Touch Germany striving to increase player numbers
May 20, 2021 @ 9:00 UTC
The sport of Touch is maturing steadily in Germany with teams playing out of most of the country's biggest cities and the leadership of Touch Germany has a robust plan to ensure the game continues to spread its wings and bring people together.
In many developing Touch nations, the sport seems to be concentrated in one or two stronghold areas. In Germany, the opposite is the case, according to one of our game’s leading lights in the emerging Central European nation.
“It’s completely spread across the country from Hamburg in the north to Munich in the south, east to west Berlin and Cologne, then in between Hanover, Frankfurt and Heidelberg,” said Touch Germany President Ute Kohlheim, when she joined Adam Collins from the Federation of International Touch (FIT), for a recent episode of ‘Set of Six’. Lok Man Ho and Tumelo Peane, from Touch Germany, were also part of the conversation about the development of Touch in the most populous country in western Europe.
The wide geographical spread of the sport is accompanied by a very small player base. Ute estimates that there are about 160 Touch players in Germany. There is also only one club in each of the many cities in which Touch is played. This means that players have to travel to other cities to play competition Touch. There is no regular weekly in season competition being played in each city.
The main aim of the leadership of Touch Germany is to try to increase the player base. If this can be achieved then the decentralized nature of Touch in Germany could then become an advantage, as the sport already has a foothold all over the country.
Collaboration with other sports could be the key
Touch Germany President Ute Kohlheim came to Touch from rugby and she believes developing some form of partnership with that sport will be important going forward, “The main aim is really to establish a good cooperation with rugby to try to get a bigger player base.” Although it is only a relatively small sport, in a nation dominated by football, Ute noted that there are 16,000 rugby players in Germany. Many other developing Touch nations do have good relations with rugby and there are certainly advantages in developing a symbiotic relationship with a more established sport. As well as attracting new players, gaining better access to playing fields is also possible.
Ute Kohlheim noted that Touch Germany would also like to develop ties with the sport of handball. 750,000 people play handball in Germany, which has a population of 83 million people. Handball does share some of the skills required to play Touch, such as hand/eye coordination, footwork and fitness. Cultivating a relationship could be of mutual benefit.
Youth development definitely challenging
Attracting children and young adults to Touch has not been easy. Touch Germany board member Tumelo Peane did introduce Touch to his university and had some success, “The sport is very attractive to younger people here because it’s something you can play with your friends on the grass between lectures.” The problem according to Tumelo was that when people finished their studies, they left the sport and he had to recruit a new group of players.
Gaining access for Touch into schools has been extremely challenging. The Berlin club has been collaborating with some schools however most children play Touch for clubs. The clubs have also struggled to recruit enough children so many children end up playing in older age group teams.
Plenty of whistle blowers
Touch Germany places a lot of importance on having enough suitably qualified referees. “There has always been an emphasis on refereeing and how important it is in developing the game,” said Lok Man Ho. One really innovative step taken to ensure the sport in Germany has enough referees was to make it compulsory for all national team players to become qualified as level 1 referees. If you want to represent Germany you have to become a qualified ref.
Looking beyond the pandemic
The Touch community in Germany were able to get back onto the field last year during the northern summer. Then the second COVID-19 lockdown happened and all amateur sport has been cancelled since November.
Tumelo Peane’s dream of representing Germany was put on hold,” I was hoping that last year I would get my first official cap for Germany but then we all know what happened.” Online group workouts and social catchups have replaced face to face training “To make sure people come back when the sport starts again,” said Tumelo.
When full training and play begin again one of the major goals will be to establish a senior mixed team to complement the Women’s Open and Men’s Open teams. This will open up the possibility of representing Germany at international level to many more players.
The sport of Touch is maturing steadily in Germany and the leadership of Touch Germany definitely have a plan in place to ensure the game they love keeps on progressing.