USATH Press Conference: Insight into future plans

Veteran Sarah Gascon wants to win now.

USA Team Handball (USATH) held a phone in press conference on July 28th to announce the Women’s National Team roster for the PANAM Games in October.  Here are some highlights along with some commentary.

Playing to win (2016): Head Coach Chris Cappelmann indicated that he thinks the team has a realistic chance of beating Uruguay and the Dominican Republic in pool play, but that they would be hard pressed to beat Brazil.  It was also noted that the roster contains several younger players who will benefit from this experience and hopefully apply what they learn at the 2015 PANAM Games in Toronto, Canada.  I think Coach Cappelmann has targeted a realistic goal, even if I do give Uruguay and the Dominican Republic more of an edge due to the more experience those sides have playing together as a unit.  Without question, if the USA does make it to the semifinals it will be a major accomplishment for a program that’s been whacked pretty good in recent PATHF competition.

Playing to win (now): National Team player, Sarah Gascon, made it clear that from her perspective London 2012 was the goal.  This is certainly the right attitude for the players to have, even if the challenge is very daunting.  It’s also worth noting that a 2016 Olympics is less likely for several of the players in the “old guard” as many of them will hit the age of 30 between now and then.  If history is a guide, it’s likely that “life decisions” will put Team Handball on the backburner for some of them.

5 Weeks of Preparation:  USA Team Handball will hold a 5 week long training camp at Lake Placid prior to departing to Houston, TX (the USA staging city for all sports), enroute to the PANAM Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.  This will be the USA’s most extensive training camp prior to a competition in several years.

Lack of Games:  While 5 weeks of dedicated practice time will allow the team to gel, there will unfortunately, be a lack of competition.  USATH looked at several options for competition and training in Europe and appeared on track for a trip to Spain, but this option fell through due to lack of USA funding and the economic struggles in Spain causing the sponsoring club to withdraw much of its hosting support.  A lot can be learned in practice, but the USA may not see how well those lessons are being learned until their first game in Mexico.  This lack of competition may well be the difference between winning and losing a close game.

7 Week Commitment: With a 5 week training camp and 2 weeks at the PANAM games, athletes with be dedicated almost 2 months to the USA National Team and a shot at the 2012 Olympic Games.  This is a massive time commitment for amateur athletes, most of who are either working or going to school.  It’s simply not sustainable and the U.S. will either need to have a stable of athletes who are playing professionally in Europe or who are receiving some level of compensation from USATH.

Resident Programs coming back?: The reality of the 7 week commitment problem isn’t lost on the Federation and the possibility of restarting a nation team residency program was highlighted.  The women’s team staff was impressed with the facilities and the support of the University of Central Oklahoma’s (UCO) staff during their training camp.  UCO has been designated a Para Olympic Training Center and they were some preliminary discussions about the possibility of setting up a permanent resident program similar to what was done previously at Cortland University in New York.   Other locations in the U.S. are also being considered and  it was noted that it’s likely a men’s and women’s program would be co-located as this would have advantages in terms of staffing.

The exact nature of the resident program is still to be defined, but it does seem to be similar conceptually  to what I proposed in an article a couple of years ago in that this would be more of a development program and that top players would still be encouraged to play with overseas clubs.  The details as to who, what, where, when and how seem pretty sketch at this point.  Hopefully, we’ll hear and read more of this important development in the coming months.

Finances:  U.S. participation in PANAM Games qualification events was not fully funded by the Federation and relied heavily on financial support from the independent USA Team Handball Foundation.  In light of this fact, I asked GM Steve Pastorino to give a grade as to the financial health of USATH.  Steve’s answer was that things were still “fluid” and this understated response certainly warrants further analysis.  More financial data has been released in the past few months on the Federation website, but it’s still hard to get a complete picture as to what exactly will be funded (and to what level) in the coming years.  I’ll be trying to track that that down in the coming weeks.

USATH (GM Steve Pastorino Blog) (28 Jul 11): 15 Women Named to Team USA for Pan Am Games:

USATH (28 Jul 11): Women’s National Team Roster for Pan American Games Named:

Edmund Sun (16 Jul 11): Team USA sets up camp at UCO:

THN (15 Aug 09): A Framework for Creating U.S. National Team Success (Part 3: National Development Teams):