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Date: 12/21/2012

They started from zero, and now they are eager to develop a nationwide handball programme: In the aftermath of the war handball in Sierra Leone was at the bottom. Except for some schools in the capital of Freetown the sport had rather disappeared in one of the poorest countries of the world. But for two years the Handball Federation of Sierra Leone has been building up handball from grass-roots level in this African country with a population of about 5.5 million.

Following an IHF coaching course in 2010 and a handball@school project in 2011 IHF development expert Ton van Linder stayed in the country between September and December 2012 to set up basic conditions for school and youth team handball.

One major task of the programme was to spread handball in the country, as handball has been played in the Freetown area only. A first step was to choose four regions outside Freetown to start pilot projects and to generate interests and to promote handball at schools.

The long-term programme is split into four stages:
Phase 1: Promote handball for school children with help of media, teachers, etc.
Phase 2: Install playing courts and set up competitions for different age groups at interschool or regional matches
Phase 3: Find talents in all age groups and set up a national championship to include handball on the school curriculum
Phase 4: Develop national youth teams to get them ready to participate in international competitions
Aside, coaches, teachers and referees have to get involved in all lecturer programmes to build up a handball network and to keep all those groups updated about the latest trends in handball.

This so-called IHF development of national sports structure programme (funded by the Olympic Solidarity) started with a course held by Ton van Linder in September with ten boys and girls each to demonstrate the way of teaching beginners (basic skills and basic rules) to multipliers from Sierra Leone. Aside, those multipliers were provided with hand-outs for physical education teachers how to introduce mini-handball at schools which had been selected as pilot ones in the four regions of Sierra Leone.

In the following two months those local experts visited the selected schools to work with up to 30 boys and girls each to teach them the basics of handball in four-day courses. All selected coaches and teachers additionally took part in four-day courses, based on the IHF lecturers’ material.

Finally in December, Ton van Linder returned to Sierra Leone to visit the pilot schools for two days and to evaluate the development there. He talked to pupils, coaches, teachers, school principals and other people involved in the programme to assess the situation where he felt a great will to develop handball in all fields. The kids showed great interest: 174 girls and 291 boys – aged between 10 and 21, most of them between 13 and 18 years old, took part in those handball lessons. In total, eight coaches, four coordinators and 24 PE teachers were involved in the project.

The first steps have been made to build up handball in Sierra Leone – and the general interest in this Olympic Solidarity Development programme was high. The public TV and radio of Sierra Leone followed all steps of the programme, including interviews in all regions and an interactive radio show, in which the IHF expert answered many questions about handball from the listeners.