2023 was a summer of handball for many of our young Scottish athletes as they headed over to Gothenburg, Sweden for an experience they’ll never forget! Partille Cup is the world's largest and most international youth handball tournament. Each year, around 1400 teams from 50 nations take part. This year Scotland was part of the action, with four participating teams; two squads made up from our Scottish Handball National Academy programme, and two club teams from Tryst ’77 HC in Cumbernauld.
“The whole experience was unforgettable, and it was a huge honour to take part in the Partille Cup” – Fraser Baxter, Tryst ’77 HC Boys Captain
“The team benefited hugely from working with elite coaches who pushed the intensity of each activity and drove standards of performance beyond that to which we are used to” – Freya Murty, Girls National Academy Captain
“For us this event was not about winning, but an experience, learning. It was fantastic to see the development of all the players throughout the tournament and friendships they created that will stay with the players for a lifetime” – Allan Stokes, Boys National Academy Head Coach
Before the tournament officially kicked off, the two squads from the National Academy were invited to a pre-tournament training camp hosted in partnership with the Swedish Handball Federation and Partille’s very own professional handball club, IK Sävehof. The aim of the pre-camp was to support Partille Cup’s mission of "world of handball" which aims to spread and develop handball in other countries. The two young squads underwent five days of training led by coach Ulf Andersson as well as learning alongside players from IK Sävehof. Finally, before heading to the tournament, the two Scottish squads played in friendly matches against the home club, as well as against other visiting squads from Chile, Chilenska Italiano BM.
Girls National Academy Captain Freya Murty told us,
" The whole experience was enhanced by being hosted in an amazing, dedicated handball facility. The team benefited hugely from working with elite coaches who really pushed the intensity of each activity and drove standards of performance beyond that which we are used to. The focus on defensive actions for 80% of the sessions improved our confidence to go for tackles with greater knowledge of how to complete them and stop attacking play. The major benefit of working at a higher level was a noticeable increase in confidence and determination throughout the squad. The players enjoyed that each session was focused on a different element of the game - delivered using drills that are new to us - and a level of detail that expanded our knowledge of the game."
We also spoke to our Scottish Handball CEO, Ewan Hunter, who told us,
“This partnership is a brilliant opportunity for our young players to continue their development pathway. It links perfectly into the work we’re doing here in Scotland to help grow the amazing sport that is handball… As the pre-camp is being led by some of the best handball coaches in the world, we know that all our players will benefit hugely and, despite already being excellent, we hope that our coaches can pick up some further hints and tips on their own development journey too!’
Tryst ’77 Fly the Flag
As players began to get ready for the start of the tournament, Scottish Handball Club Tryst ’77 flew out to Gothenburg as the only club team representing Scotland this year. Tryst ’77 HC first took part in the Partille Cup in 1989 and has taken youth squads out to Sweden on many occasions since. Now, Tryst ’77 returned, for the first time since the pandemic, in style as they were selected to carry the flag and represent Scotland at the Opening Ceremony. We spoke to the Tryst ’77 Boys Captain, Fraser Baxter, about his experience;
“The week I spent in Gothenburg playing in the Partille Cup really opened my eyes to the huge handball culture across Europe. Not only were the games incredibly competitive but the players demonstrated such a high level of professionalism. Everywhere we went throughout Gothenburg players from across the world recognised us as one of the few Scottish teams. The experience of being one of the first teams to walk out at the opening ceremony was unbelievable!
The evening that followed the ceremony we met dozens of teams on our walk around Gothenburg, two of which we have stayed in contact with after the tournament…. The whole experience was unforgettable, and it was a huge honour to take part in the Partille Cup. I was incredibly proud to Captain my team in our first European tournament.”
Something Old, Something New, Something Yellow & Something Blue?
We also spoke to Tryst ’77 player and parent helper, Stuart McLaughlan who, this year, made his return to Partille after 30 years!
“I last went to Partille Cup as a player in the early 90s and had the time of my life. I loved the whole experience – the handball (including the heavy defeats & the occasional success), the bonding with my teammates and meeting players from other countries and forming friendships.”
When Stuart last attended the Partille Cup it was all held in the town of Partille, which is approximately 15km from the bigger city of Gothenburg. Similar to Cumbernauld’s proximity to Glasgow!
“I had some reservations about the move from the smaller, more local setting of Partille to the big city of Gothenburg - but my fears were unfounded. Returning as a parent helper and coach, I loved the experience all over again. The four teams that Tryst took all had really encouraging results and performance. But it was more than that. They had fun. At the school the teams stay at, there are numerous other teams, from countries all over the world and it was brilliant to see them making new friends, swapping t-shirts and flags and asking questions of one another’s country (the kilt usually brings a few questions!!)”
Stuart’s daughter now plays with the club and by being involved in handball, Stuart feels it gives her the opportunity to travel Europe, travel the world and visit countries she might not otherwise. For Stuart it also brought back so many great memories of his own experiences as a player, but this time, his enjoyment of the trip and Partille Cup came mainly from seeing the kids having so much fun!
Tryst ’77 HC also gained tournament-wide recognition as the winners of the club Fair Play trophy. This is fantastic achievement, and recognises the club’s efforts to create a positive, supportive and kind environment for their players.
More than winning
This was the second experience of the Partille Cup for National Academy Girls Head Coach Geanina Kirkland and Team Manager Karen Murty. Geanina & Karen came on board as Girls management at the start of the 2021 season and has led the rebuild of girls programme since the pandemic. The boys’ delegation was led by SHA Partille Cup Veterans Allan Stokes & Alan Strachan.
The coaches knew competing at the Partille Cup was always going to be a tough experience for the Academy players as they compete against players from countries where handball is a much more mainstream sport. However, Nina and Allan both felt that for the Academy teams taking part in this competition was not just about winning, it was about the learning experience, individual growth in each player and friendships made along the way. They were also happy to see so much Scottish representation across so many age groups.
We want to say a huge thank you to the Swedish Handball Federation, IK Sävehof and organisers of the Partille Cup for providing the fantastic training camp and tournament opportunities. Finally a huge thank you to Tryst ’77 HC for their contribution to this article and their continued drive to develop handball in the community.