As we look back on Team GB’s 27 gold medals at the Rio Olympics with fond memories, it is easy to forget some sports have fallen by the wayside.
Team Great Britain made history at the London 2012 Olympics by fielding a handball team for first time in the history of the games - but the legacy couldn’t continue in Rio due to loss of funding.
Chris McDermott was part of that 14-man squad and he joined Lytham Town FC first team and myself at Fylde Handball Club for a taster session.
Despite being played by 39 million people in 159 different nations, its popularity hasn’t been replicated in Great Britain, something Chris, in his role as National Academy Boys Head Coach, is looking to change.
At six foot eight inches tall, 27-year-old Chris epitomises a typical handball player and is currently Great Britain handball team’s most capped player.
He’s played in teams in Slovenia, Denmark and Germany but currently plays for Warrington Wolves.
And Chris explains he’s been playing the game since he was 11 years old.
“I grew up around Liverpool and there were some facilities there so I started to play,” he said. “At 16 I moved to Romania to attend an academy and that’s where we started training regularly and moved into teams across Europe. I absolutely love the game and in European countries there’s as many handball courts as there is football pitches in England.
It was brilliant to be part of Team GB in 2012, but unfortunately if you weren’t expected to get a medal in 2016, your funding was stripped, especially in teams sports.
“Now we’re training young people in handball and hopefully we can get the funding to get us back into the Olympics.”
Chris then started us off with some basic drills as one team tried to pass the ball without being intercepted by the other team.
And after explaining the basic rules put the 12 of us into a game.
The game itself is easy to pick up and play. Face-paced and end to end, the game requires good fitness, hand-eye co-ordination and an eye for goal.
There are definitely similarities to football in terms of the strategy but the game will appeal to most sportsmen and women with elements of most sports incorporated.
And although there aren’t hundreds of teams in the country, Fylde Handball Club boasts some of the best facilities in the north following the refurbishment of Carr Hill School’s Sports Dome in Kirkham.
With the sport open to anyone over the age of 16, the club train every Thursday from 5.30pm until 6.30pm.
The club is always looking for new members and after trying it out...and giving handball a go is something I’d thoroughly recommend.
The rules of the game
The ball: Team handball is played with a 32-panel leather ball. For women, the ball is 54 to 56 centimetres and 325 to 400 grams. For men, it is 58 to 60 centimetres and 425 to 475 grams.
Number of players: There are seven players on each team (six court players and one goalie). A maximum of 12 players may dress and participate in a game for each team. Substitutes may enter the game at any time as long as the player they are replacing has left the court.
Duration of the game: For players 18 years and over, the game consists of two, 30-minute halves with 10-minute half-time. For tournament and youth games two, 15-minute or two, 20- minute halves. Overtime consists of two, five-minute periods.
Passive play: It is illegal to keep the ball in a team’s possession without making a recognisable attempt to attack and to try to score. In other words, a team cannot stall free-throw awarded to the other team.
Throw-off: A throw-off is taken by the team that wins the coin toss and chooses to start the game with the ball. Each team must be in its own half of the court with the defence three meters away from the ball. Following a whistle, the ball is passed from centre court to a teammate and play begins. Throw-off is repeated after every goal scored and after half-time.
Scoring: A goal is scored when the entire ball crosses the goal line inside the goal. A goal may be scored from any throw - free-throw, throw-in, throw-off, goal-throw.
A player is allowed: To run with the ball for three steps, to hold the ball for three seconds, unlimited dribble with three steps allowed before and after dribbling but no double-dribbling.
A player is not allowed to: To endanger an opponent with the ball.
To pull, hit or punch the ball out of the hands of an opponent.
To contact the ball below the knee.
To dive on the floor for a rolling or stationary ball.