Amidst the fierce rivalry of modern sport, three young women in Bideford are proving that friendship can be one of the key ingredients for sporting success.
Ruby Ivory, aged 17, Megan Wray, 17, and Alice Beresford, 16, are pupils at the Kingsley School in Bideford and have been selected for the Team GB handball squad. Ruby and Megan play for the Under-19 squad and Alice plays for the Under-17 squad.
The three best friends are also members of the 1610 Torridge Pool gym where they work out regularly under the Free Access for National Sports People (FANS) scheme, which allows them free access to gym facilities.
Ruby who plays at left wing has been selected for the Under-19 squad to compete at the European Handball Championships in Bulgaria on July 11. The girls were introduced to the sport six years ago at their school and they have steadily moved up the rankings from club level to county, regional and then to national level.
Ruby says handball is a fast and creative contact sport and that playing at such a high level can be very intense. She said: "Playing for England and then Team GB is a very full-on experience so it has been wonderful to share that with my two best friends. We support each other a hundred per cent however well we play. I have known Alice since we were at nursery school together and I have been best friends with Megan since she joined the school in Year Seven. We train together and discuss tactics and performance. It seems a rare and unusual privilege that the three of us can experience this together."
All three are members of Bideford Blacks Handball Club train at the Torridge Pool gym for free under the FANS scheme. Megan says the FANS scheme has helped them enormously as well as support from Bideford Blacks. She said: "The coaches and support we have received has been amazing. Without them, we wouldn't have got to the level we all play at now. A massive 'thank you' goes to all the coaches and volunteers at Bideford blacks that allow the club to run and achieve.
"It is also great to be able to use the facilities at the 1610 gym at Torridge Pool for free as we are able to monitor our cardio performance on the running machines and we can build strength and fitness with the weights. It really takes the pressure off being able to train locally and maintain the fitness levels needed to play at an elite level."
Women's sport is enjoying a surge in popularity with the success of the England women's football team at the World Cup. Alice says the sport of Handball is also growing in popularity especially amongst their age group. She said: 'Since we started six years ago we have seen a great increase in the numbers now playing handball. Within our age group it has become fiercely competitive as it is such a fast-paced intense contact sport. But it is great to have a support system playing with Ruby and Megan as we really motivate each other and have a lot of fun together at the same time."
For more information on the FANS scheme please contact Eleanor Smith at email@example.com or telephone 03 300 581610.
For more information about Bideford Blacks Handball Club please contact Kingsley School Bideford. Sessions take place on Tuesdays 5.30pm-7.30pm or Wednesdays 7pm-9.00pm.