Podcast (Throw Back Thursday): April 2006 Interview with Canada’s Alexis Bertrand

Team Canada's Alexis Bertrand

Team Canada’s Alexis Bertrand

Back in 2006, while I was still living in France, I interviewed Canadian handball player, Alexis Bertrand, who was then playing for OC Cesson in the 2nd Division.  Alexis and I discussed what it was like for him to play in France and we also discussed the Pan American Handball Team Handball Federation (PATHF) to not let Canada participate in that summer’s 2006 Pan American Championship.  Canada had actually secured the 3rd spot at the 2004 championship and participated in the 2005 World Championships, only to be denied an opportunity to qualify for 2007.

In the years following my interview, Alexis continued to play in France, even playing one season in the Ligue Nationale du Handball (LNH), France’s top professional league.  Following the 2015 PANAM Games, Alexis retired from international play and he is now the head coach of the Canadian Sr Men’s team.

Alexis Bertand Career in France

2003-04 AS Monaco (N2)
2004-05 Ivry (N1)
2005-06 OC Cesson (D2)
2006-07 OC Cesson (D2)
2007-08 US Saintes (D2)
2008-09 OC Cesson (D2)
2009-10 OC Cesson (LNH-D1)
2010-11 Chartres-Mainvilliers (N1)

Canada PANAM Games Web Bio: Link

Wikipedia Entry (French): Link

Podcast: Men’s Olympic Quarterfinals Preview

John Ryan and Christer Ahl review the final results of Men’s Group Play and preview the upcoming quarterfinals.  Also, a mea culpa or two about the women’s quarterfinals this morning.

Updated odds to win gold (from bet365.com)

France 11-10
Denmark 11-2
Germany 11-2
Croatia 7-1
Slovenia 9-1
Qatar 16-1
Poland 17-1
Brazil 20-1

Subscribe in iTunes: Link

Podcast: Women’s Olympic Quarterfinals Preview

John Ryan and Christer Ahl review the final results of Women’s Group Play and preview the upcoming quarterfinals

Updated odds to win gold (from best365.com)

Norway 11-8
Russia 7-2
Brazil 3-1
Spain 9-1
France 10-1
Netherlands 15-1
Sweden 15-1
Angola 100-1

Subscribe in iTunes: Link

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Podcast: 2013 Interview with Team USA’s Jordan Fithian

Team USA and NYAC Circle Runner Jordan Fithian

U.S. National Team Circle Runner, Jordan Fithian.  Fithian played D1 basketball prior to transitioning to handball.  A prime example of LeBron Lite.

My recent commentary regarding LeBron James becoming the world’s best handball player sparked a question regarding USA National Team player, Jordan Fithian, and his thoughts on basketball players transitioning to Team Handball.  Fithian played in college at Div 1, Binghampton and Div 2 Emporia before transitioning to handball.  One might consider Fithian a prime example of “LeBron Lite” a solid athlete with raw athletic skills ideal for handball.

This interview from May 2013 doesn’t specifically answer that question, but it touches on a number of related topics like learning how to play handball, playing professionally in German, “life issues” impacting his continuing development as a player, the challenge of recruiting crossover athletes younger than 22 and what it might be like for a U.S. National Team to play overseas in a European League

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Podcast: Olympic Handball: Review and Predictions Halfway through Group Play

 

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Crowd favorite, goalie Teresa Almeida, and her Angolan teammates surprised with victories over Romania and Montenegro before coming back to earth against defending champs, Norway

Crowd favorite, goalie Teresa Almeida, and her Angolan teammates surprised with victories over Romania and Montenegro before coming back to earth against defending champs, Norway

In this podcast episode John Ryan and Christer Ahl review group play at the halfway point. Surprises, disappointments and predictions for the quarterfinals.

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Podcast: New Handball Rules (Part 2)

I know what you are thinking regarding whether I’m going to call passive play: Do you have to shoot on goal yet? Have you made 5 passes or 6?  Do you feel lucky? Do ya, punk?

I know what you are thinking regarding whether I’m going to call passive play: Do you have to shoot on goal yet? Have you made 5 passes or 6? Do you feel lucky? Do ya, punk?

My discussion with Christer Ahl, the former IHF head for Playing Rules and Competition, continues.  In part 2 we discuss the new rules regarding passive play, the last 30 seconds of a match and blue cards

Point-Counter Point on Handball’s Last Minute Problem from 2009 (Or why I was so gleeful at Christer’s mea culpa)

Part 1: John: Time to add a technical penalty shot: Link
Part 2: Christer: John has good intentions, but gets his solutions from the wrong sources: Link
Part 3: John: No, Christer, post game sanctions are not working and referees should be empowered and trusted: Link

It’s not very often (heck, this might be the only time) that I’ve gotten Christer to side with me.  There’s a reason for this: He knows handball rules about 10 times better than I do.  But, every dog has his day

If the Dirty Harry reference has no meaning to you, here’s a link to the classic scene: Link

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Podcast: New Handball Rules (Part 1)

Irina Bliznova penetrates opposing defenses on a regular basis and gets fouled a lot. Against S Korea on day 1 she was fouled fairly hard, but chose to get back on her feet quickly. Why? I'm thinking the new rules had something to do with it.

Irina Bliznova penetrates opposing defenses on a regular basis and gets fouled a lot. Against S Korea on day 1 she was fouled fairly hard and started to relax and recover a bit on the floor, but then chose to get back on her feet quickly. Why? I’m thinking the new rules had something to do with it.

The International Handball Federation (IHF) has recently added 5 new rule changes and the Olympics is the first major event to see them implemented.  And, while at its core the game remains the same these rule changes are having an impact.  The ability to now substitute any court player for the goalie has resulted in goalies being pulled even more.  Why, it’s practically standard practice for some teams when they are a man down.  We’ve even seen a few instances of 7 court players being used on offense.

The rule change requiring injured players to exit for three possessions has also sped up the game.  Irina Bliznova went down after being hit fairly hard during Russia’s comeback vs S. Korea.  But, it wasn’t a 2 minute and when it looked like the refs might call for medical protection she hopped to her feet quickly.  With Russia’s offense really relying on her steady play in the backcourt she didn’t want to nurse her minor injury on the sideline for a couple of minutes.

There’s a lot of nuance to these rule changes, and who better to explain and discuss their potential impact then Christer Ahl, the former IHF head for Playing Rules and Competition.  In part 1 of this podcast Christer highlights the overall intentions behind these rules and we delve into the details of the new rules as they relate to goalkeepers and injured players.

Summary of new rules: Link

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PODCAST: Throwback Thursday: The More Things Change…

TBT

While working on the next part of my commentary regarding whether an austere Residency Program is better than none at all I listened again to an interview I conducted with Board Member, David Thompson back in May 2010. The interview took place after the Town Hall meeting at the 2010 National Championships in Las Vegas and focused on the Board’s recent decision to not fully fund qualification events for Olympic Qualification.  (Take a listen yourself:  The podcast is 22 minutes long and the link is at the bottom of the page)

The circumstances are similar, yet different in some key ways. Funding, then as now, was the issue, but the Board back in 2010 was only committing to minimal funding. Whereas for the past 2 years we’ve funded a Residency Program and organized quite a bit of competition for our National Teams.

What’s striking now is to compare the end results in terms of Olympic Qualification.

2011: USA Team Handball did as little as possible for our National Teams. No Residency Program, part time coaches, basically no preparatory matches and short training camps. The result: Qualification for the 2011 PANAM Games.

2015: USA Team Handball did as much as it possibly could with its scarce resources: A full time Residency Program, experienced full time coaches, several preparatory matches: The result: Non Qualification for the 2015 PANAM Games.

And, if you want to go back to 2007, the Women’s team failed to qualify for 2007 PANAM Games despite having had a Residency Program for several years at Cortland, NY. And, if you go even further back, the U.S. qualified in 2003 for the PANAM Games and the Men even medaled.

Yes, if you focus just on the all important benchmark of competition events related to Olympic Qualification the best results over the last 12 years occurred when the least resources were expended.

For sure, I’m a skeptic on residency programs, but this has me scratching my head a bit.  I’ll chalk up these surprising results mostly to the other variables at play, such as the quality of the competition in those years. The argument against Residency Programs will never be that they don’t help prepare U.S. National Teams.  No, the argument is whether they are worth the cost when there are so many other efforts that need funding support.

 

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Podcast: What can collegiate team handball learn from collegiate rugby’s success?

Iona College Rugby in action. Just 1 of 900 collegiate rugby clubs in the U.S. What can collegiate team handball learn from collegiate rugby?

Iona College Rugby in action. Just 1 of 900 collegiate rugby clubs in the U.S. What can collegiate team handball learn from collegiate rugby?

In my last post regarding the state of collegiate handball I mentioned collegiate rugby as a possible model to follow.  To find out more about collegiate rugby I reached out to Bruce McLane, the head coach at Iona and a panelist on the RuggaMatrix America podcast. In a wide ranging conversation we discuss the similarities and differences between the two sports, why collegiate rugby has been successful, what USA Rugby has done or hasn’t done to facilitate growth and what steps USA Team Handball might consider taking.

Be forewarned, it’s an hour and 30 minute discussion, but one worth listening if you’re interested in how team handball might follow in rugby’s footsteps.

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PODCAST: Interview with Handball Commentator, Paul Bray

Paul Bray, the dean of English language handball commentators

Paul Bray, the dean of English language handball commentators

If you’ve been watching the European Handball Championships online you’ve surely heard commentator Paul Bray’s distinct voice and delivery.  You may not be aware, though, that Paul has been a handball commentator now for 25 years.  Back in 2007 at the Handball World Championship in Germany I sat down to discuss his handball background and how he got started as a handball commentator.  We also talked a bit about the then nascent development of handball online web streaming.  Six years later with every match of the European Championships coming through with pretty high quality video and English commentary Paul’s predictions have come true. (Interview is 13 minutes)

Side note:  On many occasions in the past I’ve chastised the EHF for making it very difficult for fans to access on demand matches without first learning the outcome of the matches.  Dead giveaways in the past have included pictures with smiling players being interviews and trophy hoisting celebrations.  So far, with the nondescript Youtube channel it’s been fairly easy for a fan like me who can’t watch matches live to remain oblivious to the outcome prior to watching.  (Yes, in my little world I’ve got some key final main round matches to watch yet.)  Intended or not, thanks for doing this and here’s hoping there isn’t a change in the current posting strategy.

Euro 2014 Full length matches and highlights (on demand):  Link

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AUDIO: All About the Big Apple Tournament with NYC Handball’s Bini Mustafa

The 5th Annual Big Apple Tournament in New York City is scheduled for 28-29 December.

An event that just keeps getting bigger and better.  The 5th Annual Big Apple Tournament in New York City is scheduled for 28-29 December.

The New York City Team Handball Club is hosting its fifth annual Big Apple Tournament in New York City from 28-29 December at the Riverbank State Park.  New York City Team Handball Club Bini Mustafa and I discuss the upcoming tournament, its evolution from modest beginnings and its potential future.

We also talk about the All-Star Game which will have American players including Gary “Hang Time” Hines, Jordan Fithian, Divine Jackson and Vladimir Andjelic  taking on some of the world’s greatest veteran players including Pascal Hens, Goran Sprem, Michael Kraus, Marcin Lijewski and Magnus Wislander.  The USA All Star Team will also be coached by USA Men’s National Team Coach Javier Garcia Cuesta.

Surely an event worth seeing if you’re anywhere near the New York metropolitan area.

(The podcast interview length is 28 minutes)

New York City Team Handball Facebook Page:  Link

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VIDEO/AUDIO: Metalurg vs Vardar

Cross town rivals Metalurg and Vardar meet in Champions League showdown

Cross town rivals Metalurg and Vardar meet in a Champions League showdown

This past Thursday night Skopje, Macedonian clubs Vardar and Metalurg fought for city bragging rights in a key Champions League showdown.  Always a tough place to play for visitors, this time around it’s a home match for both sides.  The video for the match is courtesy of ehfTV and my audio commentary is in the MP3 files below.

The first half segment has a synchronization count at 5:00 on the ehfTV clock in the lower left hand of the screen. Start the video and pause it at 5:00. Then open the MP3 file and when I start my synchronization count unpause the video.

For the 2nd half my synchronization count starts at 50:00

Metalurg vs. Vardar Video: Link