Interview: USA Team Handball General Manager, Steve Pastorino: Part 4: Federation Organization and Financial Status

In the 4th and final installment of our interview, we discuss how USA Team Handball is now organized and its current financial status.

[b]Federation Organization/Financial Status[/b]

John Ryan: One of the bigger changes between the old Federation and the newest incarnation is the radically different staffing philosophies. For many years 3 or 4 staff members oversaw operations from a national office. The current staff is much larger. Exactly how many full time and part time employees are there?

Steve Pastorino:

1. Steve Pastorino/General Manager (UT);
2. Dan Bush/Membership & National Teams (UT);
3. Alex Leopold (IL) / PR, Website/Development

4. Mariusz Wartalowicz/Technical Director (IL)
5. Brian Finley/West Region (CA)
6. Dominique Dumont/East (FL)
7. Marko Brezic/Regional Coach (UT)

8. Greg Myers/Marketing & Chicago Youth Development (IL);
9. Aida Kulasic, Intern Chicago (IL)
10. Brandon Gustafson, Intern SLC (UT)
11. Tim Fifield, Intern Fresno (CA)
12. Jaclyn Rymer, Intern LA (CA)
13. Timo Krueger, Intern Chicago (IL) (from Germany)
14. Ditte Rasmussen, Intern (UT) (from Denmark)

JR: Why the change in staffing philosophy? What are the benefits?

1. I believe we should be a national federation, with presence in multiple regions. There is not one central hub of handball in America where all of the resources/people/development should be centered (not Atlanta, not NY, not LA).
2. I think we need to be significant enough (in size, dollars, manpower) to run this sport with the attention, breadth and aspiration it deserves. Therefore, my staffing plan is bigger and more aggressive than in the past.
3. Mariusz, Brian, Dominique and Marko give USA Team Handball a face and on-the-ground presence in four important and different regions. We are trying to be far more ambitious in scope than our predecessors, and our staff is far more useful in four different time zones than all in one place.

JR: Such a staff takes a bigger slice of a limited budget. Are you concerned that this will preclude other expenditures like international travel, funds for club development, etc?

SP: Everything requires money. We have made a case to USOC that handball deserves substantially greater funding, and our message has been well-received when we pitch our long-term plans to them. I want to grow USATH into a $1M-$5M/year organization, with proper grassroots programs, proper National Team expenditures, substantial staff/club/player/referee/coach development.

JR: I understand that USATH wants the budget to grow, but in the meantime you’re dealing with a limited budget. Some tough decisions are being made that impact a lot of people. If the U.S. was spending a little less on salaries we wouldn’t have athletes digging into their own pockets to represent our country in international competition. Conversely, someone could even make the argument that if we cancelled a few more trips we could hire another regional director. Everything does require money, but how are those tough decisions being made?

SP: My staff provides budgets based upon their geographical location and/or projects where they are assigned; I compile these and then I present proposed budgets to our board; and they assist me in the prioritization process.

JR: What are the current year projected overall revenues and expenses?

SP: Approx. $800,000 (up from $500k in 2008-09 fiscal year.)

JR: Do you see overall revenues increasing from year to year? Can you give me a rough idea of where will be in 2012,2016,2020?

SP: I’d like to be a $5M/year organization by 2016.

JR: How much has Board Chairman, Dieter Esch, personally contributed since being certified by the USOC?

SP: More than $500,000.

JR: Wow. Even for a wealthy man that’s a significant chunk of change. Where would USATH be right now without that level of contribution?

SP: There would be no USATH. Perhaps there would be another group running a federation; or perhaps the USOC would still be administering the sport.

JR: Have all other independent board members contributed the $50,000 required by the Federation by laws?

SP: Several are spreading the payments over multiple years. All are on track to make at least $50,000 in donations.

JR: How much funding has the USOC provided? What percentage of total revenue is it? Do you see that percentage becoming smaller?

SP: In 2009, it was approximately $140,000. In 2010, approximately $260,000. It has been less than 30% of operating revenues. We anticipate that USOC will continue to increase their contributions, and the percentage of overall revenues will be in line with other NGB’s of our size and scope.

JR: How much funding have our sponsors provided on a yearly basis? Do you see this increasing over time? How much has progress on this front been stymied by the recession?

SP: $100,000 – $150,000 in 2009 and 2010; I would like to see this grow substantially. The recession has made it difficult, but sponsors and grants are a key to our long-term viability.

JR: You indicated that USATH wants to grow the budget to $5,000,000. The current budget is $800,000. How does the USATH increase its budget 6-fold?

SP: We’ve tried to build a business model for the long term. We have identified new areas of income (international events i.e., Battle of Chicago) and taken advantage of new and/or less cheaper technology to connect and promote our sport (televising events both on our website and channels like ESPN3 and Comcast Sport Net, making our home page a portal for news/info relevant to handball players in America, social media such as Facebook, etc. We’re trying to make the federation less dependent on one board member or one Executive Director by bringing board and staff on board with different business acumen, geographic location and ideas about sport development. We’ve forged a close relationship and accountability with USOC and multiple federations and clubs across Europe. This business foundation allows us to do more of the sport development at youth, teen and adult levels.

JR: The current Board of Directors (BoD) construct consists of 7 members with independent credentials and 2 athlete representatives. None of these directors, with the exception of the athlete reps are elected by the membership. While, I think the independent directors have given the Board a better business orientation I’m concerned that the rank and file doesn’t have much of a voice on this current board. Do you think this is true? Should it be a concern?

SP: We are adding another athlete rep who will be elected by a broader group of individuals than the AAC Rep (which is an artificially small number per USOC Bylaws). The rules for this election will be established this week. This Board member will have an important voice. Additionally, we have had guests at several board meetings now, and we will continue to facilitate that. Any rank-and-file member who wishes to voice opinions (through board members, my staff or directly to me) is encouraged to do so – and we hear from members every single day. I think our Board representation is fair and this has not been an issue to date.

JR: Some sports have a larger body (e.g. a congress) that provides input to the board in an advisory role. Do you see USATH adding that?

SP: We’ve discussed it… but until I see / hear more feedback that it is requested by the membership, it is not a priority.

JR: You’ve covered a lot of ground in this interview and I’ve found it very informative. In some respects, though, I think it only scratches the surface in terms of USATH’s plans for the future. Does the USATH have a more detailed plan which outlines objectives and includes benchmarks to measure performance? If so, can the membership see that plan and provide input?

SP: We provide a High Performance Plan to USOC annually, but they primarily want to know about our long-term Olympic prospects, not the broader plans, business model, etc. I have read several “10-year Plans” that were written in the past at USTHF, and unfortunately, none of them came to fruition. I prefer to let our work speak for itself, but there is always room for more public input and participation.

JR: In closing, I’ll ask the same question I asked you two years ago when we first met at the USA Team Handball Summit in St Louis. You had just taken the GM job and had heard 8 solid hours of discussion in regards to the challenges of developing Team Handball in this country. I asked you then if you were starting to realize just how hard it was going to be and whether there any second thoughts about taking on this challenge. You were full of optimism then. Two years later, how do you feel?

SP: No second thoughts. This sport is rich in history and tradition, inspires great passion and has unlimited potential. Is it a challenge? Absolutely. Is it exciting to be a part of the process? Without a doubt. I’m still optimistic. Go USA.

This concludes the interview, here are links to the other 3 installments.
Interview Part 1 (National Team Planning):
Interview Part 2 (Overseas Players and Future’s Program):
Interview Part 3 (Part 3: College Programs and Club Issues):