series, online lectures where participants talk about the most pressing and interesting topics in the realm of handball, followed by a Q&A, offers insights from key figures in the game. This time the topic of discussion is one of the more contentious in the sport since its introduction: 7v6.

The panellists hail from Denmark and Norway but both currently ply their trade in Romania. Kim Rasmussen arrived at Rapid Bucuresti earlier this year after recent stints with the Montenegrin and the South Korean women’s national teams as well as league rival Gloria Bistrița. The other panellist Bent Dahl has been with SCM Râmnicu Vâlcea since 2021 and was named head coach of the Czech women’s national team the following year.

The webinar opened with the question of whether 7v6 actually promotes the game and whether it is unfair to higher-quality teams. Speaking first, Dahl commented on how 7v6 can bring weaker teams closer to more talented teams but did not think it was unfair. “No, it’s not. I say it’s the opposite. You can use it as a tool against a good team if you want to, for example, reduce the tempo. But unfair? No, I don’t think so,” as the Norwegian finished his statement.

In contrast, Rasmussen made a remark on how top teams are the best at using 7v6. “It's not unfair, and I don't think it's unfair to the higher quality teams because they are the ones that are actually really good at using it, so they really have an extra tool in the box,” explained Rasmussen. On the other hand, he felt that it was hurting the sport.

“It's not helping handball, that's my opinion. You can use it in many tactical aspects. Promoting our handball? I don't think so. I don't think anyone wants to see someone shoot from 25 meters on an empty goal. And half of the time they missed the shot,” he stated.

Later, the topic became how often the tactic should be used in a match, and Rasmussen said that it depends on the team’s chemistry. “It depends on how well the team knows each other. If they have been together several years, where players know exactly what the coach is expecting from seven against six, if the coach trusts the players will not throw the ball away too many times, I think it can be used whenever you want. But that takes a long time to get to know each other so you can really trust it,” as the Dane gave his opinion on the topic.

Bent Dahl mentioned EHF European League Women finalists Nykøbing Falster Håndbold as an example of a team successfully using 7v6 to change the match’s momentum.

“Last year I met Nykøbing Falster in the European League, and they were very good at playing seven against six. They used a lot of time to do practice, I think, and they changed some parts of our game doing it. Because they had a difficult part in the game, they played 7v6,” he said.

Rasmussen replied that Nykøbing Falster’s success was due in part to coach Jakob Larsen who has been at the club since 2017. “Nykøbing are a great example because they have had the same coach now for so many years, so they could build some consistency. They could find out what they are really good at,” stated the Dane.

Despite his aversion to 7v6, Rasmussen admitted the tactic has evolved his way of thinking about the game. “I think 7v6, no matter how many people don’t like it, and I don’t like it at all, forces us coaches to think in alternative ways, it forces us to invent new ideas, to try new things; it’s challenging our handball brains, all the coaches and that develops us. Some things will work, some things will not, but that’s sport. But at least it forces us to think in new ways,” Rasmussen said.

Both coaches, especially Rasmussen, made remarks on how 7v6 has made goalies become a lot more active. “They can run in and out, but if they are a little too tired when they come into the goal after, let’s say, seven, eight times where you play 7v6, then the level goes down and it’s not helping the goalkeeper’s performance,” he said.

Bent Dahl stressed that with all the added demands placed on keepers, fitness is not the only thing goalkeepers need to work on. “Coaches need to take more responsibility that the goalkeepers are not just staying in the goal in training. They need to be take more part in everything.”

One viewer asked when 7v6 should be taught to young players, and although both coaches were less than enthused about introducing the tactic to the youth, they agreed it should be introduced considering the trajectory of the sport. Rasmussen said: “My first answer would be ‘don't do it’ when you are young, because you kill the creativity. But on the other hand, if this seven against six is going to be forever in our sport, teach them to use it as fast as possible.”

Nevertheless, he once again emphasized the negative influence the strategy has on the sport. “I am sure that a lot of young kids would stop playing handball and find something else to do,” he remarked.

Dahl agreed with Rasmussen. “In the end, it’s not just about 7v6, but it’s also about how you set your training. You will always play with one more player and you have to create this position, and that’s maybe positive because, of course, in the young ages, it’s very easy to put in systems. And if you do systems too early, you also destroy the creative part of them all,” said Dahl.

The next EHF Webinar will deal with handball in schools and will have former Spanish international Carlos Prieto as well as professor and author Luisa Estriga. It will take place on 7 September at 11:00 CET. For more information and registration, please visit this link.

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