USOC NBG Hearing (Do Two Halves Make a Whole?)

From my perspective, the USOC Open Hearing went pretty much as expected. Both sides were given ample opportunity to state their cases and take questions from the USOC and callers. I think it is safe to say that anyone listening in should have a pretty good sense as to each sides general philosophy.

The most revealing exchange to me, were the responses to the USOC’s question as to what happens if your organization is not selected. The UTHF said that they would fold up their tents and go away and the ATHA said that this was their passion and that they weren’t going anywhere. It’s safe to say that anyone who has put in time, money and sweat to try and build handball in the USA is going to be turned off by the UTHF response and sympathetic to the ATHA. I will give credit, however, to the UTHF’s honest answer as they could have sugar coated their response. Perhaps, the calculation though was to make sure the USOC understood that it was “now or never” if they wanted to get their funding and marketing expertise on board.

Also of note, I was somewhat surprised with the USOC’s assertion towards the end of the meeting that the ATHA staff management was not in place, implying that the UTHF management was well organized. While the UTHF has someone identified (Amir Haskic), I think that the ATHA could also find someone as capable to run day to day handball operations. Additionally, while a strong case can be made that Mr Krassner and Mr Esch could very well be a tremendous boon to USA Handball with their willingness to self-finance and use their existing business connections to find sponsors, I’m not sold at all on their expertise to run a non-profit sports federation. Business is business to a certain extent, but running Wilhemina modeling is one thing and being involved with team selections, anti-doping issues and organizing competitions is another thing entirely. And, in their own words, these guys are busy people doing a lot of different things. That being said, while I think the ATHA has made a strong case that they are ready to develop a strong grass roots program, I’m less convinced in their ability to step right in and run national team programs. In other words, either side will have a steep learning curve in that part of operations.

[b]What will the USOC decide? [/b]

The questions the USOC asked and their final closing remarks gives some hints. It’s pretty clear to me that the USOC sees complimentary strengths and weaknesses in both proposals and is practically telling both sides that they need to work together. Heck, they even forced them into a “Let’s Do Lunch” date at the USOC Training Center Cafeteria. What they would like to see is the potential marketing skill and financing of the UTHF proposal combined with the more coherent grassroots plan of the ATHA.

One compromise would be to adopt most of the better thought out ATHA plan and turn over the entire grassroots development (with the necessary funding fenced off) to the ATHA contingent. The badly needed marketing efforts would then be principally led by the UTHF contingent. The board structure would be comprised of the UTHF ($50,000) club plus some at-large members (ATHA Grassroots). National Team operations would need engagement from both contingents and some agreement would need to be brokered in this area. Of course, some will argue that this is simply heading down the road that been traveled before: trying to do to many things with limited resources. When push comes to shove a BoD is going to have decide where the money gets spent. And whoever’s in control will make that decision. Maybe the fundamental differences are too great and the desire for a controlling stake too strong for these sides to compromise and work together. Who knows? But a good faith effort should be made. Why, because as I see it, the USOC might select one of the two proposals, but only with a lot of hesitation. If the two proposals were somehow to merge, however, they would endorse that merged effort with enthusiasm.

Side point: Incidentally, there’s been some speculation that the USOC is biased towards the UTHF proposal. (And with the DITC deal already being signed and the DITC on board with the UTHF proposal there’s some legitimacy to that speculation.) While, I’m sure the USOC sees the dollar signs, many of the folks who work at the USOC are former athletes, some of them from lower profile sports. They know that the work that goes on at the grassroots level is vitally important and they also know how hard that work is. As such, when they see the UTHF proposal they undoubtedly remember the dedicated coach who taught them in some nondescript gym many years ago. Also, while they pay decent wages at the USOC, they don’t likely have $50K to throw around. So, bottom line: don’t necessarily infer which way the bias factor might play out.

One thought on “USOC NBG Hearing (Do Two Halves Make a Whole?)

  1. Great article John. Good summary, despite the fact that I, along with many others, still believe that ATHAT's lack of leadership/funds perception is unfair and misguided.

    As you have mentioned in your article, the ATHA has the the best org chart. Not sure that there is anything to compare it with but maybe I am missing something.

    Track record was brought up. Those wiling do dig in and find out about the ATHA (the name may very well be new but not the work)… how about you just look around you… The ATHA is everywhere. I know, not an easy pill to swallow but truth is best taken with lots of water… :) We have a track record, whether anyone else likes it or not…

    What's more? The ATHA is ready to work with anyone. We have room for everyone and everybody. Inquire inside. No job application required. :)

    See you on the 13th. I think.

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