The real-life model for the handball movie “The Best Moments of Our Lives (Woosungsoon),” 2004 Athens Olympics silver medalist Lee Sang-eun’s youth team will compete in the boys’ 13-and-under division at the 52nd National Boys’ Games, which opens tomorrow (Nov. 27).
But this is no elite elementary school handball team. It’s a sports club that plays handball as a hobby. The KHF (Korea Handball Federation) Handball Club is the protagonist.
They play handball as a hobby, but they are qualified to compete in the Boys’ National Championships. The KHF Handball Club passed the Seoul qualifiers and qualified for the Boys’ Championship for the second year in a row.
Coach Lee Sang-eun said, “We train twice a week, so we don’t have much time to train. However, the kids’ concentration level is higher 안전놀이터 because they can play freely without worrying about winning or losing. They are quick to take to the sport because it is something they enjoy,” he said, revealing the secret of his team’s success.
■Handball’s shaky roots: ‘Let’s make a breakthrough with sports clubs!’
Handball is no exception to the shaky foundation of elite sports amid a severe birthrate decline. In 2015, the Korea Handball Association established a handball school to expand the sport’s popularity.
The idea was to expand the base of handball by introducing the sport as a hobby from kindergarten to adults, and three years ago, the KHF Handball Club, which competes in tournaments, was created within the handball school to integrate elite and recreational sports.
“In fact, handball is not a sport that is easily accessible, so the handball school plays a role in promoting handball. There are also students who play handball as a hobby and then go to a school with a professional handball team because it suits their aptitude.”
The number of students aspiring to become elite athletes is decreasing. An alternative is to introduce them to the sport as a hobby through a sports club and let them pursue it if they have the talent and interest.
Lee, who played in Spain and other countries, said, “When I played overseas, I always envied the clubs because they had youth clubs, and now Korea has a similar system. I think it will have a positive effect on expanding the player base,” he said, explaining the potential of sports clubs.
■Win or lose, it will be ‘our children’s best moment’
According to Lee, the biggest advantage of the KHF Handball Club is that it’s a fun way to exercise. “The kids love it so much that they bring their friends. Parents are also very happy to see their children playing,” he said.
“It’s good for them because it’s a full-body exercise, and it helps them develop social skills because it’s a team sport,” he added.
The KHF Handball Club, which has been having fun throwing the ball around, will play against Samcheok Elementary School in Gangwon Province in the boys’ tournament the day after tomorrow (Nov. 27). Samcheok is a powerhouse in the top four.
Coach Lee said, “I want the kids to play happily regardless of whether they win or lose. Even if we lose, I don’t want them to be very disappointed,” Lee said, revealing his goals for the tournament.