Gábor Danyi, innovator in women’s handball
With 89 wins, five draws and just one loss as the Györi Audi ETO KC head coach, Gábor Danyi has excelled since taking over at the reigning EHF Champions League winners in the summer of 2018.
Since then, the club triumphed in every competition they have participated in, however, Danyi’s effect on the game is much more than the results.
After the 2020/21 season, Danyi is set to switch to ambitious Hungarian league rivals Siófok KC.
10 years ago, Danyi joined the club’s staff. He has since been a part of many victories, including four EHF Champions League titles and seven Hungarian league wins.
The club’s former head coach, Ambros Martin, left big shoes to fill as Györ were clearly the best club in Europe.
“I inherited an excellent team and base. After a very successful period, I had to at least bring the same results, so the bar was set high. I, with my coaching staff, started a very different handball style compared to my predecessor,” Danyi said.
“I wanted to prove to my players and to the people who believed in me that we can sit on the throne with another type of handball. Martin’s tactics focused on defence and the results speak for themselves.
“However, I did not want to step on the same road as it would have been only a matter of time before I failed. I implemented up-tempo tactics with motives from men’s handball during the whole game, which is new among women.
“At first, my players had to believe in our tactics and that we will triumph in that way. As we finished the season unbeaten with almost 1,000 goals in the domestic league and having registered 60-70 attacks per game as well as bringing home every trophy, my players, the fans and the management saw what we can achieve together.”
It is enough to take a look at the standings of the group phase of the current DELO EHF Champions League season. With 308 goals in nine matches, they sit top of the scorers ranking, while the second best on that list, Brest Bretagne Handball currently have 296 goals after 10 games.
Nevertheless, scoring is not everything in Györ and the beginning was not as easy as it seemed.
“Even though the results may not show it, the first season was pretty tough. The players needed to learn new things and turn them into habits. In my opinion, in my initial season, only 60-70 per cent of my scheme worked,” Danyi said.
“Nowadays, we are ahead of that, but the pandemic slowed our evolution down. Györ is a perfect place for a coach, though the expectations are the highest. Your side does not only need to win but also has to play beautifully and win by as much as possible.”
I wanted to prove to my players and to the people who believed in me that we can sit on the throne with another type of handball. Martin’s tactics focused on defence and the results speak for themselves. However, I did not want to step on the same road as it would have been only a matter of time before I failed. I implemented up-tempo tactics with motives from men’s handball during the whole game, which is new among women.
Women’s handball went through huge changes in the last couple of years. It is now even more important to renew and meet expectations.
Danyi has his own way of thinking about this part and what women’s handball can turn into.
“I think, the biggest challenge in 2021 is to perform at the highest level with that many games. It is the coach’s task to preserve the players, to prevent injuries, to have the athletes at the absolute peak of their performance when it really matters, at the end of the tournaments.
“I am very proud and thankful to ETO for having me, but I am also very glad that none of my players are injured due to overloading or fatigue. I would definitely reduce the numbers of the matches to extend these wonderful players’ careers and also because there are fewer and fewer athletes who can tolerate that both physically and mentally.
“It is not a shame to learn innovations. However, the genetics of men are different to women. They are stronger, faster and more dynamic. It is a fact, which is almost impossible to overwrite, but it is not a problem.
“We need to accept it and create ways to execute those additions in our games. In my belief, Györ’s biggest development opportunities are to apply anything that is possible from men’s handball.
“To make the right choices, to think as quickly as possible and to watch videos of the opponents and of our clashes and practices.
“Although, our squad is really hardworking, there are elements of men’s handball that cannot be implemented. They simply do not work with women.”
Since July 2020, Gábor Danyi is also with the Hungarian women’s national team alongside with Gábor Elek, head coach of FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria.
They have a contract until the end of the Olympic Games. At EHF EURO 2020, Hungary finished fifth in their main round group. Now Elek remains the head coach and Danyi has taken a step back. Still, the trainer has to think of two squads and the youngers.
“I think that the Hungarian handball school is just as good as the current top nations’, such as Norway or France. However, there are some differences in thinking and that is why we are behind them, but it also gives us the possibility to evolve.
“There are more and more opportunities to learn from the best, to have better circumstances in handball, to have a career after sport. The players focus more on off-court issues such as diet or psychology which will help them. Yet, it is a long way to catch the best national teams.”
Guiding two teams at the same time is pretty demanding. Especially when only wins are acceptable.
“The load is much bigger. As the work at the club ends, the national team begins and vice versa. It is our weekly cycle. Of course, as the head coach, I also have to take care of my squad at Györ. Everything needs to be prepared, practices, videos, game plans to learn and many other things in a handballer’s life,” Danyi said.
“There is less time to rest and regenerate. However, everything is overwritten by the pride that I am part of the coaching staff of my nation’s handball team. Yet, coaches also need a break to clear their minds, to have free time.”
Nevertheless, the time has come for Gábor Danyi to change, and in the summer he will join Siófok.
“The club showed me a three-year plan that I found very sympathetic. New surroundings, new people, new challenges,” Danyi said.
“Anyone who knows me, can tell you that the 10 seasons I spent with Györ were a huge honour, but I like to test myself.”