Top young talents gather for Respect Your Talent camp
30 of the most talented male players from the M18 category gathered in Vienna, Austria between 27 and 29 January for the Respect Your Talent (RYT) Camp 2023.
A training camp for some of Europe's most talented young handballers to develop their skills and gain valuable first-hand experience in off-court matters, the RYT Camp featured players from 19 countries.
This was the second RYT Camp for boys, after Budapest hosted the inaugural one during the Men's EHF EURO 2022. There have also been two camps for girls aged 17.
Luka Stepančić of OTP Bank-Pick Szeged, former Spanish international Carlos Prieto, assistant coach of HC Erlangen Ólafur Stefánsson and Slovenia legend Vid Kavtičnik were the ambassadors of the event. Stepančić and Stefansson were a new addition to the camp programme, as it was their first RYT Camp.
Stepančić, who together with Stefánsson had it's ambassador debut, spoke of the privilege he felt about being an ambassador, "I'm really honoured to be here. It’s a really nice feeling to be able to present the talents with something that you've been through, to share your experience with them firsthand. When I heard about this program, I thought that I would have loved to have it when I was their age. And I'm happy that they have the opportunity to be here."
Learning from the ambassadors and experts
The youngsters participated in six training sessions over the weekend with the ambassadors, who were teamed up with experts specialized in a certain field: David Obererlacher and Simona Margetic (Media), Andreas Joklik (Sports law), Hans Holdhaus (Anti-doping), Bojana Jelicic (Mental fitness), Alejandro Martinez Rodriguez (Nutrition) and Wolfgang Stockinger (Dual career).
One of the participants, Daniel Stanciuc from Romania, was thrilled to be at the RYT camp because of its important programme, "I think it's an amazing opportunity for us to, in the first place, sit and chat with these legends, with guys we just saw on TV. It's very important for us because it gives us a different perspective about the things maybe we don't think so much about like dual career, anti-doping and so. It's just amazing having a chat with these legends and, learning the insights of high-level handball."
But which was Daniel's favorite training session? "I think it's the one with the mental fitness. It's really important. People see it as maybe just something normal, but I think you can really work on that and you have to be really good at this to play on a high level."
The Netherlands' Martijn de Jong added, "This program it is important because you only hear what you have to do on the court and almost nowhere what you have to do off the court. So we're learning about everything you have to do outside the playing field."
I think it's an amazing opportunity for us to, in the first place, sit and chat with these legends, with guys we just saw on TV. It's very important for us because it gives us a different perspective about the things maybe we don't think so much about like dual career, anti-doping and so. It's just amazing having a chat with these legends and, learning the insights of the high level handball.
Individual development meets team development
One of the main goals of the camp was around the close interaction between the players and the ambassadors, which is why each ambassador had his own team to guide throughout the camp, so the team talks played a major role in the schedule. Everything culminated with each team’s presentation on the main takeaway after these three days.
The players also enjoyed some extra activities over their weekend stay, including skydiving and an EHF handball quiz. There was even time to watch the Men's World Championship matches together.
The ambassadors' views
Kavticnik, whose second RYT camp this was, spoke about the significance of such an event for young players, "The most important thing about this programme is that the ambassadors and everyone involved would like to share something with the young players. It is important that these players want to hear it because we can explain and we can share our experience. It is up to them if they want to listen to us!"
Knowing all about high-pressured situations from his own career, Stepančić was keen to pass on the importance of dealing with pressure to the next generation of players, "Knowing how to deal with pressure is very important, that will be their everyday life for them. In every training at that high level will be pressure, not just the games. And when it comes to little details that can be decisive between first and second place, this is where you have to be mentally prepared."
Olafur Stefansson spoke about the value of respecting one’s own talent: "I think it really means that you cultivate your garden. So what it means is to make the most out of what you've got and your potential and possibility. Because you don't want to be with 40 or more and think ‘I could have’ or ‘I would have’ or if this or that. You want to feel you've done the best of what the karma cards gave you, you've been given certain things and these are your options and you make the most out of them, that is respecting your talent or what you have been given."
With his own distinguished career, Stefansson is well-placed to talk about what makes a great player, "I think the keyword and we talked about it a lot this weekend is the responsibility, to take responsibility for everything around you and being open for mistakes. Be open to criticism. The guys who grow quickly or quicker are the ones who embrace everything that happens and make their notes, learn from it, and do it better the next day, or try to do it better the next day."
Telling your own story was a phrase often used at the camp, and Prieto draw a parallel between today's media landscape and the one when he was an active player himself, "The game developed itself, not only with what happens on the court but also around what happens off the court. The young generations have now an opportunity I didn’t have back then, to create their own identity. Before you would give an interview and the media created a story about you. Nowadays, you can tell your own story, and if they want, they can take it, but you have your own identity."
Final word from another talent
Norwegian Lars Eirik Larsen's favourite moment from the camp was being able to learn from the legends that had come before him, highlighting the significance of having the ambassadors present, "Olafur’s speech when he talked about his story. His craziness and all of the stuff he said, it was learnable, but in an enjoyable way. The way he talked to us, the way he expressed himself and the stuff that he said. It's something I would take with me, and it was, yeah, knowledgeable."
One of the talents participating in the RYT Camp 2023 might find himself in the position to play against one of the ambassadors in the near future: Kristof Csörgo from FTC is likely to soon face Luka Stepančić from OTP Bank-Pick Szeged.