In the Dominican Republic, about a 2 hour flight from Miami, the International Handball Federation (IHF) Youth World Championships are currently taking place. 19 nations from around the world and hundreds of athletes, 18 years old or younger, are participating in this event. The U.S. is not there as no team was sent to the earlier qualifying events for this hemisphere.
The decision not to compete is nothing new as U.S. participation in age based IHF tournaments has historically been sporadic and infrequent. There are a number of reasons why this has been the case, but I’ll briefly highlight 3 primary factors:
1) Cost: Not only can it be expensive to simply send a team to the actual championships, the costs for qualifying events also have to be factored in. And this could be 2 qualifying tournaments if the U.S. has to first play in a Div 1 event prior to the Pan American Championships. And if you want to prepare for these events in a meaningful way there will also be costs for team tryouts and training camps
2) Scheduling/Calendar: The IHF championships are in the summer, but the Pan American Championships qualifying events take place during the school year. Inevitably, this will mean that some High School and Collegiate athletes won’t be able to make these events.
3) Insufficient talent pool: Historically, most U.S. athletes have been introduced to the sport in their late teens and early 20’s. This means that there have been very few athletes to choose from for these events and that they were very inexperienced in relation to the other nations participating.
But, this is past history. Is there any reason to think that plans might change? Certainly, the Federation’s youth focus would seem to indicate that it is at least being considered. A youth team recently travelled to participate in the annual tournament in Partille, Sweden and the Futures High School program has been given a lot of emphasis by the Federation. Factor in the decision not to fund participation in upcoming Men’s and Women’s Senior events and one conclude that perhaps resources are being channeled in this direction. Not much can be done considering calendar issues, but the U.S. is working to broaden the talent pool. One could at least envision a high school all star team comprised of athletes who are currently playing in the futures program or have traveled to events like the Partille Cup.
So, are Youth and Junior Championships part of the Federation’s plans? So far there have been no official pronouncements and if all you did was check the U.S. website you probably wouldn’t know that these events even existed. Last May, I submitted a series of questions to the Federation seeking information concerning their future plans across the board and specifically what the plans were for participating in future PATHF and IHF events. I’m still waiting, but barring answers, perspective players can still look at the calendar and work backwards.
The IHF has settled into a routine for the Youth and Junior Championships. The Women’s events take place in even years (2010, 2012, etc) and the Men’s events take place in odd years (2009, 2011, etc). The PATHF webpage indicates that the Men’s Div 1 Junior Championships will take place this October in Venezuela. As this is around the corner, it’s probably pretty unlikely the U.S. will attempt to qualify. In terms of Youth Qualifying events nothing is listed for Div 1, so it may be that there are only enough nations for a championship in the April time. Bottom line, though is that it looks like time is running short for 2011. Perhaps 2012 will be the first time the U.S. will make a run at qualifying.
For more information on the ages for youth and junior tournaments check out our new qualification page in the links on the right side of our homepage: http://teamhandballnews.com/page38.html
IHF 2010 Youth Championships: http://www.ihf.info/IHFCompetitions/WorldChampionships/WomensYouthWorldChampionships/WomensYouthWorldChampionship2010/tabid/5092/Default.aspx
PATHF Women’s Youth Championships Results (April 2010): http://www.panamhandball.org/index.php?option=com_joomleague&func=showPlan&mode=1&p=13&Itemid=30
THN Commentary (26 Nov 09): Another PATHF Tournament in Costa Rica: Where are the Americans?: http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.888