Historic success at the European Championships: the story of the Slovak national handball team.

28. May 2024
Karin VravkováAutor článku & Member of Headformers

At the beginning of 2020, I joined the Slovak Handball Federation’s A-team as a sports psychologist to prepare for the European Championships 2022. At that time, the team faced significant obstacles caused by the global pandemic COVID-19, including cancellation of training camps and limited opportunity to train together under a new coach.

Problems and challenges

The main challenges were:

1. Cancellation of regular training camps: the pandemic has severely limited physical training camps and training sessions, which are crucial for team preparation and coordination.

2. Lack of handball quality compared to top European teams: the team needed to significantly improve its performance in order to compete at European level.

3. The need for a fast integration and adaptation of new methods: Changes in the training process and the integration of new approaches required fast adaptation from all involved.

Strategies and implementation

Together with the coaching staff, we implemented the following steps:

1. Team and Coaches Diagnostics: Based on an extensive Balance Management diagnostic, we identified key psychological and tactical aspects that needed to be improved in the team.

2. Creating a two-year preparation plan: Although the pandemic shortened our preparation time from the planned 18 months to one year, we were able to create an intensive development plan.

3. Building a team identity: A key objective was to create a strong and unified team identity. The team motto was:

“We want to work as a team that performs professionally. We want to get on and off the field with pride. We want the spectators to celebrate our performance.”



The most intensive preparation started in December 2021 and led to excellent results at the European Championships, where the Slovak team won a historic victory. This success was the result of not only physical but also mental preparations:

  • Teamwork and communication: the players and coaching staff learned to communicate effectively and support each other.


  • Performance on the field: the team fought for every single ball, showed that they are capable of competing at European level and presented themselves with a determined performance.  


The success at the European Championships was a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of the strategies implemented and the strong emphasis on mental preparation and a team-oriented approach. This case study shows that even in times of significant obstacles, extraordinary results can be achieved through well-organized preparation and strong team dynamics. And finally, one interesting fact. I was the only mental coach who was an official part of the coaching staff at the 2022 European Championships.

All photos in this case study are by Michal Smrčok.

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