Auburn Residency Programs: A great day for USA Team Handball? Maybe, but I’ve got a few questions

USA Team Handball and Auburn University agree to a seven year National Team Residency Program.  Did USA Team Handball have a structured and transparent process in reaching this decision?

USA Team Handball and Auburn University agree to a seven year National Team Residency Program. Did USA Team Handball have a structured and transparent process for reaching this decision?

Yesterday, USA Team Handball formally announced an agreement in principle between USA Team Handball and Auburn University to create a long-term residency program for both the Men’s and Women’s National Teams.  The posting trumpeted the genesis of how the deal came to fruition and how USA National Teams will improve and become formidable opponents in as little as 18 months.  I certainly don’t doubt that U.S. teams will soon show improvement.  Results have been pretty dismal lately and a structured training program can’t help but produce better results.  It’s debatable as to how long it will take till the U.S. can improve to the point that it can qualify for an Olympics or even a World Championship, but undoubtedly we’re going to get better.

Of course, there are other ways of improving national team performance even if they don’t offer a quick solution.  It’s no secret that I have been very skeptical as to the implementation of Residency Programs.  In a series of commentaries I identified some problems with the basic concept and questioned whether it was the right time to start such a program.  Setting aside skepticism in the last essay I highlighted how  USA Team Handball’s strategic planning had become flawed and made a plea to right the ship, by developing a true strategic plan for USA Team Handball with clearly articulated goals/objectives and input from the Board, Committees and the USA Team Handball community

From the looks of the recent Federation announcement that plea has fallen on deaf ears as it appears that the Federation has decided to move out and move quickly.  From the outside looking in, it appears that USA Team Handball has selected to cast its lot with Auburn without fully considering other options.  Moreover, it appears that there has been little Board involvement and that the team involved in this selection could be perceived as biased toward starting a program as soon as possible.  (Note, the emphasis on the word, perceived.)  Perhaps, however, I’m jumping the gun a bit.  Below are some questions that I’ve sent USA Team Handball CEO, Matt Van Houten.  I’ll post the answers when I get them.

– Previous discussion (23:30 in the podcast) and email traffic with you indicated that you would involve the BoD with a strategic decision like establishing a Residency Program.  How has each of the 4 current board members been involved with the decision to engage Auburn?

– Was there any though to delaying the start of a search process until a fully constituted 9 member Board of Directors was is place?

– The announcement indicates that there has been an “agreement in principle” with a formal agreement soon to be completed.  When do you anticipate the agreement going final?

– Will the formal agreement be made only after a fully constituted board is in place?

– Are you concerned that you may be putting the Board in the position of immediately approving a fait accompli?  In other words, shouldn’t the new members who will be responsible for this decision have played a greater role in its conception?

– Where is the Board decision to immediately pursue a Residency Program documented?

– What requirements were identified for the Residency Program?

– What evaluation criteria were identified for the Residency Program?

– There doesn’t appear to have been any public announcement soliciting or requesting input from potential candidates.  Why wasn’t this done?

– Were any other colleges or universities contacted regarding the establishment of a Residency Program?

– The USOC is in the process of selecting a USA candidate host city for the 2024 Olympic Games with that city being selected next year.  Has there been any discussion with candidate cities regarding the establishment of a Residency Program?

– Establishing a Residency Program in the U.S. city that is selected could have significant benefits.  Was there any consideration to delaying a Residency Program search to fully engage the U.S. city that is selected?

– The Director of the High Performance, Dave Gascon, has a daughter who is a veteran member of the U.S. Women’s National Team.  Are you concerned that some could perceive him as somewhat biased in favor of quickly establishing a Residency Program?

– The Men’s and Women’s coaches obviously are very interested in establishing a Residency Program to improve near term National Team performance.  Are you concerned that they may also be perceived as biased towards quickly establishing a Residency Program?

– Was there any thought to establishing an independent committee consisting of Board Members and other select individuals to oversee engagement with Auburn to remove any perceptions of bias?

– Have there been any other individuals evaluating the Auburn proposal and advising the High Performance Team?  If so, has there been any thought to publicly identifying and formalizing their role in the process.

– The announcement indicates a 7 year commitment to Auburn.  How was it determined that a 7 year commitment was in the best interest of USATH?

– Establishing a Residency Program will consume significant manpower and resources.  Are you concerned that other USATH efforts such as grass roots programs will be significantly impacted?