Weekend Tournaments vs Structured League Play

When Europeans are introduced to Team Handball in the United States they are often puzzled by the lack of structured league play as this is totally different from the organization they are familiar with. Instead of a double round robin of season long league competition (one game a weekend), the US model is often to get in your car Friday night, drive 5 hours, play 6 games over two days, drive your aching body back home Sunday night. That is if you didn’t have to shell out $300 for plane tickets.

In terms of why the US has featured weekend tournaments the reasons are principally related to geography, lack of club commitments and organization.

Geography, of course, is related to the costs of travel. Quite simply, it is less practical for amateur clubs to travel vast distances for one or two matches. The logic being that if you’re going to travel 6 hours to play handball you might as well get your time and money’s worth. The lack of club commitments and organization also steers more organized clubs to prefer tournaments that they organize and control independently. If you host the tournament, charge entry fees and do the organization, you don’t have to worry about other less organized clubs failing to commit to reciprocate properly. Additionally, many clubs can throw together a team for one weekend, but simply don’t have the organization or facilities to host a game. On top of all these reasons, the European model of a national federation playing a primary role in organizing leagues doesn’t apply in the US for other more established sports, let alone handball.

While I won’t argue in favor of totally adopting the European model http://teamhandballnews.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.12
onto a nation with different sporting traditions and a vastly different geography (i.e. the US is huge), I will argue that we definitely need more leagues in the US. The recent trends have been positive with 3 leagues operating last year and more recently the alliance formed between the Quebec league and the North East Team Handball Conference. With the new alliance not every team is going to play every other team twice and the match schedule some weekends is too busy, but despite those shortcomings it has the makings of quite a good competition. The teams involved must think so. Especially Alberta, which is making 3 plane flights 2000 miles east to participate! In fact, I would argue that winning this season long league is more prestigious than winning either the Canadian or American long weekend National Championships. Hopefully, other parts of the US will see the success of the NETHC/Quebec Alliance and it will spur further league development.

In fact, it’s still only September, so there’s still time to organize league play for this season. A rhetorical question, but wouldn’t it make more sense for Carolina, ATH, the Condors, Houston Clubs, and Miami to organize a league instead of their own individual tournaments?