It is probably fair to say that Highbury has historic roots in a sport slightly more mainstream than korfball.
But after presiding for nearly a year over London’s fastest growing club, Richard Haywood is understandably proud of the progress Highbury Korfball Club have made in his brief tenure as chairman.
“We have regenerated the entire club,” says Haywood. “It’s now such a young, vibrant and exciting place to be.”
When Haywood joined the Highbury’s fourth team nearly half a decade ago, he was playing for a club that was struggling as much as he was.
“I couldn’t even catch a ball at first,” he says. “We were struggling to get four teams out every week, and the firsts weren’t playing particularly well.
Four years later and Haywood has become an integral part of the club both on and off the court, rising to the second team before being elected chairman last July. The club now resides in the Promotion Division, one step below the national Premier League.
“It’s been brilliant,” he says enthusiastically. “The progress we’ve made has been phenomenal. We were declining not just in terms of participation numbers, but in terms of performance too.
In the past few months, we have been playing as well as we have before and at the highest level we ever have done.
We had a match against Supernova on the weekend. Two years ago, we were pretty much neck and neck. Now, we’re nine points ahead of them in the league and we thrashed them 23-7.
Haywood is quick to point to the influence of coach Stephanie Allen, one of the English national team’s star players:
She’s just phenomenal. We can all play the game, we can all take a shot at the basket, but it’s about making decisions.
She’s taught us how to make good decisions and really worked on our team play, how we function as a team.
Allen scored a remarkable 49 goals in 14 games for England last year, helping them to achieve a world ranking of fifth.
Maybe English football could learn a thing or two from korfball after all?
So what’s a korfball?
- Korfball is a ball sport with similarities to basketball and netball
- Played by two teams of eight players: four females and four males
- The only mixed-sport recognised by the International Olympics Committee
- One point is scored by throwing the ball through a 3.5m hoop from anywhere on the court
- Players cannot run with the ball, so rely on quick passing and teamwork to score
- Originated in Holland, but initially drew controversy for being too “promiscuous”
- Men can only mark men and vice-versa for women, putting emphasis on skill over power