Duelling National Championships- Commentary

If Championship Boxing can have multiple titles for multiple fighters than why not Handball?

As reported earlier, the current or former (take your pick) President of the USATH, Mike Hurdle, has already announced a National Championship in Georgia to take place in May over Memorial Day weekend. The USOC has now announced that they will be hosting an Open Championship in Houston at the end of April. So this begs the question, which one is the real championship? But perhaps, the better question is, does it really matter?

After Mike Hurdle informed us of the USATH Championships, I started a running email dialogue on the topic with him. In particular, I questioned the format of the tournament (over 5 days), the timing (Memorial Day Weekend) and the location (Georgia). Basically, my points were that this was too significant of a time commitment over a major holiday and that the announcement’s flavour was a little too parochial in my book.

Mike’s response was that the intent was to move beyond the “Beer Hall Nationals” mentality and to have a higher quality, elite level tournament in which the teams will have an opportunity to rest. Additionally, he emphasized that the focus is on the Junior Divisions and he anticipates a lot of youth participation from the local area- hence the Georgian flavour of the announcement. Mike also pointed out that the Condors would probably even send a team to the “Beer Hall Nationals” that the USOC is subsidizing.

Well, my own personal perspective, is that it sounds like Mike Hurdle is setting up a nice tournament in Georgia and he should be strongly commended for the Junior Division focus. I also like the format over what has been traditionally done at US Nationals in the past. I would be hard pressed to make that kind of time commitment now, but if I was a younger, more dedicated athlete that’s the tournament I would go to if I thought it was going to be well attended. Which is the crux of the matter. The US, unfortunately, is probably not quite ready for a format like this. Maybe next year, but not this year as tumultuous as it has been. I expect that this USATH Tournament will be “National” in name only. Teams will have a choice on what to do. Some might even go to both, but I’d expect that most teams will vote for the smaller time commitment, smaller dollar expenditure and the traditional format.

So to answer my rhetorical questions… The real National Championship will be the one with the best National representation. And does it matter? No, not really.

5 thoughts on “Duelling National Championships- Commentary

  1. John,
    I think it matters alot. On a couple of levels. The short time to prepare a MNT for the PanAm Games makes this NC important for the MNT coach (whoever that will be) to get a look at available talent. A unified NC is the only viable option.

    Second – we have got to get beyond the past. Regonizing the USOC's involvement and direction of our sport at this time is critical. One of the things I think needs to happen in the rebuilding of our sport's NGB is that NO ONE from either side of the fight has a position in the new organization. Unfortunately that means some good people will have to step to the side for the sport to prosper. If not the old arguements will be rekindled. By everyone holding their collective tongue and showing up to play handball in Houston, the healing will begin.

  2. Well, if I was an athlete interested in participating in the PanAm Championships, I certainly would be finding my way to the USOC sponsored tournament. But, I also would be looking to participate in other tournaments as well. My point is that how a tournament is titled isn't as important as you might think it is.

    We could start a whole other argument about whether the USOC Nationals crammed into 3 days using the traditional format is a good way to evaluate elite talent.

  3. I was just going to say that I would hate the "beer hall" format if I were the NT coach! But then I read John's last sentence :-) Such short games can make a player look great who's nearly worthless in a real game and the other way around. Tactics and strategy are totally different for such short games.
    I don't think there can be any real discussion as to what is the more worthwhile format for an athletic competition: "beer hall" social get-together or real games. Anybody favoring the "beer hall" format surely loses all his/her credibility, I'm sure nobody will contest that.
    However, when I last attended Nationals, there weren't even enough players there that I would recognize as athletes to fill one single team, let alone a whole tournament.
    This poses the problem: of course you want athletic competition, but how do you do that without athletes?
    One way of doing that is to require a minimum standard of commitment and athletic dedication and focus from all participants. If your sport isn't important enough for you to be bale to sacrifice 5 days in a year, you shouldn't be playing for any national title. This is where the "beer hall" tournament comes in: you go there, play some ball and have fun with your friends. These sorts of tournaments take place every summer weekend here in Europe and attract tens of thousands of players every year. But you usually don't see any athletes in these tournaments. If a team from level 3 or 4 ever participates in them, they win all the games even stone drunk.
    [b]An already way too long story short:[/b]
    I agree with John that the time is probably not ready for a selection of athletes from "beer hall" handballers: there are simply not enough athletes in the US for a serious effort. But of course, I'd love to be wrong on this one :-D

  4. I'm not going go into a long speech but when I hear, "If you don't agree with this or if you're opposed to this way of thinking, then you have lost all credibility.", really ticks me off. And I will contest that.

    I agree that they shouldn't pick the MNT from a NC but sometimes you do the best you can. I also think that the athletes sacrifice many days a year for tournaments, practices, etc. And because YOU think spending 5 days versus 3 days makes them less of an athlete shows who loses credibility.

    What should happen is that there would be a training camp for the MNT which could take place during the NC or even sooner. But because of certain events, we're stuck in the mud, spinning our tires.

    And to conclude, I'm sure the length of the [i]other[/i] tournament is not the only reason that teams aren't going. I'll let you ponder over that.

  5. [blockquote]I'm not going go into a long speech but when I hear, "If you don't agree with this or if you're opposed to this way of thinking, then you have lost all credibility.", really ticks me off. And I will contest that.[/blockquote]
    Let's see. In principle you're corrct, of course. However, there are a few things where people just become ridiculous if they state them. For example: "the earth is flat", "the sun circles around the earth", "water flows upwards", "the universe was created in seven days", "there was no holocaust" or "weekend-tournaments with 15min games are better athletic competitions than serious tournaments with full games". Such statements just disqualify the people who make them, because they're just so beyond all reason, that 99.9% of all people on this planet would find it a waste of time to seriously discuss any of these topics.
    Of course, before Einstein, people thought the same way about Newton's mechanics. Well, any Einstein around who wants to prove the earth flat?
    [blockquote]What should happen is that there would be a training camp for the MNT which could take place during the NC or even sooner.[/blockquote]
    Of course the NT will practice! In Brimingham from May 22-30 as well as several times in April and earlier May. What did you think?
    [blockquote]And to conclude, I'm sure the length of the other tournament is not the only reason that teams aren't going. I'll let you ponder over that.[/blockquote]
    Well, Einstein, I'm glad you also picked up on the obvious, which both John and I alluded to because it was, err, obvious :-D
    Of course, the point John is making is that it is clear what the athletically more worthwhile tournament is, but it is exactly [b]not[/b] the athletic value that will determine the "National Title": rather, it is politics, money, prestige and other non-athletic considerations. Once the athletic value is the most important factor in US handball, the format will no doubt also match that athleticism.
    One could even go so far as to judge the athletic prowess of US handball, by the competition format. In Brazil, you have about 2000 handball players of all ages attend a 6-day tournament in summer. And that is a "fun" tournament without any title!! I predict that by the time the US is able to host such a tournament, it's National Team will also perform much closer to that of Brazil, because there will be a dedicated, athletic player base which is currently lacking entirely.

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