The new handball season is fast approaching, and Oly Cats Player-Coach Bobby White is excited about what lies ahead for the club in 2017/18.
White and his players get their season under way in just over a month’s time, and he says the challenge of the new campaign is one that he’s already relishing.
“We’re looking forward to the first games at the end of September,” White said. “It’s why we train, we don’t train for the sake of it. It’s going to be an interesting season this year with the changes that are happening to the structure of the league.
“I’ve got a few friends who are coaches of other teams, and it’s always nice competing against them and testing yourself against your peers.
“It’s going to be intense and there’s going to be a few weekends which are going to be very busy, but it’s part and parcel of the handball calendar.”
It’s not just the senior team that Oly Cats can get excited about this season, however. There are Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18 teams regularly taking to the court, too, and White has high hopes for the future.
And while there are plenty of positives looking forward, there are also challenges. White has seen several squad members depart this summer, but that does provide the younger players with an opportunity — highlighting the requirement for the development pathway that Oly Cats provides.
“With the senior team, I’m hoping we can consolidate our place in the National League,” White continued. “We’ve lost a few players, with lads leaving to go to University, and others for work reasons. We’re going to be left with a very young team this year, much younger than what we’re probably used to.
“I hope that those boys have got enough about them to compete and maintain our place, and we can consolidate and keep building on the success of our Under-18s. We are one of the stronger teams — we made it to the league final.
“Maybe we can go one step further? We’ve certainly got the squad for it, but we’ll have to see what the other teams do. Hopefully the players we’re pulling up can compete at the same intensity as the ones they’re replacing.
“It’s a shame we lose the kids but, for example, we’ve got five guys heading out to Denmark this year on a one-year scholarship. They’ll be playing handball all day every day for the season, so they’re only going to come back better players.
“Looking at the Under-16s and Under-14s, we’ll be looking to have a productive season and get these players embedded into the Oly Cats pathway.”
Another aspiration for White comes in the shape of an Oly Cats women’s outfit. The prospect is one which excites him, but it’s something to revisit further down the line.
“One of our ambitions is to have women’s and girls’ teams to compete, but we’ve not affiliated a team yet because we don’t have the numbers.
“A side angle is trying to get the girls programme a bit more sustainable, and then we can have a look at this again in the near future.”