Team sports are taking over the field of soft practices

The affair, for a long time, was heard. To get back to sport late in the day, or simply to talk without hurting your body too much, you didn’t have to look very far: focus on gentle disciplines, from Nordic walking to water aerobics, including yoga or all the sports. variants of indoor fitness. Sometimes group exercises, of course, but individual practices, always.

→ EXPLANATION. Covid-19: how to safely resume indoor sport?

This movement, accelerated by the multiple campaigns on “healthy sport”, the collective disciplines do not intend to let it pass. Even if the approach is not obvious at the start, because competition is not the alpha and omega of the practice; and that it is a question of addressing an audience of seniors, rather neglected until then.

Finally offer offers to seniors

Take football, for example. The story was played out at the end of 2017, in the Orne. On the side of Alençon more exactly, where Yannick Rouault then takes care of the football section at the Sports and Gymnastics Federation of Labor (FSGT). He has just discovered “walking football” in England, a football by walking which appeals to the over-50s across the Channel, with more than 1,000 clubs across the country. Prohibited from running, dribbling on obviously smaller grounds, in teams of five, trying to keep the ball as much as possible on the ground, the game seems ideal to this sixty-year-old who manages to organize a first meeting in June 2018.

“Other poles developed at the same time at the FSGT, in particular in Marseille and in Brittany, says Yannick Rouault. The advantage is that walking football also makes it possible to easily integrate disabled people and to develop co-education. In my club, out of about thirty members, there are five women. It’s very friendly, fun, it is aimed at people who have never played like former footballers who could no longer express themselves in a club. It remains to promote the discipline, to see the numbers swell. “

The FSGT does with its means, which are obviously not those of the French Football Federation (FFF). The latter has finally turned to this football while walking, which she looked down on when she first started out. “We realized that while we were very dynamic in our offers for people under 18, we were far behind seniors compared to other European countries., recognizes Patrick Pion, deputy national technical director of the FFF. We therefore offer several practices such as golf football (in which we replace the golf ball with a ball, editor’s note) and football while walking, which are a priority for us. We are going to distribute educational materials, train educators, because there are still only about a hundred clubs. “

Skills to look for

A certain enthusiasm, but still limited compared to the potential: this is the conviction of Chrystel Bernou, this time at the French Volleyball Federation, with the “soft volley” that she has been promoting for four years. A volley that this technical framework went to seek in Japan where the practice is paradoxically very oriented towards competition. For France, with this volleyball in teams of four, on a smaller field, a net only 2 m high, and a larger and softer ball, Chrystel Bernou wants to address seniors first. “Because, like the other federations, we still have a shortage of offers for the over 40s”.

As often, to adopt a gentle practice, you just have to test it. “Soft volley”, like certain adapted basketball formulas, is gaining supporters. “In the clubs where it takes, it takes very hard with very quickly dozens of participants”, says Chrystel Bernou. Which also raises limits. “Everything happens at the same time in the clubs: leisure sport, health sport, parasport, etc. It’s complicated to find niches in gyms to bring all these activities to life, with competent people to lead them. “

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Attracting more seniors can however be a means of integrating into clubs a population capable of becoming involved as volunteers, or even as leaders. This is an issue that Patrick Pion takes into account at the FFF: “There is a reserve of skills there that we can use to found the club of tomorrow: a club really open to the whole family, where everyone can contribute to make a place of total life. “


Touch rugby, contactless rugby

Seniors are not necessarily the priority audience of the National Touch Rugby Federation, born in 2001 by importing this rugby of Australian origin which is played without veneer and without scrum. Because this avoidance game, of which the premier category is mixed, remains very demanding for its practitioners (2,000 in around 70 clubs). Nevertheless: in a context where the bad contacts of the traditional XV have more and more tendency to frighten, “We also have quadras and fifties in our clubs who can thus keep in contact with the oval”, underlines Thibault Zettel, federal responsible for development, who does not however speak of “soft practice”. The latter regrets the lack of exchanges with the French Rugby Federation, which is focused on a fairly similar variant, V-rugby, a French exception.



Women’s sport at the point of collective agreements

A “Historic agreement”. On March 15, at the time of presenting the signature of the sectoral collective agreement which must come into force in July 2021 to organize and guarantee the rights of their players, the representatives of the French handball were not little proud to display their determination as pioneers. The text is indeed the first of its kind in the world of French women’s professional sport, the result of long negotiations between the union of professional clubs, the players’ association and the group of coaches and training professionals.

The advances are not small. More than 150 handball players in 14 elite clubs will see their salary maintained in the event of pregnancy or long injury for a year (against three months until then). They will benefit from the extension of their paid leave which is reduced to seven weeks, like those of men, and will benefit from training opportunities for their retraining.

On the salary side, the agreement sets the minimum salary at € 1,650 gross per month. A rather modest floor, barely above the current minimum (€ 1,561) provided for by the national collective agreement for sport. Taking into account the difficulties related to the health context, it is however called upon to evolve.

Handball as a scout

“All of this is the result of a long process that began in 2018 and demanded by the development of women’s handball., welcomes Sabrina Ciavatti, ex-international and vice-president of the Association of Professional Handball Players. With more and more structured clubs, titles also won by the French team and increased media coverage, we are reaching the same stage as men’s rugby at the time of its transition to professionalism in the mid-1990s. precise legal framework on the conditions for exercising our profession. “

Can handball inspire other sports? All eyes are obviously on football. Except that, contrary to popular belief, if the discipline plays ambassadors and is not for nothing in the evolution of mentalities around women’s sport, it is less structured than handball, especially economically.

→ CRITICAL. “The Ladies Football Club”, by Stefano Massini: a balloon of oxygen

“I have to repeat it often: we are not yet professional, some of our first division teams still play on synthetic turf and not all club finances are assured., insists Brigitte Henriques, vice-president of the French Football Federation. We must change the status of the players, go beyond the 150 or so champions who now benefit from a federal contract. We are going to define a new roadmap to reach a milestone, perhaps within two or three years. “

Secure practices as much as possible

Basketball could suddenly be the best place to catch the ball on the jump. “We are not in a race, but evolution is essential, underlines Yannick Souvré, president of the National Basketball League, former captain of the Bleues in the 1990s. At the time, I had launched the association of players, which was not really a union, but through which I could clearly see that the players, and me the first, lived basketball as a passion rather than a profession. . Things are different today. The players are more supervised and aware from the start of their career. A new status is needed to make it as secure as possible. “

The basketball world has been working on it since September 2018. The dialogue between all the partners has had its ups and downs, but it must be relaunched on Monday, April 19. “For ten years, a big effort has been made to structure the clubs, which are much more solid today. Our 12 elite clubs have a turnover of 24.5 million euros and employ 115 players with an average annual gross salary of 77,000 euros., details Marie-Laure Lafargue, president of the Basket Landes club and new number 2 in the League to maneuver on social issues. We are ripe for a sectoral agreement for our women, hopefully by the end of 2021. “

A path that rugby also plans to take, even if no deadline is set. President of the Provale union, Robins Tchale-Watchou would be in favor of an acceleration of the discussions, and to do this, not to focus on the economic question: “The important thing is to allow the players to fully live their practice, on and off the field, and to deal in particular with questions of maternity, insurance coverage and not to take the problem on the only side of remuneration. In order not to wait for economic development which can take a long time, we could move forward on these questions, send a strong sign for practitioners, and then change things in terms of salaries. A convention is never set in stone. “


Fifa marks the blow on motherhood

Announced in November 2020, a new regulation imposed by the International Football Federation (Fifa) on its 211 member countries entered into force in January 2021. It obliges clubs that play internationally to offer their players maternity leave of ‘at least fourteen weeks (including eight after birth) paid at least two-thirds of their contractual salary, as well as a ban on dismissal. The observation is indeed clear: rare are the players who dare to become pregnant during their career. With this measure, Fifa hopes to help change the situation.



Handball: the new collective force of the Blues

They didn’t expect to invite themselves to the banquet. But after their snatch victory Wednesday January 27 against Hungary (35-32 after extra time), here is indeed the Blues in the last four of the World Handball. In view of the record of the France team, it’s a good old habit, the 24e semi-final of its history, all international competitions combined. For these Blues, however, it is a real feat.

“If I had been told that we were going to line up seven wins in seven games, I wouldn’t have believed it”, admitted winger Valentin Porte beaming at the end of the meeting. “It’s a great group victory”, applauded the pivot Ludovic Fabregas. A victory in two stages, a perfect summary of this Mondial des Bleus, which tells for the moment the unexpected rebirth of a collective force totally scattered a year earlier.

Rebuild on a field of ruins

It was at Euro 2020, an elimination from the preliminary round, the worst result for the Blues in more than a quarter of a century. Trauma, a dislocated group and a coach, Didier Dinart, thanked bluntly, replaced by his assistant and former teammate, Guillaume Gille. On top of this great upheaval, the coronavirus, the absence of any regrouping for ten months and the serious injury of his playing master Nikola Karabatic, in mid-October.

At the time of the resumption, in early January 2021 for two friendlies against Serbia, nothing is going. With a defeat and a draw, the only baggage that the Blues carry for the World Cup in Egypt does not weigh heavily. Everyone imagines that they will fold it very quickly. Except that. The Blues continue. More than convincing victories against Norway, vice-world champion at the start of the competition (28-24), and Portugal, scarecrow to qualify for the quarter-finals (32-23). And between the two, chaotic matches packed on the wire, against Switzerland (25-24), Algeria (29-26) or Iceland (28-26).

The benchmark for “participatory management”

The Blues played the same dissonant music against Hungary. A catastrophic start to the game (1-7 after eleven minutes of play) then a second half all in regained authority, but which leaves the Hungarians to offer themselves in extremis an extension, before a success in the wear. Emotional yo-yo. The affair is nevertheless negotiated without panic.

“This team is a work in progress, comments Philippe Bana, the president of the French Handball Federation. It still lacks stability. But what is certain is that the glue has set, between the guys, with the supervision: a group is born. “

Philippe Bana knows what he is talking about. The former national technical director had developed with the coach Claude Onesta a “participative management” which made the heyday of the “Strong” and “Experts” for 15 years. “In the France team, the players took part in a common laboratory, were associated with the game strategy and the operating rules of the group. They are deeply attached to this adventure which mixed high level competition and personal development ”, underlined Claude Onesta in 2017 to explain the long domination of his Blues. “Each story is unique, but Guillaume Gille shares the same idea of ​​co-construction”, says Philippe Bana.

A newfound ability to live together

Guillaume Gille talks about “Accountability” players. Almost daily, a “game council” meets, with management and referent players, to discuss strategy. “It’s a mix of ideas that come together, we complement each other well”, appreciates the center-half Kentin Mahé. The involvement of all is obvious and encouraged by Guillaume Gille, who does not hesitate to rotate the workforce.

As for the management, it is the same sacred union, with the new assistant Érick Mathé and the physical trainer Olivier Maurelli. “It is a very close-knit staff, with obvious complementarity”, observes Philippe Bana. An osmosis all the more remarkable as the constraints of the coronavirus have forced this small world to live in isolation for almost five weeks. “I am still surprised by the ability of people to live together”, testifies Pierre Sébastien, the doctor of the Blues.

Enough to secure a podium, and perhaps a new major title, the first since the 2017 World Cup? “We are on a path where, during each outing, we try to grow as a team, accumulate experience and solve problems”, procrastinated Guillaume Gille before the match against Portugal. The judgment is still valid. But it is well known: the appetite comes with eating.


The new Swedish youth

They too are in reconstruction and reconquest. But their glorious past is a bit older than that of the Blues. The Swedes, whom the French will meet in the semi-finals on Friday 29 at 5.30 p.m. (live on TMC and BeIN Sports), dominated the 1990s, accumulating until 2002 no less than four European titles and two world titles.

Since then, their record has remained blank, and no one saw them at the party in Egypt, deprived of eight major players. But with young people with sharp teeth, Sweden managed a clear course and crushed Qatar 35-23 to reach the last four. In the other semi-final, a clash of titans between the reigning world and Olympic champion Denmark and Spain, double European champion.