So now I am a handball player, or am I?
(My sports story)
Just give me a racquet and a ball and I’m good to go
My professional ‘wanna be athlete’ career started when I was 5 years old. At that age, my parents signed me up for a local tennis club. I played tennis through all my years at high school until the end of my freshman year at college. Even though I played tennis for 15 years, I never played a tournament or even a single competitive match. I just enjoyed training and drilling the ground strokes.
Somewhere in the middle of my first year at college, I switched to squash. Even though squash and tennis may seem very similar to each other, there are major differences in ground stroke-technique and movement on court. But with my background in tennis, even with a flawed technique, I was able to compete at an amateur level. I even started playing tournaments and joined a club team league. I eventually became captain of our women’s B team and took 4th place at the Czech University Championship. Fun fun times, good memories and important lessons learned.
My favorite lessons that I can apply daily, I took away from playing individual sports:
1. In case of loss there’s no one else to blame.
2. No one cares anyway, just keep doing what you enjoy.
3. You’ll win some, you’ll lose some. The world keeps on spinning.
4. Be decisive and look for solutions.
5. Try out new things. Evolution and learning happen one change at a time.
After moving to Gescher, a small town in the western part of Germany, I was looking for a new sporting endeavor to try. I accidentally stumbled upon a local Handball Team. At that time I thought it would be a perfect “cardio” addition to my strength training to balance things out. But my experience proved to be so much more.
I have never played a team sport before and I had zero prior experience playing any kind of contact sport. The latter proved to be the bigger obstacle I had to overcome.
Handball is a fun sport to play. But aggressive to say the least. Players are either trying to score or trying to prevent the other team from scoring in any way possible. And what the referee did not see did not happen. This leads to a lot of (un)intentional fouls and potential injuries. In my short time playing the sport I’ve seen countless collisions, pushing, pulling, questionable holding or stepping on feet. I may or may not have done some of it myself. It’s just in the nature of the sport.
I’ve seen broken noses, dislocated shoulders, torn ACLs, sprained ankles, ugly bruises, mild concussions and broken fingers. You name the injury and it has probably happened to someone somewhere on the handball court.
From injury prevention to chasing the perfect training formula for any sport
Being fully aware of all the possible injuries, I started to research best ways how to prevent them. This led me to weightlifting and cross training. Olympic style weightlifting does not only improve athleticism, speed and agility, but it also builds muscles, strengthens tendons and teaches body to absorb impact. Hence it contributes to injury prevention. Crosstraining or coupling strength and endurance training or pure aerobic training improves cardio and contributes to faster recovery. Figure out the right mixture of both and you are golden. And this is my new passion. I am training for the pure sake of getting better at any kind of sport. I am not training solely for injury prevention or just to be good at handball. I am simply pursuing the perfect balance of power, strength and endurance.
A handball player, or any kind of athlete for that matter, has to have a certain amount of power, speed, endurance and coordination a.k.a the athleticism in order to excel at the chosen sport.
But how much strength is enough strength? And how much power is enough power? Not too much to lose the endurance, not too litte to get slow or injured. Just the right amount. And that’s exactly where all the challenge, science and art of training lies. Figuring out the perfect mixture is the most fun for me right now.
All in all, I have to conclude, I don’t like playing sports as much as I love training for them. So am I a handball player or a meathead? I am definitely not a tennis or squash player anymore. I don’t have a label. I am simply chasing athleticism. As a good indicator of my fitness I set a goal to run 5km under 20 minutes and squat 100kg in one day. Why? Because training for it has brought me more joy than playing all the sports in the world.