Handball: Give the Ray man a hand as new sport takes hold

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“Handball” is currently seen as an illegal manoeuvre to many of Edinburgh’s budding young sports enthusiasts, but a football-centric mindset among local boys and girls would be pushed to one side to make way for a fast-paced, high- scoring sport to be played across the city under the plans of Raymond Wilson.

Liberton man Wilson, 43, became involved in the relatively minor sport of handball six years ago and now coaches 30 youngsters across four teams at South Edinburgh Handball Club, which has members from aged eight to 17.

In his role as head coach, Wilson runs taster sessions at primary schools in and around south Edinburgh and stages all-in practices at Liberton and Gracemount High Schools. With his assistant, Steven Allan, he has helped make a success of the club and many of its players, with two members named in recent Scotland squads.

It’s all a far cry from the experience he first had when trying to explain handball upon setting out in 2005, and Wilson would like to expand his influence in the sport to other parts of the Capital.

“Initially, people didn’t know anything about handball,” he recalled. “Now, there are a few hands going up when you ask if they know anything about handball – they’ve seen it on Eurosport.

“If you go to the average person in the street, they don’t know. I’m hoping to branch it out into Edinburgh, working with Active Schools in the South Edinburgh area.

“Handball is of a mixture of loads of sports. You can take a bit of most sports into handball: hand-eye coordination, fitness, and, as with football, finding spaces. The thing I like about it is it’s a team game rather than an individual game and the team scores lots of goals.

“It’s a good bonding experience and generates a good team spirit. We go to games and I tell them: “If you win, good – if you don’t, we learn from that.’”

Players at SEHC range from primary four to fifth year of secondary school, and the ultimate aim of the club is to feed players into the local senior team, Edinburgh Handball Club, who are reigning champions of the national men’s and women’s league.

Wilson, who also acts as chairman of the club and has ambitions to become a full-time coach, but admits that, if that is to become a reality, the sport needs to improve its profile in Scotland.

“In Europe, they train from the start of school – it’s like football here. In Sweden and Germany, it’s football and handball.

“Hopefully the London Olympics can help it take off, with the GB team playing on the BBC. The way I promote it, when you watch football you’ll get maybe one-two goals; in handball you’re guaranteed 30 goals. You blink, and you miss something.

“I would love to turn this into a day job, but there’s no funding. I would love to receive more funding, and we have applied for a few grants and we receive one from Edinburgh Council with the help of Colin McMillan from Club Sport Edinburgh, which helps pay for the hall hire and entry into competitions.”

* If you are interested in taking up handball, please contact Raymond Wilson on 07880 538 742 or at ray.sehc@yahoo.co.uk