She inherited the love for handball from her dad, who is a famous Serbian handball coach. She created her own path by playing handball in three different countries and later becoming a physiotherapist. She couldn’t imagine her life without handball, so it only took her 30 minutes to decide to stay in handball as a physio. She is Nina Kraljevski, and this is her story. Enjoy another International Women’s Day read!
Considering that you work in HC Partizan, did you play handball yourself? If so, can you describe your handball experience?
I played handball and Partizan was a turning point for me because after that I decided it is time to end my playing career. Last season I played for Kumanovo, and that season was very successful for us because we won the cup and the championship. Also, I went through all Serbian leagues, and I played for HC Junior. In Montenegro, it was WHC Mojkovac, and in North Macedonia, it was Kumanovo, as I said. My love for handball still doesn’t go away, I occasionally do training for my soul.
Your father is the famous Serbian coach Nenad Kraljevski. Did he pass on that love for sports and handball to you?
He is the biggest “culprit” of my obsession with handball. As a child, he took me to matches, trainings, and I often played games with his players. So, the love for handball developed from a young age.
Have you always known that you want to become a physiotherapist?
Because of the lifestyle I had with all the trainings, camps, tournaments, matches, it all drew me to the direction that I would study either physiotherapy or coaching. The physiotherapeutic profession prevailed mostly out of curiosity, which quickly turned into love. That curiosity took me far.
Can you describe one of your typical days at work?
Mostly every working day is similar. Before trainings I prepare the players, if there are for example injured ones, we do rehabilitation and therapy. After training I often stay in my premises for a long time, because after training we do recovery and some socializing because there is always one of the players who have some interesting stories I like to listen to.
How did you enter the handball world as a physiotherapist?
I didn’t really plan to end my handball career last year. And at the very least, I didn’t expect to get an offer from Partizan. Filip Pavcic, a former physiotherapist of the club, received an offer to work elsewhere and he did not want to leave the club without a physiotherapist, and then I received an invitation. I had until the end of the day to think about it, but it only took me 30 minutes to make a decision. And here I am today.
Handball is a very dynamic sport, and therefore the job of all those involved in handball. Can you single out the most interesting and challenging part of your job?
Certainly traveling, preparations and matches are THE most interesting in this business. For me personally, the big surprise was the support of the fans. In my first encounter with them, I couldn’t come out of the bus at first. That energy and support is something I experienced on the court as well and I was thrilled. I don’t know what I would single out as the most difficult thing, maybe getting used to the new environment in the beginning. For the first time, I was on the bench and a part of professional staff, no less than in HC Partizan. Also, the most challenging thing is gaining trust from the players, because with some I am almost the same age. But I have a great collaboration with my other colleagues and the players as well.
Does your experience as a handball player help you in the job you are currently doing?
Yes, and that helped me in the beginning especially. It’s easier to adapt to the current environment when you have been surrounded by a large team all your life. Handball itself is a specific sport and injuries are like that as well. I went through some of them myself, so when working with players now, I feel I can find solutions easier and I think that it is easier for them to accept suggestions when they know that I went through the same.
You are the only woman in the professional staff of HC Partizan. Why did you decide on men’s handball?
As I already mentioned, everything really happened so spontaneously. At the same time, in that period of my arrival at Partizan, my father signed for Dinamo from Pancevo. For the first time, we are rivals, playing the same league. Certainly, a combination of different circumstances brought me to the men’s handball. If you had asked me this question two years ago, I would have told you that I would never work in men’s handball because we are all used to the fact that in the men’s team there are always men’s physiotherapists, aren’t we?
Why do you love handball?
That is the most difficult question. The adrenaline on the field, the fans, socializing, and hanging out after training, that’s the way of life. There is a whole story hidden behind this sport, it’s not just you go out on the court to win. It’s the team spirit, family feeling, and the people who are around you who have similar interests and goals. A sense of belonging. I mean someone who reads this and has never been in handball, will think this is nothing but a cliché. But really handball is a special sport for me.
Sport never sleeps and handball has a busy schedule. What do you do in your free time?
I am always joking that in my free time, I answer Partizan’s calls because when you work in sports, your working hours are not just training or matches, you are available all the time. But I like to go to the theatre, the cinema, café and I love to do training just for myself.
Do you see yourself in any other sport?
Definitely no. Handball is here since my childhood, my playing career and there is handball now once again, only in a different role.
Do you have a handball memory that you will remember forever?
While I was playing, there were various anecdotes and events, I was lucky enough to play in Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, so each of those seasons has its own stamp. I will definitely remember when I was with the team Junior from Belgrade in our preparation camp. The team was quarantined and hungry at 2 in the morning, so the guards who were working night shifts brought us food. Another thing I will remember was the tournament in Slovenia where we went without our handball sneakers, so we had to play the first match in our every day sneakers. But we had great results.
What advice would you give to all women who have the desire and ambition to work in sports?
Certainly, to be ready for great sacrifices and to arm themselves with patience and will. With a smile to accept the obstacles and enjoy the charms that this job brings. And of course, they need to love their job.