2010 U.S. Club National Championship (Final Notes)

[b]Women from Mars (aka the Houston Firehawks): [/b]The Houston Firehawks concluded their clean sweep of the women’s competition with a 38-25 victory over defending champion, Chicago Inter. Houston won all of their games in convincing fashion with none of their matches ever being in doubt. Just who are these gals anyway?

During World War II, the U.S. project to build the Atomic bomb was a massive undertaking that required thousands of scientists and engineers. One small group of immigrants mostly from Hungary, however, played a key role in putting together the theoretical underpinnings vital to its success. One German scientist theorized that it was impossible that these geniuses were all from Hungary and that they were really Martians that wanted to stop Hitler and they were just pretending to be Hungarian as it was an obscure country with a language that few people spoke.

Sorry for the strange diatribe, but I was simply amazed with the talent, fitness and skill level of the Houston Firehawks team. I know they say there all from Mexico, but seriously they don’t handball there do they? And surely it’s impossible that a group of young Mexican girls (most of the team is either under 21 or close to it) could totally dominate an American Club Championships. I mean it really was a minor victory for Chicago Inter to cut the lead to 4 goals in the 2nd half. No, they must be from Mars or somewhere else.

Regardless, this is a dramatic wakeup call for the U.S. Federation. I’m sure the Mexicans are getting some level of Government support for this Junior National Team, but I’m guessing it’s not any more substantial than our current level of private funding. Trust me, if a young group of Americans were able to run circles around our expat laden club teams we would be trumpeting that success like there was no tomorrow. Models to copy and learn from can come from surprising places. Maybe we shouldn’t be looking eastward over the ocean to Europe, but just a few miles to the south. Perhaps we could copy what they’ve done and add in a few 6 footers to the team to one up them.

[b]LA grinds out a victory[/b]: The LA Team Handball Club played strong defense in the first half to build up a big lead. They then beat back a determined New England comeback for a 25-20 victory. New England had difficulty with LA’s 6-0 defense as they struggled to find gaps or shoot over the top. In the goal, Gabe Goodreau played outstanding earning Most Valuable Goalie honors for the tournament. Another factor to LA’s success was a deep bench that allowed key players more rest throughout the tournament.

[b]Miami wins a title[/b]: Miami won the Men’s open title and sent two teams to Las Vegas. My understanding is that the teams consisted of former Miami Sharks players as well as new recruits. Obviously, there is some development going on there. Maybe it’s time for the Handball knowledgeable people in South Florida to get on board instead of standing on the sidelines.
Miami Sharks Website Home Page: Miami Sharks is still here: http://www.miamisharksteamhandball.org/

[b]Lots of Euros[/b]: This was my first National Championship since 2004 and the bulk of my previous attendance was in the 1990’s. Memories can be hazy and biased, but I would assess that the level of play for the top men’s teams is a little lower than my “glory days.” This can be attributed to fewer American National team players being sprinkled amongst the top side. Most of the teams in Vegas were predominantly expat in composition. Such teams have always been around in U.S. club handball, but currently missing is a top notch, primarily American side like the old Sushi Masters, Condors and NYAC/Garden City clubs of my heyday. On the Women’s side it is even more striking. To be fair, however, I don’t think that there has ever been a longstanding club of American based women players. More often than not, the American clubs were temporarily put together by current and former national team players prior to the National Championships.

[b]Commentating at courtside[/b]: I enjoyed the experience of providing the color commentary for the Men’s and Women’s final. It certainly was nice to not have to do it solo as I did in Miami. I now have a healthy appreciation for those that perform such duties on a regular basis. At home, I certainly find myself yelling far less at my TV set, “you’re a know nothing idiot.”

[b]Running out of time[/b]: Sunday was a hectic day and I did not find time to sit down with USATH GM Steve Pastorino. Rest assured, however, as Steve has agreed to discuss in more detail U.S. National Team plans and development efforts. I hope to have an indepth interview in the next week or so.