Handball clubs set to launch in Bury St Edmunds and Felixstowe
Louise Jukes hopes Suffolk can produce a future crop of potential Olympians as two new handball clubs prepare to open in the county.
Following two years of success and growth in Ipswich, Felixstowe’s Brackenbury Sports Centre will host the seaside town’s new club – the launch date being January 13.
Abbeycroft Leisure Centre, meanwhile, is likely to be the venue for the new Bury St Edmunds club which is also being launched next month. Both clubs are open to players, male and female, of all ages and abilities.
After Team GB’s debut at the London Olympics in 2012, handball has taken a hit since, with the sport’s £3m funding from UK Sport being totally cut, following disappointing results from the male and female teams.
Those results were not entirely unexpected, given the embryonic stage of the sport in the UK at that stage, and Jukes – who was part of the GB women’s team that played at the Copper Box – is determined to produce a conveyor belt of talent in this county.
The Ipswich-based star, who spent time playing professionally in the Danish league, voluntarily runs the Ipswich club at Suffolk One College for four hours a week, as well as promoting the sport in schools around the region and holding coaches courses.
“It’s coming up to a new year, there’s a new sport and we want people to engage with us,” said Jukes, who helped get the Ipswich club off the ground along with Handball Activator for England Handball, Dave Hendrick, and Sports Development Officer at Suffolk Sport, Ben Jackson.
“It’s a risk and clubs like these take time to grow but the more we can prove we can develop quality players, the better it will be.”
Jukes was only introduced to handball in 2007 after watching Sir Steve Redgrave promote UK Sport’s Sporting Giants initiative and learned to play the sport properly in Denmark before moving to play for Asker in Norway. Previously, she played hockey for England under-18s.
Such a journey should only encourage the stars of tomorrow, insists the former Holbrook High School pupil.
“We’re getting to the stage now where children are taking on handball as their first sport, rather than taking it up because they didn’t like other sports or weren’t considered good enough,” explained Jukes, who is currently training new coaches to work at Bury and Felixstowe.
“I only started playing at 25 and I have played at the Olympics.
“If we can develop these children from an early age, who knows what they could achieve?”
The Ipswich club currently boasts girls and boys’ teams at under-11 level, an under-16 squad, as well as men’s and women’s adult squads.
“It just goes to show how popular handball is becoming,” said Jukes, who took over the majority of the coaching responsibilities at Ipswich after returning from playing in Scandinavia.
“It’s been incredibly hard work I have to admit, but it’s grown from having a few people come each week, to having a number of sessions and teams.
“It’s tough as a volunteer but it’s exciting to see what the future could hold.”
Ipswich’s men’s team currently plays in the East Men Regional Development League while their female counterparts compete in the London Women Regional Development League.
“The new clubs won’t be put into the leagues straight away but will be able to play friendlies,” added Jukes.