Herefordshire's Zak Southwood soars from novice to UK tchoukball squad

SPORTSMAN Zak Southwood has gone from rank novice to the UK tchoukball national squad in just four months.

The teenager is training with the best in the country, despite only trying the sport for the first time in August.

He impressed on his Bury debut in November and has been invited to be involved in UK squad training on January 19.

“It’s been brilliant but I’ve got to stay focused,” said 15-year-old Zak, who lives in Stoke Prior.

“It’s still a learning curve for me and I’ve got to make the most of the time that I’m with the squad.”

Tchoukball is a non-contact high-speed global handball sport designed by Swiss biologist Dr Herman Brandt.

It is a team sport played with two rebounding nets called 'frames' and players can attack and defend at both ends of the court.

The object of tchoukball is to throw or 'shoot' the ball at the frame, so that it rebounds and lands over the line of the ‘D’ in the court.

The opposition's job is to catch the ball to prevent their opponents scoring and then shoot it themselves.

Zak was introduced to the sport by Tchoukball UK’s chief executive officer Phil Moore, who lives in Herefordshire.

Moore, a coach, was an international player from 2000 to 2004 and set up Leominster Tchoukball Club.

Moore said: “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind tour for ZaK, and he has a massive opportunity.

“He has a number of very good transferable skills form rugby and, once he hones his skills, he will be a fantastic asset to the UK squad.”

A golfer and talented forward for Luctonians Under-16, Zak tried the sport at a workshop in the rugby closed-season.

He got the bug, and quickly began training with Leominster.

After shining at a talent identification session in Portsmouth, Zak was picked up by scouts and sent to train and play with national league side Bury Saints – a necessary step to making the national side.

“The game gets a lot faster at the higher levels – it’s about being aware,” said defender Zac, whose mum, Penny, used to work for HALO Leisure.

“I’m quite tall, and my co-ordination, catching and fitness from rugby helps.”

Tchoukball is an emerging sport in the UK and is now played in more than 38 countries around the world.

Zak, a pupil at Earl Mortimer College, works on his skills after school in the sports hall, also used by the Leominster club for training.

And with just weeks before his next national league match, he is putting the hours in the gym and out on the roads.

While tchoukball’s popularity across the county is rising, Leominster are looking for more players.

With 10 players in their squad the Herefordshire club do not have sufficent numbers to compete in the national league.

Moore said: “We have really got to get the club established for Zak. He needs a good squad to be training with regularly.”

For more details about the Leominster sessions, call Phil Moore on 07971 861718 or visit www.tchoukball.co.uk.

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