Team handball aims for recognition

photo provided by Alyssa Hoffert (foreground: second from left)

Women’s Junior tournament photo provided by Alyssa Hoffert (foreground: second from left)


Team handball in Saskatchewan took a hit from COVID in 2020 and is aiming to recover, despite being a lesser-known sport in a country where hockey, football and basketball capture the public’s attention.

Saskatchewan Team Handball Federation board members Bazil Rehman and Alyssa Hoffert both picked up the sport in high-school and are hoping to recruit through new programs like beach handball.

“I started because our school team didn’t have enough players and my friend introduced me to it,” said Rehman. “It’s like a combination of all my favorite sports growing up, like basketball and soccer.”

In team handball there are six players from each team, plus a goalie, on a surface bigger than a basketball court but smaller than a hockey rink. The ball is smaller than volleyball and goals are scored by throwing it into the net.



Hoffert said it’s been difficult to recruit new athletes. Currently handball isn’t sanctioned as a high school sport in Saskatchewan due to low numbers.

“We can’t give awards at school awards nights,” said Hoffert. “It’s harder to get gym times because we’re considered an outside organization.

“The athletes that do play when they’re in school like to have the same recognition that other high school sporting team members get. So we have been working towards getting more teams involved more schools involved… we were pretty close to hitting that number of schools but COVID did hit us quite hard.”

Team handball has gained some traction in Alberta and Quebec, but Saskatchewan falls behind in terms of public interest.

“Alberta and Quebec have always been kind of the big names in handball in Canada,” said Hoffert.

“Saskatchewan and Manitoba have always kind of been just a little bit behind. But I’m just really glad that it’s in our province at all. Ever since I started playing, I’ve been absolutely in love with it.”

Hoffert is looking forward to attending the Canada Team Handball Federation women’s national training camp in Edmonton next month.

“I’m glad that I have the chance to go and really just show that Saskatchewan still has athletes that are passionate about handball,” said Hoffert. “We shouldn’t really be counted out just because our program is smaller. We still have people that are that are passionate and driven and want to play.”

The Saskatchewan Team Handball Federation is rolling out several initiatives to get the general public involved.

One of these is “Handball in a Bag,” where a summer student will visit smaller communities outside of Regina and teach handball to children’s camps. The federation also holds a summertime co-ed beach handball tournament that Hoffert described as “super fun” and  “absolutely sick.” She wanted to emphasize that “you get double points for trick shots.”

“I noticed that the handball community was pretty small,” said Rehman. “Because of COVID we couldn’t really do a lot so I noticed our stuff was getting even smaller. So I wanted to join [the board] to see if I did find a way to make sure handball stays for the future.”

The Saskatchewan Team Handball Federation website explains team handball as “a Summer Olympic sport… The ball is passed between team mates at high speeds and attacking players use fast counter attacks and clever moves to overcome the defence and create opportunities to score. Only the goal keeper is allowed in the [six-metre] goal area that surrounds the goal.”


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