In search for traditional sports in Poland – my visit to the town of Płock

Interesting things are happening in Płock

Last year, in my search for traditional sports (TSG), I visited Płock. It is a nice, middle-sized town in central Poland.

In my country, the subject of TSG is not so popular that in many other countries, but it is being developed with good perspectives for the future.

There are people, places and initiatives, related to traditional sports. All of them bring hope for the better future of TSG.

I was invited to come to Płock by the President of the Institute for the Development of Sport and Education (IRSiE) – Kazimierz Waluch, PhD. He is an excellent specialist in the field of physical culture, education and tourism and an experienced expert in many international projects.

I cooperate with him as an expert on traditional sports and we both promote this issue in Poland.

On May 10-12, 2019, several important events took place in Płock, including:

  • the 21th European Picnic,
  • the European Parade on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Poland’s membership in the European Union,
  • handball matches,
  • the international conference as a part of an interesting Erasmus + Sport project, entitled STEP ONE – Sport Traditions Educate Players of New Europe, in which European, traditional sports are included.

For the beginning – handball

On Friday, I was watching an interesting, friendly handball match between the players of the current SPR Handball Płock Club and the so called Masters Team – composed of the former players of this club.

Handball – a sport invented by the Germans, which Poles learned from them during the First World War in the POW camp in Szczypiorno near Kalisz (that is why, in Poland, we call this sport also szczypiorniak) – is today a popular, global, sport discipline.

In Płock, however, it has its unique character. This town literally lives this sport. Płock has a great club in the highest league, every year fighting for Polish championship in a beautiful sports hall. Moreover, in Płock there is also the second, adult team, as well as youth and children’s groups, participating in regular competitions.

Handball is a sport for everyone. In Płock, this sport is more popular than football. Even children, who simply go out to play some sports and have fun, often choose handball.

mecz piłki ręcznej w Płocku
After a handball match in Płock

The international conference and the European Parade

On Saturday, I took part in the international seminar, called Managing a sports club in the local environment.

There were important issues discussed, including:

  • the background of setting up a club,
  • problems and challenges associated with it,
  • issues, related to club management,
  • recruiting and keeping volunteers,
  • financing physical culture, marketing strategies and tools,
  • passion of several enthusiasts that turns into running a club.

What is especially important, the emphasis was put on the significance of the sports club and its tradition for maintaining and promoting local identity and good management of the community space.

The conference was a part of the above-mentioned, Erasmus + Sport project: STEP ONE – Sport Traditions Educate Players of New Europe with the participation of Partners from 5 countries – Italy, Poland, Cyprus, Hungary and Greece.

The project is dedicated to the promotion of sport for all and good practices in the management of amateur sports clubs.

The emphasis on universal sport is very important here – it should be available to all people interested, and not only to a selected group of highly-trained athletes.

dr Kazimierz Waluch - IRSiE
The President of the Institute for the Development of Sport and Education – Kazimierz Waluch, PhD – discusses various forms of the Institute’s activities, including our cooperation with the European Traditional Sports and Games Association (ETSGA) and UNESCO
Letizia Tessicini from Italy talks about the assumptions of the STEP ONE Project
Sylwia Gocłowska, PhD presents the results of research on participation in volunteering in Poland (photos from the conference: Institute for the Development of Sport and Education)

The examples of traditional sports and activities, included in the STEP One project

The STEP One project is dedicated not only to traditional sports. However, there are very important and interesting components of traditional physical culture included there.

1. Hungary – traditional physical culture at the Sumeg Castle

The first example are Hungarians, who promote traditional sports, games and other forms of physical activity in their country, including them in this project.

In the Hungarian town of Sumeg, north of Lake Balaton, on a beautiful hill, there is a magnificent Castle with a large courtyard, where the Castle Games of Sumeg are organized, during which, among others, are held:

  • medieval knights’ tournaments,
  • horse vaulting shows and
  • the famous Puszta ötösriding five horses at the same time, standing on the backs of two of them and controlling the rest of them with the reins (the best riders are able to ride even more horses this way – the record is 11!).

2. Italy – flag jugglers and traditional games for children

The second example come from Italy. An interesting form of traditional activity, which is an extremely important element of their cultural heritage, is a kind of performance, consisting in the effective waving and juggling of flags, throwing them and catching between the participants of the show who perform various tricks with the use of these flags.

It is a medieval tradition, known for many centuries in Italy, performed by a group, called Sbandieratori di Orte (flag jugglers from Orte).

Each flag symbolizes one of the 7 districts of Orte – formerly one of the most important, urban centres of medieval Italy.

Sbandieratori di Orte is a group of very nice Italians of different age, whose shows enjoy great interest and enthusiasm of the audience. One juggler has been doing it for 50 years! In Płock, they had several appearances in various places of this town, during the European Parade.

In Italy, their activity is a great example of involving local communities in traditional, cultural and sports activities.

The inhabitants of Orte regularly help organize shows and various events, thanks to which they integrate with each other, support their own culture and spend time in an interesting way.

It is an important, sports and cultural inspiration for everyone – you can combine the appreciation of your own cultural heritage with an interesting sports event.

Sbandieratori di Orte – jugglers with flags during the European Parade in Płock
Sbandieratori di Orte – moment of flipping and grabbing flags
Sbandieratori di Orte – parade along the Płock streets
Short movie – Italian flag juggling

Italians are generally a nation, understanding the need for promotion of their own physical culture and the importance of sports and traditional games.

They teach them their children and even organize Traditional Games Days.

At the previous meeting as a part of the STEP ONE Project – organized during the European Week of Sports in Terni, Italy – students from local schools had the opportunity to take part in intergenerational and international workshops on traditional games, archery, basketball and roller skating.

Participants of the STEP One project, supported by the already mentioned Italian Spandieratori di Orte, also took part in the classes.

A great example of Italian activities in the promotion of traditional games and sports is also a great Festival of Street Games in Verona (TOCATI), which I visited in 2017 and 2019.

I will be writing about it more in a separate article later.

Traditional sports also have their prospective future in Poland

  • The STEP ONE project, although it is not dedicated solely to traditional sports, but contains their essential components,
  • the inclusion of traditional Italian flag juggling shows in the European Parade,
  • the attitude of the town of Płock to sport for everyone, especially to handball and
  • the activities of the Institute for the Development of Sport and Education, are great examples of how you can inspire and actively work for this interesting and developing subject in Poland.

And this is just the beginning…

We have more projects and other activities ahead of us.

Visit our website You will find there a lot of information on traditional sports and games.

Read also my blog:  Another, interesting stories and practical information are coming every week.

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