USA Team Handball has announced that Robert Hedin has been hired as the interim coach for the U.S. Men’s national team. His assignment will run through the upcoming PANAM Games qualification matches vs Canada on 2 September (Auburn) and 5 September (Montreal).
Hedin, 52, is a native of Sweden, and is currently the club manager at St Hallvard, a suburb of Oslo, Norway. Hedin has extensive experience, both as a player and coach. His playing career includes two Olympic silver medals at the 92 and 96 Olympics and his club career included stints in Spain, Germany and Switzerland.
His most notable coaching assignment was as Norway’s head coach from 2008-2014. Club coaching assignments include Melsungen in Germany, Aalborg in Denmark and most recently Bregenz in Austria. At the end of the 2016-17 season he reportedly moved back to Norway at least in part to facilitate his wife’s career as a screenwriter
Commentary: This is a great hire for USA Team Handball. While it is only a temporary assignment Hedin will have the opportunity to show what he can do as coach in the 2 game series against Canada. Canada beat the U.S. 33-31 in April and gained some valuable experience with their 5th place showing at the Pan American Championships in June, but they are clearly beatable. In my opinion, success will hinge on selecting the right players and then getting them to gel as a team in a short period of time. This may be a far cry from the sort of coaching challenges a coach faces in a more structured European environment, but it is the sort of challenge an American coach often faces.
Coach Hedin will get his first opportunity to evaluate some of his players in two weeks with a tryout scheduled at Auburn on 22 July. It will be interesting to see what players there garner his interest as well as which dual citizens ultimately make the roster for the clashes vs Canada. And, then ultimately how well the team performs in the critical 2 game series in September.
A win on aggregate will directly qualify the U.S. for the 2019 PANAM Games. A loss will result in the U.S. playing in a 2nd chance tournament against a stronger Chile team from South America and 2 TBD teams from Central American & Caribbean.
Qualifying for the PANAM Games also might lead to some talk of erasing the “interim” from Hedin’s Head Coaching title. But, should that happen a whole host of other issues would have to be addressed to include salary and job responsibilities. For instance, would a permanent head coach take on recruiting and player development challenges that are unique to the U.S.