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You've got to hand it to this Hope graduate...

Ragul Selvamoorthy handball conditioning coach

This Liverpool Hope University graduate is working with the GB Women’s handball team. 

And Ragul Selvamoorthy is hoping to convince others to get involved in a sport that’s surging in popularity in the UK. 

To the uninitiated, handball is an ultra-high paced game often described as a combination of basketball, football and water polo.

Teams of seven attempt to score as many goals as they can during a 60 minute match, with end-to-end contests often resulting in teams scoring as many as 25-30 goals each.

Liverpool has a thriving handball scene, with team HQ based at the Greenbank Sports Academy, and with the men’s side having been crowned National Handball League Champions - and set to be promoted to the Premier Handball League. 

Former Hope student Ragul - who graduated in Sport & Exercise Science in 2019 - was involved in that successful season, working as a strength and conditioning coach and sports scientist. 

And on the back of that campaign Ragul, who grew up in Paris, France, has now been invited to take up a similar role with the GB Women’s national side. 

Ragul, also a keen Judo practitioner, says that while handball might not be so well known in England, it’s widely popular elsewhere in Europe. 

The 25-year-old adds: “I’d urge anyone interested in handball to just give it a go. 

“It’s fast, it’s physical, and it’s a great sport to either watch or play. 

“And the Liverpool Handball community is really welcoming, with a great team culture, and there are sessions for beginners to get you started.”

Ragul says his work with the Liverpool Handball team saw him taking an individual approach to the overall team mentality.  

He explains: “Physical performance is multi-faceted, so my goal was to make sure players were strong, powerful, fast and very fit.

“We introduced personalised High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) programmes for each athlete, working within different physiological ‘zones’. 

“And through that we were able to work out specific training intensities for individuals, as well as looking at how they trained together as a team.

“I’m really proud of what we achieved this season. A lot of the other teams had European players who’d played semi-professionally, so it was a challenging environment. 

“But the players worked so hard and the coach was fantastic.”

That paved the way for Ragul to join the GB Women’s side, by way of peers recommending him to the organisation. 

And part of his GB role involves keeping players not just fit and strong, but away from the treatment table. 

He adds: “You can’t prevent injuries. There are so many variables you simply can’t control, such as technique alterations due to individual levels of fatigue. 

“But our philosophy is that if we have strong, robust athletes, that should reduce the injury risk. It’s all about getting the correct conditioning.

“Meanwhile handball players are prone to suffering specific types of injuries. 

“Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are common, due to repeated changes in direction and landing from jumping. 

“That’s a tough injury to try and overcome, so it’s paramount we try to limit it as much as possible.”

Ragul and the GB team are now working towards international competitions later in the year - Coronavirus permitting. 

GB Women’s Handball will compete in the ‘Emerging Nations’ tournament, which is one step below the World Championships and for teams that haven’t qualified for the Olympics or the World Champs. 

Ragul reveals: “This is the key competition we’re looking at. And we hope it’ll raise the profile of handball even further. 

“After the 2012 Olympics - when we had both a men’s and women’s handball team competing - the popularity of handball skyrocketed. 

“And we want to continue to build on that reputation.”

Away from handball, Ragul will also take up a placement with national agency Sport Scotland this year, again working on strength and conditioning, with elements of sports science. 

He’ll be involved with the Scottish Judo programme, as well as covering other sports like swimming and women’s football. 

He adds: “It’s going to be a really great experience for me, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”

Ragul has also given thanks to some of the colleagues he’s so far worked with. They include Liverpool Handball coaches Andy Clark and Stephen Jones, as well as GB team manager Paula Newnes, and Joint Head Coaches Paul Dempsey and Zoran Lukac. 

Published on 21/04/2020