“Handball – a sport or a lifestyle?”

Interview with Tatjana Brnović

handball player

Our interlocutors were members of the Montenegrin national team in handball” – Tatjana Brnović and Ivona Pavićević. The Montenegrin “golden lionesses” have recently shared their inspiring story about their journey in handball—from the beginnings to the challenges they faced and their dreams of achieving greatness. These girls are impressive not only on the court but also off it, serving as outstanding role models for aspiring female handball players who are yet to defend the colors of the national jersey.

Tatjana, you are at the very top of the world in women’s handball. In 2019, you were declared the best young pivot in the world in the traditional selection of the specialized website Handball Planet. What was your journey in handball like, from the very beginning to achieving top results?

I started training handball when I was just 11 years old, and I “met” the sport right then, for the first time in my life. My then-coach made a selection by visiting different schools and observing us play a game of dodgeball during our physical education class. Her discerning eye saw something in me that she deemed worthy of an invitation for training. My first handball training was a bit strange and funny because I didn’t know a single rule. Now imagine someone who plays the game and has no clue of its rules. We were lucky to have a coach who was patient with us. As kids, we were enthusiastic about learning and playing, and we quickly grasped the objective and what we needed to do. Handball came into my life through a small door and has unexpectedly become a significant part of it. It helped me immensely to acquire good habits and taught me solidarity and discipline, and I’m still learning to this day, both in life and in sports. Every day is a challenge and a story in itself. The story after that is a regular one. Many of us have followed a similar path in life. However, as we progress, some of us have chosen to continue our journey via the same path, while others have decided to take a different route. I passed all the junior selections of the Women’s Handball Team “Budućnost,” and before entering the senior team, I was declared the best pivot of the championship at the junior European championship for players up to 19 years of age. In 2017, I had the opportunity to play for the two-time Champions League winner, the “Budućnost” team. The circumstances were such that at a very young age, I immediately got the chance to play and prove whether I was worthy of the biggest handball stage. I seized the opportunity, and now, from this perspective, I appreciate myself more for taking that chance at that moment. Today, I am more aware of how rare such chances are. One of the life lessons that handball taught me is that we never know when an opportunity will present itself, but we can do everything to be ready for it. Whenever it may appear, we should be prepared to welcome it with open arms. My debut season was quite dynamic, followed by my first appearance for the senior national team of Montenegro. Again, what an honor and an incredible opportunity for such a young person and player. We secured seventh place in that championship, which was Montenegro’s best ranking in the world championships until then. I am happy that people have recognized the combativeness, talent, and knowledge that I possess. Such inception imposed on me the obligation to progress and show that it was only the beginning. It has always been my goal to progress, to become the best version of myself, and thus be helpful to the team so that we can achieve our dreams together.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your career so far?

There are many. It seems to me that the more difficult challenges are those that I face daily. Such as always being prepared and always in the mood for work and training. And when I don’t feel like doing it or when I’d instead do something else, I motivate myself to show up and train in such a way that I can say afterward, “You gave your best and be satisfied with that.” The maximum is not the same every day, but it is important to me that I do what I can at that moment while remaining entirely focused. It isn’t easy to be fully present during the entire training, and I place a particular emphasis on that. Having an awareness of my movements and understanding the purpose behind them is crucial for me. Just like with running technique, making changes in direction, exercises in the gym or on the court can make every workout more effective and valuable.

Can you provide insights into the role of sports, particularly women’s handball, in shaping one’s personality? Can you single out some essential qualities that future Montenegrin handball players should possess?

I believe that sports played and still plays a crucial role in my growth and development as an individual. Such evolution stops when we think we have learned everything, and I hold it true that one must always “live and learn.” With that, I would say that engaging in sports is immensely valuable in establishing healthy habits, fostering discipline, and imparting important life lessons such as understanding, solidarity, and respect for our differences. In sports, united, we achieve success, and differences fade away on the way to the goal, a triumph that is greater than any diversity. Sport is a triumph over disagreements! I have met many people through sports, and these acquaintances are perhaps the greatest treasures of my handball journey. I gained friendships and memories that will last a lifetime, and those moments feed the soul. There are many perspectives from which the same thing can be observed. I became convinced of this by getting to know various cultures and mentalities. And that there is no right and no wrong; that it does not matter who is right or who is wrong; it is essential that we strive for a compromise and a solution. That’s a healthy way of thinking, and that’s how we can end wasting energy on aimless and pointless proving who was right. In sports, it is imperative because seconds are at stake. The thinking must be set in that direction, looking for solutions minute by minute, second by second. The one who manages to do this for the longest period of the match wins. The score does not indicate who made a mistake or who did well. I believe it is essential to “instill” this mindset in young players and national teams to nurture this way of thinking and dealing with stress on the field. To go from situation to situation without carrying over the mistake from the previous one. In essence, as in life – to live in the present moment. We cannot change the past, and the future remains uncertain. We only have the present moment, which is an opportunity and should be savored.