By Francis Kelly
BBC Essex Blast reporter
Handball popularity set to rise
Handball is in for a popularity boost with the setting up of schools clubs from September.
Brentwood Handball Club - the only one in Essex - is hoping to increase its numbers through the initiative.
Currently the club has around 20 playing members and wants to improve the training it can offer young people.
Chairman Mona Vaeremans said: "We want to really encourage children to pick this sport up as that's where the new recruits are coming from."
Youth Sport Trust and Sport England gave schools from Essex the choice of coaching one of seven Olympic and Paralympic sports.
The English Handball Association said so far 21 schools from across the county have confirmed they will start handball clubs in September.
England Handball's Performance Director Mick Hegarty told BBC Essex: "This will give us a kick-start for what will eventually become an Essex league.
"By 2011, we expect them to be fully registered handball clubs.
"England Handball will then be supporting them to network into an Essex handball association.
Funding for the scheme comes from a variety of sources including Sport England, Youth Sport Trust, the Department of Health and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Brentwood Handball Club, the previous five times National Champions which recently reformed after disbanding in the 1980s, does not currently take part in competitive games.
Founder Tom Smith said the new schools clubs will be important for the future of the club.
Handball is popular in many European countries, pulling in large TV audiences.
"We hope to enter the Southern Development League, this will help us progress and to develop younger players," added Tom.
"Once we develop that we can train them and they'll be the life-blood of the club," he said.
Already hugely popular in Europe, an estimated 17 million viewers tuned in for the World Championship Final in 2009.
Through this type of scheme a sport with little grassroots infrastructure can take advantage of the London Olympics.