Thomsen: "Players deserve the best of the coaches every time"
The European Handball Federation has, upon the initiative of the Women’s Handball Board, named Helle Thomsen the 2018/19 Female Coach of the Season. Thomsen was nominated alongside four other female coaches: Romania youth coach Carmen Andreea Amariei, Hungary youth coach Beata Bohus, Norway junior coach Vigdis Holmeset, and Russia youth coach Ljubov Sidoricheva.
Thomsen won the bronze medal at the EHF EURO 2018 with the Netherlands in December, making her the only coach to medal at the three most recent editions of the women’s European championship. Previously she took silver with the Netherlands in 2016 and bronze with Sweden in 2014. Also, she has been coaching Norwegian side Molde HK since 2018.
The award is part of the ‘women’s handball role models’ campaign, which aims to raise the image and popularity of women’s handball, empower and promote female leadership and inspire young players for top level handball as well as prepare them for the post-career era.
ehfCL.com: Congratulations for being named female coach of the season. Why do you think awards like this are important?
Helle Thomsen: First, I think it’s important that everyone in handball does something for the women in handball. It’s good to take more women in the top so it’s not only men – but I still think you must take the best one. If the men are the best, then take the men, but I also think this is a good way to give a chance to the women. I also think when you make some people happy, other people can see ‘if we do a good job then we can be there one day.’
ehfCL.com: This award is part of the WHB’s ongoing ‘women’s handball role models’ campaign. Do you agree that role models in general and in sport are beneficial for young women and girls?
Helle Thomsen: I totally agree. If I go 20-25 years back, I look at the people that are stars and I remember a lot of handball players. I think the inspiration for me has also been all the people that were high [up] when I was a child. I think it’s important also because in the world right now, we are talking a lot about war, we are talking a lot about fights, and problems and all. When you are in sport, it’s passion, it’s feelings. You can be from one club and another club and you’re still friends. This is what I like because it connects people. We don’t hope the same team will win, but we are still celebrating. We are still together and we can talk together and I like that. I think it’s good if you can teach all the kids that – not all about fights or only to win or lose, but that you can also have it good together.
ehfCL.com: You’ve spoken before about how female coaches and women in general might be more likely to stop when they come across difficult challenges. Do you have any advice for women, related to this?
Helle Thomsen: When you feel it’s hard, and there will come some people who will knock you in the head, then keep going. If you want to be a coach or a leader on a high level, then you will meet a lot of people who want your job, they don’t like the way you do it, and every time they have a chance then they will knock you. If you look for the bad energy, then they will put you down. Find the person that can give you good energy. There are more men who have the top jobs out in the world. I also think if the men are the best then take them – I also think when we are here, then take the best referees, take the best people. Don’t take the women because they are women. They must take them because they are good. I think when you start with that it’s also easier, because I don’t want to be here because I’m a woman. I want to be here because people think I do a good job – doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman.
ehfCL.com: Another part of the ‘women’s handball role models’ campaign is helping players transition into other roles after their on-court careers. Did you know you wanted to be a coach when you were a player yourself?
Helle Thomsen: I didn’t know that because I didn’t know that I could have money so I could live from handball, as a coach. When I started as a coach, I was a trainer for small kids, and then they were older and older and it kept going. And I really loved my job. I said from the beginning, as long as I love it then I must be a coach, but if I don’t like it, I will quit because I won’t be a good coach anymore. I have also been a bit lucky with my jobs – in Denmark first, then the Swedish national team, then the Dutch national team. I love my sport. I love to be a coach. But I think a lot of the teams I have trained have also fit well with me. I think that’s important. I have really been lucky with the teams I have been trainer for. When I was younger, I didn’t know that this would be my job – this is my dream job. I can live having a job that is my hobby. If you told me when I was in school and I must do homework, when I was 13 years old, I would have hugged you and said ‘thank you, thank you, thank you!’ Because I was not good in school, I am not good at anything, but I really love sport and I’m really lucky I’m here today. And I can only thank the people around me cause they helped me a lot.
ehfCL.com: Do you have any advice to players for how to approach the next step after their on-court careers?
Helle Thomsen: When you have been a big handball player for many years, then it can be difficult to jump out of this handball, this media world, this handball life. You are going to training every day. I always say handball players must remember to be happy, because it’s a hard job, it’s hard for the body – but it’s also a good job because it’s their hobby. It starts as a hobby; it starts because it was only fun. It depends which player is coming to me. Some players know what they want to do and they only need a kick to say ‘do it.’ Other players really don’t know, but then I say: try it, don’t stop. I just talked to (Women’s EHF Champions League ambassador) Anja Althaus now and she told me she is working a lot here. I said: This is fantastic! You are really good at that. You can talk to all the people. You can handle all the people, so be in this world. I also think the handball world, the female world, needs handball players from the past because they know the game so it’s good to have people from the past in the handball world.
ehfCL.com: Part of this award is having all participation fees and accommodation for the next edition of the EHF Master Coach Course. What’s next for you, along with the Master Coach Course?
Helle Thomsen: It’s funny because I have wanted to do this course for many years, but the problem was these seminars were always when the national teams were together. So, when you have a club team and a national team, you can’t do it. As I don’t have a national team right now, then I have a chance to take it, because I think it’s good. And I think it’s good to have a line for the coaches to say: OK you have been through this and then you can do it. About the future, I do what my stomach feels. Everything I do I must feel good with that, because then the players have the best coach. If I don’t do what I feel is right then the players don’t have a good coach, and they deserve the best of the coaches every time.