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"It's not the coach's job to decide, through selection, who's going to be good."
November 12, 2020

"It's not the coach's job to decide, through selection, who's going to be good."

Denmark are the reigning world champions in men's handball. The women finished fourth at Euro 2016. How is differentiation used in the children's handball in Denmark? I have had a long and good conversation with Claus Hansen – formerly one of Denmark's foremost talent developers.

Denmark is known for its fantastic junior work. They regularly bring out great talent. At the same time, it is not only topping what the Danish Handbold Association (DHF) is concerned about. According to Claus Hansen, it is important that all children experience mastery at all of their training. But how is it differentiated in children's sport in Denmark?

When it comes to differentiation, DHF has no clear definition of the term. But they have some guidelines that Claus Hansen mentions:

  • The association wants coaches to emphasise that children should neither be the best nor the worst at training.
  • They use the 25/50/25 model. That is, children will complete 25% of their training with someone with a slightly higher skill level, 50% of training with players at the same level, and the last 25% with players with lower skill levels.
  • Be observant of "false mastery." A too high level compared to the others may seem inhibitory.

"The worst players demand the most"

I presented to Claus the following assertion: "The worst players demand the most." And Claus clearly agreed.

"The children with the lowest skills require the most, but often the case is that they get the least. It requires more energy and preparation to train children with low skill levels. Unfortunately, it is often the "worst" who are coached by the "worst" coaches."

Claus's clear view is that new players should be coached by the best coach. This can lead to a faster and more long-term entrance into the handball. We have too many cases of children starting in August and ending in December.

Instead of selection, one should identify.

Hansen also believes that instead of sealing, one should identify. It should be the child's inner "drive" and interest that should determine how much the child should exercise. He wants the children themselves to make the choices, whether they want to exercise once or three times a week. When identifying and not sealing, coaches will have less focus on who's the best right now. Looking at the current level, one often overlooks the ability to see who can flourish over time.

Claus Hansen is clear about what the coach's focus in children's sports should be:

"It's not the coach's job to decide, through selection, who's going to be good. The children will choose for themselves. Unfortunately, it is often the opposite that happens. The coach chooses a first team with the best players who train more than the others. Here the coach has made the choice FOR the children."

This leads to apostasy, not because of the children's choices, but on the basis of a choice we adults have made. A focus on children's individual development, rather than a coach who is dying prematurely, can be a key to minor apostasy.

We look forward to discussing more differentiation next week.
Handball salute, Bjarte Myrhol and Learn Handball team

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