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Handball Academy 2006 – 2016

A World Cup medal in ten years time

It was 16 August 2006. More than twenty female handball players got the key to their new room @Papendal. The start to a new adventure. Left behind their homes to live and train with other handball talents. To get the best out of themselves and make their dream come true.

In 2005, the Dutch handball women achieved a historical fifth place in the World Championship. It made the Dutch Handball Union think. How do we make sure this performance was not a one-off? They want to belong to the world top structurally. Therefore, an ambitious plan was set up. Inspired by what Bert Brouwer did around the millennium, copied from the Bankras volleyball model, bringing the handball women together on a daily basis to reach the Olympics. This did not succeed in the end, but it did prove that the Netherlands could bridge the gap towards the world top.

Most women from the women’s’ team which managed to reach the fifth position, are now playing for international clubs. The level of Dutch competition is simply not good enough. In other countries, players train more than 20 hours per week as opposed to 8 hours in the Netherlands. Not enough to reach the top.

Handball Academy

And this is how the idea for the Handball Academy was born. In cooperation with the NOC*NSF, a broad handball training course for talents between the ages of 17 and 21 was introduced in 2006. With plenty of walking, strength and indoor training, more than 20 hours per week. All handball players study in the Arnhem area, which saves much travel time. With the Handball Academy, it is easier for the NHV to coach the players on their way to an international club. So they do not go abroad at too young an age and with the wrong expectations. Goal is to let two to three players of the Handball Academy move on to the A selection. To then enforce a qualification for the Olympic Games with that selection. The first step has been taken.

HandbalAcademie op Papendal

A breath of fresh air

After their success in 2005, it turned quiet around the Dutch handball players. The Netherlands did not manage to qualify for the World Cup in 2007 and missed out on the Games in Beijing. Henk Groener was appointed as national coach in 2009. A breath of fresh air ran through the selection, new talents were given opportunities. Including talents which had been educated by the Handball Academy. The team started playing more effectively, but was also unstable. In 2010, the women finally qualified for a global tournament again. The World Cup 2011 in Brazil. The high expectations were not met, the Netherlands came in fifteenth. The Olympic dream nearly fell apart, but Angola’s place came available and the Netherlands could travel to the Olympic Qualification Tournament (OQT) in 2012 after all.

The Netherlands met Argentina, Spain and Croatia on the OQT. The Netherlands played a good tournament and everything came down to the final match day. The handball women did what they needed to do and won from Argentina. Then they had to hope for a victory on Spain or Croatia or a tie. Unfortunately, Croatia won. The Netherlands came up one goal short for the Olympics in London.

An upward trend

The enormous hangover needed to be digested. A huge bummer followed when the Netherlands had to give back the organisation of the Euro Cup in 2012. The Netherlands had been qualified as host country and thus did not participate in the Euro Cup which was eventually held in Serbia. Things were picked up where they had been left off; the Netherlands was present at each final tournament. The team grew in all aspects. The handball players had more experiences, the performances improved, the team was more stable. The results showed. There was an upward trend visible with a thirteenth place in the World Cup 2013 and a seventh place in the Euro Cup 2014. And then it was 5 December 2015, the start of the World Cup in Denmark. Meanwhile, approximately 70% of the World Cup selection had been trained at the Handball Academy.

Historical performance

The team was in a strong position and fit. They were perfectly attuned, had known each other and played together for years. They felt that they could establish something great. The Netherlands started against China and won convincingly, just like from Angola. The women played a tie against China, but won convincingly again from Cuba. They also beat Poland. The Netherlands came in first in their group and the series of victories continued. The handball women were too strong for Serbia and France made it to the semi-finals unexpectedly. An unprecedented achievement. They met and beat Poland in the semi-finals. A historic high: the Netherlands in the finals of the World Cup. Norway proved to be a size too big in these finals, but with their silver medal, the Dutch handball women achieved the best result ever. Finally, they reaped the benefits of years of dedicated training.

The good shape continued; in March 2016, the handball women qualified relatively easy for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. For the first time in the history of Dutch handball. The women delivered a top performance at these Olympics. They could play for the medals but fell short for bronze. The women thus came in fourth, an excellent achievement. And most women are still young, the future looks promising!

The Dutch handball women are part of the world top. They proved that over and over again in the years following, winning multiple medals. Ultimate highlight was becoming World Champion in 2019 & directly qualifing for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. An unprecedented achievement, the basis for which was created in 2006, with the Handball Academy @Papendal.


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