Sometimes when you start an effort like a Strategic Plan for USA Team Handball it can really help to have a conceptual idea as to what your final end product might look like. So that one can perhaps better understand the types of questions that need to be asked and answered.
As a starting point, I’ve taken the best example and perhaps the most relevant Strategic Plan I’ve found, USA Field Hockey’s 2017-2024 Strategic Plan and re-imagined it as a USA Team Handball 2018-2028 Strategic Plan. In many cases I simply replaced Field Hockey with Team Handball, but in other places I had to do some additional modifications. In doing so, I tried to limit my editorializing deciding to simply go with what had been envisioned by the USA Field Hockey strategy even if it didn’t necessarily fit my views or how handball is necessarily structured in the U.S.
Both the original and the Team Handball version can be found here:
USA Field Hockey 2017-2024 Strategic Plan: Link
USA Team Handball 2018-2028 Strategic Plan: Link
A quick, cursory review of the conceptual USA Team Handball Strategic Plan might result in a few top level insights. Such as:
- That a strategic plan is kind of a “motherhood and apple pie” document. It highlights basic foundational beliefs that can set the framework for more detailed initiatives
- That such a plan shouldn’t be created by a handful of people in a vacuum because if that’s done it’s not likely to be reflective of the community as a whole. According to the documentation, USA Field Hockey spent months listening, discussing, reviewing individual meetings, surveys and focus groups to best understand what their members wanted.
- That a Strategic Plan, if it’s to have any value can’t simply be a laundry list of everything that might possibly be done. I suspect that that a significant amount of blood, sweat and tears were spent identifying and selecting USA Field Hockey’s four key strategic initiatives.
From a top level perspective I think it provides a good glimpse of what a strategic plan for USA Team Handball might look like. That being said here are a few thoughts regarding the similarities and differences between the two sports.
Team Handball and Field Hockey in the U.S. (The Similarities)
First off, I won’t claim to be an expert on field hockey, but here are some common themes/issues that I think the two sports share in the U.S.:
- Both team sports
- Both minor sports with low participation (Men’s field hockey is particularly relevant)
- Both Olympic sports which garner significant interest due to their Olympic status
- Both sports have very limited television exposure
- Both sports have a very committed volunteer base
- Both sports have had limited international success (Men’s field hockey is particularly relevant)
Team Handball and Field Hockey in the U.S. (Some Major Differences)
But, while there are some striking similarities there also are some major differences between the two sports. No, simply doing a “find and replace” of field hockey and team handball clearly won’t suffice, because of these major differences:
- Women’s Field Hockey is a sanctioned High School sport in several states and an official NCAA sport. Handball has no such status anywhere in the U.S. (Men or Women) (Translation: A solid grass roots foundation already exists and for the most part it’s not funded by USA Field Hockey)
- USA Field Hockey has more members and revenue largely due to its Women’s membership base
- The USA Field Hockey Women have pretty much always been respectable on the World Stage. They’ve only medaled once in Olympic competition (84 Olympics), but they’ve been in the 2nd tier of nations
- Globally, Team Handball has multiple leagues and some athletes earning 7 figure salaries while field hockey has fewer professional options (Translation the pro to amateur gap is much less pronounced with Field Hockey.)
- Team Handball has an emerging discipline, beach handball, while to the best of my knowledge there is only one type of field hockey that is being played and promoted.
A Few Peanut Section Critiques of the USA Field Hockey Plan
While I really think the Field Hockey Strategic Plan is a pretty well put together plan I thought it was lacking in a few instances.
- There’s very little in the document regarding Men’s Field Hockey and little insight as to how the U.S. can grow the Men’s game and succeed internationally. Perhaps, this was by design and a strategic decision to avoid the far greater challenges the Men’s program has.
- While I think they’ve identified 4 good initiatives there’s no guidance as to how resources will be allocated between those initiatives. This is the same fundamental problem USA Team Handball has in regards to development vs National Team support.
Help Still Wanted
This is an online collaborative effort. Everyone’s welcome to look, but if you want to help identify the key questions, assess the pros and cons of different options and draft documentation contact me at email@example.com