As previously reported, NBC was considering the possibility of a handball based reality show that would see former athletes in other sports try handball with the hopes of making the U.S. National Team and eventually the Olympics. Unfortunately, the handball reality show has been shelved for the time being, but NBC and the USOC have given some air time to a similar concept: a scouting combine focused on identifying athletes for Rugby 7s, Boblsed, Skeleton and Track Cycling.
I saw the 2 hour show this past weekend and a rebroadcast is scheduled for the NBC Sports Network on Tuesday night at 8:30 PM ET. 90 athletes were identified for participation through multiple channels to include a partnership with 24 Hour Fitness. Over 3 days the USOC conducted a series of physical tests to measure raw athlete performance, as well as introduce athletes to the basics of the sports involved. These tryouts/sporting combines appeared to be somewhat similar to what USA Team Handball periodically conducts at Auburn.
As entertainment, I found the show lacking, as it’s pretty hard to manufacture much drama out of such tests of speed, strength and endurance. Old timers might find it nostalgic as it takes place at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs, even if it’s hard to recognize the place. About the only drama I found interesting were the end of the day conferences which featured coaches and representatives from each of the Sport NGBs discussing the athletes and in one instance trading a prospect from Rugby to Bobsled. In the end 8 athletes were selected, 1 male and 1 female for each sport.
As to why handball wasn’t included, Mike Cavanaugh, the CEO of USA Team Handball indicated to me via email that just about every other NGB had asked the USOC the same question. The USOC response was that they wanted to maximize the chance of success and that’s why the 4 sports, 3 of which are already medal producing were selected. Indeed, one of the athletes chosen for Bobsled even has an outside chance for making the 2018 Olympic Team.
The good news is that the USOC is already planning for another edition in 2018. And, who knows, maybe the USOC and NBC will throw a bone to USA Team Handball and include Handball next time. Interested hopefuls can apply here: Link