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2024 Women’s Jr World Championship Info Page

The USA Jr Women’s National Team is competing in the 2024 Women’s Junior World Handball Championship. Here are the team roster, schedule, results, and links to streaming and other information pages

Women’s Competition

  • IHF Official Page: Link
  • Wikipedia Competition Page: Link

USA Women (Schedule, Results, Streaming) (All Times US ET)

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2024 Beach Handball World Championships Information Page

The USA Men’s and Women’s Beach Handball National Teams are competing in the 2024 IHF Beach Handball World Championships. Here are the team rosters, schedule, results, and links to streaming and other information pages

Men’s Competition

  • IHF Official Page: Link
  • Wikipedia Competition Page: Link

USA Men (Roster, Schedule, Results, Streaming) (All Times US ET)

  • IHF USA Team Page: Link
  • Consolation (9-16th) Knockout Tournament with Consolation
    • Friday, 2220 US ET QF: USA vs China Details Video
    • Saturday, 0450 US ET SF(TBD): USA vs TBD Details Video
    • Saturday, 2130 US ET Final Placing (TBD) USA vs TBD Details Video

Women’s Competition

  • IHF Official Page: Link
  • Wikipedia Competition Page: Link

USA Women (Schedule, Results, Streaming) (All Times US ET)

  • IHF USA Team Page: Link
  • Consolation (9-16th) Knockout Tournament with Consolation
    • Friday, 2120 US ET QF: USA vs Norway Details Video
    • Saturday, 0400 US ET SF(TBD): USA vs TBD Details Video
    • Saturday, 2220 US ET Final Placing (TBD) USA vs TBD Details Video
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Commentary: Three U.S. Championships… but, only One of them is Truly “National”

(Klaebu IL and the Norseman pose together after their “national” championship match)

Norway’s Domination of American Club Handball Continues

This past weekend in what may be the most eclectic USA Handball “National” Championship ever staged two Norwegian teams (Klaebu IL and the Norseman) faced off against each other for the elite title at the U.S. Handball Union National Championships. And, to think that I complained recently about two Norwegian professionals helping the California Eagles take the USA Team Handball National Championships title. This is taking the Norwegian connection to new heights.

A Nice Tournament

Setting aside that somewhat bizarre final, it looks like the tournament held last weekend was a success. I wasn’t there, but based on social media posts and the YouTube broadcasts it looks like people were having fun and enjoed the competition. Here are some links regarding the tournament:

The TV feature provided a little nostaglia for me as it referenced the Las Vegas Scorpions club team I helped start prior to the 2010 National Championships that were also in Las Vegas. Here’s an article on the 2010 Tournament and some promotion we did during the 2012 Olympics. Currently, the team is inactive, but maybe they’ll get going again if the tournament returns to Vegas next year.

US Handball Union and USA Team Handball “National” Championships: A Comparison

In the space of a month the U.S. held two separate national championships. USA Team Handball held a National Championship in Spokane, Washington from 3-5 May and the upstart US Handball Union held their tournament in Vegas from 6-9 June. I didn’t attend either event, but based on the match video from the Vegas tournament and the logical conclusion that USA Team Handball hasn’t changed what it’s been doing for years… they appear to have been very similar. Here’s a comparison:

  • Size: Union: 17 teams; USATH: 20 teams (Both had 2 men’s divisions and 1 women’s division
  • Foreign Teams: Union: 4 teams; USATH: 6 teams
  • Demographics (American/Expat): Most of the U.S. clubs participating in both tournaments had quite a few expats. Perhaps there were a few more Americans percentage wise at the Union tournament, but I can’t fully assess
  • Demographics (playing for a club where you live): And, both tournaments featured clubs with quite a few athletes that lived nowhere near the city identified with the club
  • Level of play: I suspect that the California Eagles and NYC would have been able to beat the Norwegian teams that won the Union Championship. I also think NYC and Quebec were better than the women’s teams. I didn’t see as many of the D2 matches, but I think the Miami Storms team could have won the USATH D2 title. But, overall, if one were to look at all the the teams… probably pretty similar.
  • Video Coverage: I didn’t pay the $5 fee for the USATH tournament, so the free Union tourney was clearly better from my perspective. They also had some dedicated people working it. That said, the camera angles were too low and there were frequent streaming glitches.
  • Location: I didn’t attend either event, but Las Vegas vs Spokane for the 2nd year in a row? That’s a no brainer in my opinion. Even if June is pretty hot in Vegas. It’s a wonder any club that wasn’t looking to qualify for the Super Globe even went to Spokane.

Pointless Duplication?

In the cult classic movie, Highlander the famous quote is: There can be only one. Apparently, that only applies to immortals. Not sports organizations. Most comically, boxing has 5 (count em, 5) organizations that honor boxers with the moniker “World Champion.” And, much like boxing, there is nothing to prevent any U.S. handball organization from running a tournament and calling it their national championship. Heck, they could even call it a world championship like some of our American pro leagues like to.

Duplicate championships, however, from a big picture perspective are problematic. One of the reasons boxing is taken less seriously and has loss ground on the world stage are the competing organizations fighting for attention. Imagine if there were 5 FIFAs running soccer and staging dueling championships. Or, if one nation with very limited resources was staging two handball championships. Wait… that’s what we have.

I won’t go into all of the politics surrounding our current situation. But, make no mistake it’s mostly about politics. We don’t need two national championships. Heck, we don’t even really have enough bandwidth to do one national championship properly. But, logically, if you were to combine the manpower and resources used to conduct two separate events you would have more bandwidth to stage a better event. At least one would hope so.

The problem with that, however, is the politics and who gets to do it. Because if you are going to combine resources ultimately there can be only one entity in charge. Somebody loses out.

Not Really “National” Championships

But, setting aside the politics, there’s a larger issue that should be addressed. And, that’s the reality that neither championship was very “national.” It’s semantical, but it still matters. When you have athletes, whether it be pros living in another nation or an entire team from another nation… does it make sense to call them national champions for the nation where they don’t even live?

Champions of “a Tournament.” Sure, that makes sense. I’m down with that. Just don’t call them National Champs. Semantically, what we actually have been staging are “Open” Championships. Much like the French Open or the U.S. Open these tournament are open to all comers from anywhere in the world.

From a team concept the most comparable competition I can think of is “The Basketball Tournament (TBT)” which is staged in the summer and features teams with rosters that are put together to play in just that one tournment. And, as anyone who’s been around handball in the U.S. for awhile knows this is exactly what often happens as athletes and teams boths search for each other in the weeks prior to tournaments.

From the standpoint of giving athletes the opportunity to compete and have fun there is nothing wrong with having an annual 1 off tournament that does this. But, when you combine such a tournament with the concept of determining a “national champion”… well, that’s where the disconnect is. Because you can’t do both at the same time.

A Possible Solution

And, maybe recognizing this disconnect is the path to resolution. I think we need to start thinking about having two tournaments.

One tournament would be a smaller National Championship that is focused on determining a National Champion. Only open to U.S. clubs that meet stricter residency and qualification requirements with tighter roster contols. Maybe even requirements to sponsor a youth program and practice 20 times/year. We could even talk about a citizenship % requirement. One that might require only 25% U.S. citizenship initially, and is adjusted annually. Yes… these requirements would result in weaker teams for Super Globe qualification, but it could pave the way for the kind of growth I think we want. Perhaps this tournament could even be a final four with proper staging and promotion.

The other tournament would be what we’re already doing. An all comers open tournament. A celebration of handball in the the U.S. where the intent is some good competition, having fun and meeting old friends.

Our Already Existing National Championship

As I alluded to with the title of this commentary, we already have an existing national championship… And, that would be our Collegiate National Championships. And, you know what this championship has already. Teams mostly composed of Americans, all living in the same city and practicing regularly.

No one’s even going to begin to argue that the West Point men and women’s team aren’t the National Collegiate Champions. It wouldn’t even cross anyone’s mind.

And, we should be striving for a structure where the same could be said about our adult clubs. Where no one even doubts the validity of our club national champion.

USA Handball Talk (Episode 21): Keeping up with the USA Team Handball Women

JD and John discuss entities that might be interested in a handball reality show and the upcoming US Handball Union Championship in Las Vegas.

Here’s a summary with links to some of the items we discussed:

Watch on YouTube or listen/download the mp3 file at the top of the page

If you have any suggestions for future topics that you would like us to consider please let us know on social media.


Don’t miss an episode:

  • Subscribe on YouTube: Link (Earliest Availability)
  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes: Link
  • Follow the Team Handball News podcast on Spotify: Link
  • Or use this RSS Feed to sign up for the podcast in your favorite podcast aggregator: Link

And, be sure to check out the podcast archive with interviews and great handball discussion going all the way back to 2006: Link

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USA Jr Women Prepare for Jr World Championships both on and off the Court

The U.S. Jr Women’s National Team will be participating in the 2024 IHF Jr World Handball Championships from 19-30 June, in Skopje, North Macedonia. Some team members recently participated in a Sr Women’s camp in Montpellier, France and the Jr Team will be holding a pre-tournanment training camp in Leonberg, Germany.

Team Promotion on Social Media

If you want to know more about the team roster and their preparation just follow them on their social media channels where they regular post content like athlete profiles and training camp updates

Fundraising

On the latest episode of their Red, White and Glue podcast some of the funding challenges the team faces were discussed. It’s not clear what parts of their training camp and the World Championships competition is funded by USA Team Handball, but it is very clear that much of the trip will be self funded by the athletes and their families.

If you would like to assist the team and their efforts there are multiple ways to contribute and help defray some of their costs:

  • National Team Supporter shop: Link
  • Chuffed: Link
  • GoFundMe: Link

All the links: USA Women’s National Team Linktree

USA Handball Talk (Episode 20): Death, Taxes and the Group of Death

JD and John discuss the 2025 IHF Handball World Championships draw and mercenary teams at the U.S. National Championships.

Here’s a summary with links to some of the items we discussed:

  • 2025 IHF World Championship Draw: Link
  • 2025 IHF World Championship Draw: Link
  • 2023 Gensidige Cup results: Link
  • John’s commentary on the 2024 National Champions, California Eagles roster: Link
  • The 1990 CalHeat National Championship team which was mostly Americans with a few expats; over time club teams have become the reverse: mostly expats with a few Americans
1990 USA National Champions (San Francisco CalHeat)

Watch on YouTube or listen/download the mp3 file at the top of the page

If you have any suggestions for future topics that you would like us to consider please let us know on social media.


Don’t miss an episode:

  • Subscribe on YouTube: Link (Earliest Availability)
  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes: Link
  • Follow the Team Handball News podcast on Spotify: Link
  • Or use this RSS Feed to sign up for the podcast in your favorite podcast aggregator: Link

And, be sure to check out the podcast archive with interviews and great handball discussion going all the way back to 2006: Link

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Deja Vu, All Over Again: Norway, Portugal, Brazil and USA to Replay the 2023 Gjensidige Cup

The USA Men found out who and where they will play their group play matches at the 2025 Handball World Championships and due to a strange twist of fate it will be deja vu, all over again. This is because they will play Norway, Portugal and Brazil in Norway… just like they did in a warmup tourney prior to the 2023 Handball World Championships. This time, however, the matches will be played in Baerum (a suburb of Oslo), instead of Trondheim and these matches will count.

What are the chances of that? Well, it would be 1 out of 6 (Austria and Croatia (Pot 2) were already assigned to Porec and Zagreb) x (1 out of 8) x (1 out of 8) or 1 out of 384 or a 0.26% chance of occuring.

Tough Draw for the U.S.

As one of the lower ranked teams at the World Championships just about any draw is a tough draw. Realistically, beating any of the teams from pot 1 or pot 2 was always going to be a longshot, but there were some teams in pot 3 that the U.S. would match up well with.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Brazil is one of those teams and since they have good familiarity with the U.S. program they aren’t a team we can sneak up on. At the 2023 PANAM Games we lost to Brazil 40-27 (23-13) in the semifinals and at the 2023 Gjensidige Cup we lost 27-22 (12-10). A closer match, but also a friendly.

Further, having played both Norway and Portugal also at the 2023 Gjensidige cup we won’t be sneaking up on them either. Both of those sides won’t be surprised to find out that the U.S. actually has some guys that can play. They already know that and will even have some head to head match video to review as a reminder.

2023 Gjensidige Cup Final Standings

2023 Gjensidige Cup: Wikipedia (includes all results and links to match reports)

Beyond Group Play

Should the U.S. pull off an upset in Preliminary Group play they will stay in Oslo where their likely Main Round opponents from Group F would be Sweden, Spain and the winner of the Japan-Chile match.

If they finish 4th in Group E, however, they will head to Porec, Croatia for the President’s Cup play where they will play the 4th place finishers from Groups F, G and H. These opponents, barring a rash of upsets will likely be the losers of these preliminary round matchups

  • Japan vs Chile
  • Cuba vs Cape Verde
  • Argentina vs Bahrain

The potential for a mini Pan American group (USA, Chile, Cuba, Argentina) exists, but that remains to be seen. No team wants to go to the President’s Cup, but on the upside it could give the U.S. another crack at Chile, who they narrowly lost to in the bronze medal match at the PANAM Games and an opportunity to play NACHC rivals Cuba.

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2025 Men’s World Championships Draw: Best and Worst Cases for the U.S.; Plus a Little What if?

The draw for the 2025 Men’s World Championships will take place tomorrow, 29 May at 1:30 PM (US ET) / 7:30 PM (CET). It will probably be streamed live and I will place the link here when it’s available.

The USA Men are in pot 4 and here’s some best and worst case analysis for who might be drawn into their group

  • Pot 1: It doesn’t matter for pot 1. The USA will be a huge underdog no matter which of these 8 teams they end up playing in Group Play.
  • Pot 2: The best outcome here would clearly be Italy. The Italians won their qualification play-off match vs Montenegro in convincing fashion, but it’s still their first WC in 18 years. The U.S. would be underdogs against Italy, but an upset victory would certainly be possible. The Czech Republic is probably the next weakest side, but a victory over them or any of the other teams in pot 2 is still unlikely.
  • Pot 3: This will be the key draw for the U.S. as the group match vs this opponent will likely determine who moves on to the main round and who goes to the President’s Cup. Here’s my take (in order) as to who the U.S. preferred options are
    • Cuba: The best option is clearly Cuba. The U.S. Men lost to Cuba at the 2024 NORCA Championships, but that was mostly a B side. The U.S. Men’s top side has beaten Cuba the last two times they played each other (2023 PANAM Games and and 2022 NORCA).
    • Algeria: Algeria were the runners-up in African qualification, but usually they are the 3rd or 4th best team from Africa and are similar in quality to the Moroccan side the U.S. beat 28-27 at the 2023 WC
    • Japan: Japan had built up a pretty solid team for the 2020 Olympics, but they’ve slipped a bit since then.
    • Qatar: Qatar still has some naturalized citizens playing for them, but they aren’t as strong as they used to be
    • North Macedonia: North Macedonia or Italy are arguably the weakest European teams at this World Championship.
    • Poland: On paper Poland should be a better team, but results wise they have been a disappointment recently. If there ever was a European team that could slip up and lose against a team like the USA, its this Poland team.
    • Argentina: The U.S. led most of the 1st half vs Argentina last year at the PANAM Games only to end up losing 28-14. While it’s possible the U.S. could put two good halves together it would be tough to come out on top. Further, the Argentinians know what the U.S. is capable of, so a surprise victory is not possible.
    • Brazil: The U.S. has played Brazil close at times, but hasn’t come close to a win. And, again, just like Argentina, the U.S. can’t sneak up on Brazil.

Best and Worst Possible Draws

Here’s my take on the best and worse possible draws for the U.S.

  • Best Possible: Slovenia, Italy, Cuba
  • Worst Possible: France, Croatia, Brazil

What If… the USA had won the 2024 NORCA and had Potential Opponents from Pot 4?

The U.S. chose to send essentially a B side to the North American & Caribbean Championship while an A side played Norway and France in two friendly matches. The U.S. could afford to do this as they had already been awarded a wild card for the World Championships. This resulted in Cuba (the NORCA Champions) being placed in Pot 3 and the U.S. being placed in Pot 4 as a wild card. If, the U.S. had sent their A team to NORCA and had won the Championship the U.S. would have been placed in Pot 3 and the Pot 4 wild card would have likely been assigned to a European side like Serbia.

Here’s some top level “What if?” analysis of who the USA would have potentially played under that scenario. The USA would have been big underdogs to Switzerland and Serbia, moderate underdogs to Bahrain and Tunisia, close to a pick em vs Chile and Cape Verde, and probably favorites over Kuwait and Guinea.

So overall, there would have been better opportunities to get to the Main Round from Pot 3 than Pot 4. Not guaranteed, of course. The U.S. could still draw Cuba or Algeria from Pot 3 and if they hadn’t gone the Wild Card route they could have ended up playing Switzerland or Serbia.

From a big picture viewpoint, however, I think the U.S. still made the right call to send a B team to the NORCA Championships. The experience gained playing France and Norway was worth more than having better odds to reach the Main Round. And, at the same time the U.S. was able to evaluate several athletes on the B team and assess their potential for future competitions.

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U.S. Women’s National Team: What’s Next (Part 3): An Out of the Box Solution to Broaden a Very Thin Talent Pool

This is part of a series of commentaries that address the future of handball in the U.S. In Part 1, I summarized the U.S. Women’s National Team poor results of the past 4 years. In Part 2, I addressed the need for USA Team Handball leadership to consider proactive steps to broaden the talent pool. This commentary highlights an Out of the Box possibility that just might work.

Introduction: Where’s the Funding Going to Come from?

When I talk to handball old timers (around my age and even older) perhaps the biggest disconnect they have with their experience and the struggles we have today is the lack of funding for our national teams. These old timers travelled the world and made a lot of sacrifices, but they never spent a dime on travel or training. In fact, they often received room, board and a small stipend. Contrast that to today’s environment with teams and athletes using gofundme pages to help defray some of their costs. (This commentary highlights USA Team Handball funding since 1993)

These costs not only impacts these athletes, but it also impacts the size and quality of our talent pool. If athletes have to pay to play… there are going to be fewer athletes to select from. And, without a structured training program for stateside crossover athletes this means relying for the most part on dual citizens and athletes moving to Europe to improve their game.

Given current budget limitations, it would seemingly be impossible to fund a credible training program to broaden the talent pool with crossover athletes. Seemingly, that is. Because I think the stars have aligned for an out of the box solution that could pay for itself.

Alignment 1: Women’s Sports are “Having a Moment”

As a native Iowan I’ve been following the Caitlin Clark phenomenon with a mixture of bemusement, incredulosity and annoyance. The latter is due to being a lifelong Iowa State University fan. Growing up I had two favorite teams: Iowa State and whoever the University of Iowa was playing against. Setting aside fierce in-state rivalries, though, I can’t deny the transformation that has taken place in regards to the newfound interest it has brought to women’s basketball.

This was perhaps most ably demonstrated to me when handball commentator, Chris O’Reilly contacted me to find out if I knew of any way that he could get access to CBS and ESPN to watch the NCAA Basketball Tournament. My response included this point. “ESPN is just for the women’s tournament… OMG, has Caitlin Clark mania reached Europe now?” Indeed, Chris informed me that it had and that she was all over his social media channels. When an Irish handball commentator living in Sweden is taking extra effort to figure out he can watch USA Women’s college basketball… that is the very definition of “Having a Moment.”

More than a Moment?

There’s been a lot of speculation as to whether this is, indeed, but a moment. Simply the impact of one transformational athlete injecting a bit more interest for a short period of time before things go back to normal. The jury is still out on that, but I think it’s definitely more than a moment and it’s more than just women’s basketball.

In particular, women’s professional soccer has been showing real signs of life with the valuation of team franchises seeing exponential growth in terms of valuation. Nebraska women’s volleyball played a match in their football stadium with a world record 92,000 fans. There’s even a pro volleyball league now that judging by this match replay gets decent crowds. Women’s collegiate softball also is drawing more fans.

Now, I don’t think we’re going to ever hit parity with men’s sports in terms of overall interest. But, I do think we’re starting to see real interest that means something. And, this is a sharp contrast to the next to nothing interest women’s sports have received in the past. From my own personal anecdotal experience I’ve certainly even watching women’s sports more even if it is to watch Caitlan Clark get technical fouls for the struggling Indiana Fever. Welcome to the pros, rook!

Alignment 2: The Rise of the Sports Documentary/Reality Show

Sport’s reality shows are also having a moment. Fostered in part by the COVID pandemic, shows like Netflix’s Drive to Survive are finding new fans. Even getting some Americans to actually care about Formula 1. This documentary format has also been adopted for golf (Full Swing) and tennis (Match Point). ESPN even got into the act with a new show callled “Tryouts” on ESPN+. Two episodes even feature the lesser known sports of Ultimate and Curling.

The Handball Reality Show: Retooled for a U.S. Women’s National Team

So, why not team handball? The concept of a handball reality show has been around in different forms for over 20 years. I first saw it proposed in an online forum not long after the NFL reality show, Hard Knocks debuted. Essentially, the basic concept is to follow the ups and downs of the U.S. National Team as it trains to take on the world.

In 2017 there was a serious proposal that was pitched to NBC. The proposed show’s producer even attended the 2017 Men’s World Championship as a guest of the IHF. This proposal would have seen former pros from American football, basketball and other sports learn the game and even travel to Europe for competion. Alas, the show was not selected for production, but the fact that it got that far suggests that the concept has real potential.

Generally left unsaid is that these proposals have been exclusively focused on the men’s team and conceptualized how famous male athletes would excel at handball if given the chance. This is not too surprising. After all, until very recently way more attention across the board has gone to men’s sports. Why would it have been any different for reality sports TV shows?

And, while I could argue there might well be still greater interest in a show focused on finding great athletes for our Men’s National Team it would be a fool’s errand. That’s because we already have a pretty good team. Athletes who already know how to play the game and who are also fairly high up in there terms of raw athletic ability. As we discussed on the USA Handball Talk podcast the current Men’s National Team has athletes one would find on a low NCAA D1 or high D2 Basketball team. We could find better athletes… but, not a whole lot better and it would take them at least two years (if not more) of regular handball training to realistically compete for positions on the national team.

Whereas with our Women’s National Team the raw talent is more similar to an NCAA D3 basketball team The evidence to support this includes an 0-0-12 record since the 2019 PANAM Games and the novelty of a D2 NCAA hoopster (Katie Timmerman) with very little handball experience playing significant minutes at the 2023 North American & Caribbean Championships. Her success suggests that even better athletes would fare well with an organized training program. (Side note: Current #1 GK Sophie Fasold is D1 quality and might well be the best GK in USA history)

Documentary/Reality Show Framework

So what would this would be TV show look like? For discussion purposes, here’s a possible framework for Season 1:

  • Athlete identification and recruitment: Introductory episodes could cover what types of athletes they are looking for and how they are recruited
  • Athlete tryouts: Structured tryouts would be held and athletes would be evaluated and then selected for further training
  • Initial training: Athletes would be taught the basics of handball in a structured setting over several weeks
  • Initial competition matches: The athletes could play a match vs current national team athletes and/or European clubs

Follow on seasons would continue to follow the athletes as they integrate with the national team and continue training, potentially in Europe

Multiple Variables to Consider

How the show would actually look would also depend on several variables to include:

  • Funding Level: It goes without saying the more funding this would be show has… the more that can be done across the board to pay for facilities, coaching, athlete expenses, travel, etc. In fact, from a selfish handball standpoint that’s the appeal of this concept. This show would pay for a real training program that USA Team Handball can’t afford right now, even at an austere level.
  • TV Partner Role: Would the TV partner be content to just document what happens or would they want to control the narrative as much as possible? In standard reality fare, drama is what draws interest and this could be a major distraction. Roles for everyone involved in the effort would need to be defined. And, if we’re really thinking out of the box… there is nothing that would prohibit no partnership whatsoever. Yes, some entity could seek to manufacture a team and develop athletes with no connection to USA Team Handball at all.
  • Timing: The Olympics are just four years away. On the one hand, it would seem that we’re already behind the curve in terms of the time it will take great athletes to learn handball. But, on the other hand, great athletes might be reluctant to commit to four years of training. Commitment concerns, however, could be assuaged with a salary and other opportunities.

Two “Moments” and a Big Opportunity

So we essentially have a alignment of two moments and a big opportunity

  • People genuinely care more about women’s sports now
  • Sports docudramas have garnered unprecedented interest
  • The U.S. Women’s national team is currently low performing, but will play in the Olympics just four years from now.

So some smart entity could jump on both the women’s sports bandwagon and the sports documentary bandwagon to help a down trodden team that hasn’t won a game in over four years acheive greatness at the 2028 Olympics. It also doesn’t hurt that we’re talking about a pretty cool, ridiculously under exposed sport…

Yes, the stars have aligned to make this pipe dream, out of the box solution seem more than plausible. Honestly, if a reality show almost made it in 2017, it seems that one one focused on the U.S. Women in 2024 is a no brainer. Just a pitch that has to be made to the right people.

And, there are several candidates for just such a pitch. Entities that have even expressed love for handball before. I may not ever get in an elevator with these different entities to make that pitch, but I’ll be making my case nonetheless in the coming weeks.

USA Handball Talk (Episode 19): Roam Around the Handball World

JD and John discuss USA National Teams in action on three continent: The USA Men friendly matches in Europe, the USA Men at the NORCA Championships and both Men’s and Women’s Beach National Teams in Brazil.

Here’s a summary with links to some of the items we discussed:

  • B-52’s Roam (Around the World): Link
  • Athens (GA) Rock Lobsters: Link (actually a minor league ice hockey team)
    • B-52’s Rock Lobster: Link
    • Note: Next week’s music segment will continue to discuss the Athens alternative music scene of the 1980’s and will feature R.E.M. as John has their entire discography
  • The Savanna Bananas: Link (Yes, they’ve transitioned to a travelling road show)
  • Ichthyosaur: John’s proposed nickname for the Las Vegas Handball Club he helped start: Link (His suggestion did not gain traction and Scorpions was selected. He still has the DC Diplomats, though to claim)
  • The originations of the Wild Card: Germany was eliminated in 2015 World Championship qualification and it became very apparent that this would be very detrimental to the value of the TV rights in the largest handball market. Australia was removed on shaky grounds: Link
  • France vs USA Video highlights: Link
  • Abou Fofana Highlight Reel: Link
  • Handnews.fr match summary: Link
  • 2024 NORCA Championship: USA Men’s Goals Scored
  • 2024 NORCA Championship: USA Men’s Goals Scored by position
  • Native American, Billy Mills won a gold medal in the 10K at the 1964 Olympics and his daughter played on an Olympic Festival team
  • Here’s an article from the LA Times on the Native American Sports Council Handball team: Link
  • IHF Beach Gloabal Tour Stage 1: Link

Watch on YouTube or listen/download the mp3 file at the top of the page

If you have any suggestions for future topics that you would like us to consider please let us know on social media.


Don’t miss an episode:

  • Subscribe on YouTube: Link (Earliest Availability)
  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes: Link
  • Follow the Team Handball News podcast on Spotify: Link
  • Or use this RSS Feed to sign up for the podcast in your favorite podcast aggregator: Link

And, be sure to check out the podcast archive with interviews and great handball discussion going all the way back to 2006: Link

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USA Handball National Championship Review (Part 2): Mercenary Teams Flying in Pros to Win a National Championship; Are we Really OK with this?

In part 1 I addressed the low American participation rate at our National Championships. In part 2, I take a closer look at the eclectic California Eagles roster which won the National Title. It’s time for USA Team Handball to put a stop to this nonsense.

Correlation Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Causation…

When you write a lot of commentaries sometimes you wonder if anybody even reads them. For sure, quite a few people see the social media post, think, “just John Ryan complaining about something again” and swipe until they get to something more entertaining. Yes, in a TLDR world, it’s easy for my commentaries to get skipped.

But, sometimes they do get read and sometimes they can even be a catalyst for change… maybe? After the IHF Super Globe this past fall I wrote a commentary which criticized the composition of the San Francisco CalHeat roster which was composed mostly of athletes that weren’t American and/or didn’t live anywhere near San Francisco.

I’m not sure the exact timeline of events, but not too long afterwards, SF CalHeat and their long time coach, Danilo Rojevic, parted ways. (Keep in mind, SF Cal Heat had won the last 3 national championships.) Rojevic then became the head coach for the California Eagles which are (sort of) based in Southern California, even though, Rojevic, as far as I know still lives in the Bay Area. Probably, not coincidentally, several athletes, many with mercenary like attributes also transferred from SF CalHeat to the California Eagles

And, then as a contrast we have the rosters for SF CalHeat at the recent National Championships. Best I can tell, SF CalHeat’s 1st team roster is mostly composed of Bay Area residing athletes and their 2nd team had more Americans than any other team at nationals.

Maybe some folks at CalHeat took my commentary to heart? Maybe? It could be just a coincidence in timing. It could also very well be that they might have been thinking along the same lines and my commentary just distilled the full extent of the “problem.” Again, it’s all a big maybe.

A Closer Look at the California Eagles Roster

But, just in case my commentary from last November helped people make some decisions here’s another roster breakdown to perhaps again serve as a catalyst for a change in direction.

First a quick note on the methodology (or lack there of) used. The roster information comes from the USA Team Handball Sport 80 National Championship Page and the Results file. I then did Google searches and checked social media websites to assess nationality and place of residency. And, no, I didn’t contact anyone directly with these nosy questions. There could well be some errors as social media data could be old or inaccurate, but I think this summary is accurate enough to get a basic picture of the team’s composition.

Here are a few takeaways:

  • The California Eagles had more athletes from the 2023 SF CalHeat Super Globe roster on their team than the SF CalHeat team participating at the National Championships.
  • The bulk of the scoring came from athletes that didn’t play for the California Eagles prior to this season,
  • Best that I can tell nine of these athletes don’t live in Southern California and four of those nine athletes don’t even live in the U.S.
  • Two new additions (Bjorn Christensen Mathiassen and Marcus Rene Næss Soltvedt had just finished their season playing for Bergen in Norway’s top division. Mathiassen, in particular, appears to have played a pretty big role, leading the team with 25 goals, including 12 in the gold medal match
  • At first glance, one addition to the roster, former Montpellier Right Back, Maxime Bouschet, looks like an obvious mercenary. But, his LinkedIn profile makes it pretty clear he’s not. He’s living in Southern California and doing post doctoral work at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). That’s pretty cool and this is exactly the type of expat that helps grow the game.

“Powering Up” and the “Need to Make Compromises”

On a recent Red, White and Glue podcast, California Eagles Coach, Danilo Rojevic, reflected on the SF CalHeat Super Globe experience and its roster composition. The addition of athletes who were neither American nor living anywhere near San Francisco was euphemistically referred to as “powering up” and he indicated that it was pretty much necessary to be more competitive at a Super Globe.

And, of course, he’s correct. A North American club consisting of amateurs who live in the same geographic area is almost always going to be a weaker team than one that “powers up.” Case in point, the Mexican Club, Ministros, was the North American & Caribbean representative at the 2022 Super Globe. They went 0-4 with an average Goal Differential of -19 goals. Whereas, CalHeat went 1-3 with an average Goal Differential of -8.25.

But, there’s no requirement to add ringers, jokers, mercenaries or whatever you want to call powering up your roster. Ministros has proven that. They didn’t get the highly coveted win over the Oceania entrant, but I don’t think they made any compromises. The reality is this: There is no NEED to compromise a club roster so that you can win a championship. But, sure a club might WANT to compromise their roster so they can win a championship. Bottom line: need and want are two very different things.

Two Key Points to Reiterate

I guess I should first reiterate two key points that I’ve made previously:

1) Nobody is breaking any rules: I highly doubt that the California Eagles broke any rules. The U.S. rule book has a requirement for athletes to participate in one other sanctioned tournament to qualify for “Elite,” but, since there was another enitity organizing domestic competition this year the championship was actually a Div 1 championship instead of an an Elite championship. And, then there are no residency requirements. Athletes can live anywhere and play for any club. And, “anywhere” literally means anywhere (Europe, Antartica, etc.)

2) Plenty of room for whataboutism: And, the Eagles aren’t the first team to power up. SF Cal Heat has done it before, but apparently has decided to change course. The New York City Team Handball Club has also added players including 2 athletes from Montpellier’s Academy last year. (Kylian Prat receiving the MVP award) NYAC, which is only loosely connected to New York City, has athletes from all over the U.S., so by default they are pretty much a mercenary squad that never even practices.

Multiple Issues of Concern- Let’s Recognize them and Avoid Conflating them

There are several issues related to club rosters in terms to both the nationality and locality of the athletes. And, while the nationality and locality of athletes are somewhat intertwined, we shouldn’t conflate them as all just one big issue. Below is an attempt to first describe the situation we have with club rosters without identifing the concerns we might have with each situation:

  • Some clubs have athletes on their rosters who don’t even live in the United States
  • Some clubs have athletes on their rosters who live nowhere near the club’s geographic location
  • Some clubs have no real geographic location and simply get together for competition
  • Many clubs have rosters which are almost exclusively expats

To varying degrees I have concerns with each of these issues. Here are some of those concerns:

  • Fairness: To varying degrees adding players skews the competition. Intrinsically I don’t think it’s “fair” for a club relying on local players to compete against clubs that are “powering up” with players from anywhere in the U.S. or even from Europe.
  • Arms Race: I guess one could say that all clubs are free to power up. But, this results in an arms race to secure players. Is this where we want clubs to focus their energy?
  • Lack of American participation: I think the current structure of adding players to rosters contributes to fewer Americans playing, particularly for clubs seeking to compete for a title. This is because with only a handful of exceptions adding an American means a weaker team Because of this USA Team Handball should consider the addition of citizenship quotas and/or age requirements to incentivize player development.
  • Player free agency and it’s detriment to regional growth: With athletes free to play for any club, anywhere they often seek the best deal for themselves. This has resulted in the somewhat strange situation of an athlete choosing to be a mercenary for a better club nowhere near where they live rather than play for the nearby weaker club.

Time for Decision Makers to Review this Situation… and Make Decisions

Depending on where you stand you may or may not be concerned with any or some of these issues. Or, perhaps you might be concerned, but believe that not much could or should be done about it. After all, these sort of roster manipulations have been taking place for quite awhile. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it…

Except I think it is pretty broken. Perhaps like the proverbial frog in the slowly boiling pot we’ve just slowly become adjusted to more and more manipulation to the point where it just seems perfectly normal to fly in pros from Norway or France to play in a U.S. National Championship.

Well, I say it’s time jump out of the boiling pot. It is not normal to fly in pros to win an amateur handball competition. It is silly and it should not be allowed. Full Stop.

Seriously, it just makes a total mockery out of our national championships and our would be club system. It accomplishes nothing and is detrimental to what should be the primary goal for handball in the U.S. Namely, growing the domestic game in the U.S.

At least it all seems pretty damn clear to me… But, then again, I’m just some guy with a website and a bunch of opinions. I don’t make the decisions… I just try to put the information out there for others that are empowerd to make decisions.

Individual clubs can decide to change direction, but doing the right thing will result in a decrease in performance. With a significantly weaker roster the 3 time defending champs, SF CalHeat finished in 4th place at this year’s nationals. Not every club is likely to make similar changes so creating a fair playing field across the board is clearly the purview of the USA Team Handball Board of Directors and it’s administrative staff. Perhaps some board members weren’t aware that several athletes fly in from overseas to play at the U.S. Championships. Or, maybe some were aware, but slowly boiling in the pot. Or, maybe they’ve thought about it and are perfectly Ok with that reality.

Regardless, the board should review that situation and decide if they are OK with it. And, if they aren’t OK… what they are going to do about it. Then, if they are going to take a look at that aspect it would also make sense to look at the other locality and nationality issues. And, whether any tweaks to roster requirements would make sense to help put a bit more of a U.S. stamp on the U.S. National Championships. And, to help grow the game domestically.

At least that’s what I think should happen. Ignorance should be no excuse and very importantly… doing nothing is also a decision. A decision to stick with the status quo.

What will happen, though? Well, a few months ago I would have thought nothing, per usual. But, then again maybe the SF CalHeat change of direction might just spur the USA Team Handball Board of Directors to also make some changes.

(Note: An earlier version of this commentary incorrectly identified the two players that played for NYC last years as professionals. They were actually members of Montpellier’s Academy program.)

USA Handball Talk (Episode 18): Oh, America

JD and John discuss the USA Men’s opening match vs Mexico at the NORCA Championships, handball streaming and the USA National Championships which actually had more Canadians than Americans participating in it.

Here’s a summary with links to some of the items we discussed:

  • 2024 Men’s NORCA Competition website: Link
    • Competition Schedule: Link
    • Results: Link
  • January 2008 commentary on the 2008 European Championships (The last and perhaps only time the EHF charged for streaming): Link
  • Streaming platforms
    • USA Team Handball’s Joymo streaming platform: Link ($4.99 this past weekend)
    • Typical High School streaming service: Link ($79.99/year or $11.99/month; also available per event)
    • ehfTV: Link (Free)
    • HBL-TV: Link (39.99 Euros/season)
  • USA National Championship Results: Link
  • John’s commentary on more Canadians than Americans playing at the recent USA National Championships: Link
  • Social media post on San Francisco CalHeat’s 2nd team which had more Americans and younger athletes than the typical USA club team: Link

Watch on YouTube or listen/download the mp3 file at the top of the page

If you have any suggestions for future topics that you would like us to consider please let us know on social media.


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USA Handball National Championship Review (Part 1): Low American Participation- Does it Matter?

The USA Team Handball National Championships took place this past weekend in Spokane, Washington. I didn’t attend, but still have a few thoughts regarding this competition. In part 1, I take a look at the demographics of the participating teams.

Overview

A total of 20 teams participated this past weekend at the U.S. National Handball Championships .There were 6 men’s team in Divsion 1; 9 men’s teams in Division 2 and 5 women’s teams taking part. Thee California Eagles won the Men’s D1 title. The Prairie Selects from Canada won the Men’s D2 title and the NYC Team Handball Club took home the Women’s title. All the results can be accessed here: Link

Methodology

To create a demographics snapshot I reviewed the rosters that were available for viewing online in USA Team Handball’s Sport 80 platform: Link (Note: this link will probably disappear shortly after the tournament is completed).

I then reviewed the names on the rosters, using a mixture of personal knowledge and an “assessment” as to whether the name was likely that of an American citizen. Of course, anyone familiar with what a melting pot the U.S. is, knows that such an assessment is going to have errors. To counteract such errors if a club had 10 “foreign looking” names I figured that at least 2 or 3 of them might be deceptive and factured that into the totals. So, while this data has precise numbers they most certainly aren’t. Still for the purposes of this snapshot look these numbers are probably not too far off.

For the 2024 College National Championships held in April I used an average of 12 athletes/team and feedback from players and coaches as to whether any participating students didn’t have U.S. citizenship. Again, not perfect data, but useful.

Demographics Snapshot

Here’s an overview of the nationality for both the men’s and women’s athletes at this year’s championships:

With two Canadian women’s teams and five Canadian men’s teams participating in Division 2 I also thought it woud be interesting to assess Canadian participation. As suspected, there were likely more Canadians than Americans participating at the U.S. National Championships. This assumes the Canadian teams were mostly Canadians. Not to mention the fact that based on social media posts I think Boston might have had more Canadians than Americans playing for them.

Low American Citizenship Participation

Optically, this data should raise a few eyebrows. The athletes at the U.S. Men’s Handball Championship are only around 20-25% American citizens. The Women’s Championship had only around 5-10%. More Canadians than Americans participating in a U.S. Championship. Really? How can that be?

Well, it’s just the reality of handball in the U.S. And, it’s nothing new. It’s pretty much been this way for the last 20 years or so. I did some similar analysis back in 2019:

  • USA Club Programs
    • Part 1: Understanding the USA Club Structure and At-Large Men’s Clubs: Link
    • Part 2: Collegiate Men’s Clubs: Our Most American Competition with Opportunities for Growth: Link
    • Part 3: USA Women At-Large and Collegiate Clubs: Link
    • Part 4: Why there are so Few Clubs and Why the Rosters Mostly Consist of Expats: Link

If one looks back at the 2019 data you’ll find similar percentages for the Championships that year, albeit a bit higher in terms of American participating. As both the data for the 2019 and 2024 championships are snapshots one shouldn’t see either year as definitive. And, for sure, this year is a bit quirky with the Championships again being held in the harder to get to location of Spokane, Washington and another entity (the US Handball Union) organizing most of the tournaments this year.

It would be super interesting to see this data tracked year to year, but anecdotally with some authority I’ll just say that the U.S. Open Club Handball Championships could be pretty much described as an expat handball festival with some Americans sprinkled in for good measure. That’s not necessarily a bad thing… or a good thing. But, that is what it is.

For old timers this reality is somewhat hard to stomach. This is because our national championships in the 80s and 90s were essentially the reverse: Mostly American citizens with some expats sprinkled in for good measure.

At this year’s championships I think only San Francisco CalHeat’s 2nd team and, possibly the Wolves (based out of Denver) had teams where the majority of the athletes were American citizens. If you took all the male U.S. citizens (~40) that particpated and put them all together you could probably form a total of 3 teams. And, I don’t even think we could have fielded a single U.S. women’s team. Further, if one wants to separate out naturalized American citizens and Americans that grew up in other countries the numbers would be even worse.

Low American Participation: Does it Matter? Should anything be done about it?

But, do these low American participation rates actually matter? The answer to that question depends on your perspective. Intrinsically, I think everyone, even expats, would really like to see more Americans playing. That said I’ve seen a number of different reactions to include:

  • Action is needed to address the problem: A handful of people would like to see regulations to increase American participation. This could include the elimination of foreign clubs participating and limiting the number of foreign athletes on rosters.
  • Simply not a problem: Some people get annoyed with the mere thought of “binning” athletes by their nationality “It’s devisive and it just doesn’t matter… we’re here to play handball and we don’t care where anyone is from.”
  • Resignation: The old, “It is what is is” mantra applies here. We may not like it, but there’s not a whole lot that can be done about it. I think most people probably fall into this camp.

My Perspective: Staus Quo on Adult Clubs, All in on Collegiate

A part of me would like to see some regulations and incentives that would incentivize U.S. clubs to increase their American citizenship numbers. A combination of “carrots and sticks” with hopefully more carrots than sticks. Right now there is little to no incentive for a club to make such an effort. Organizing and running a club is hard enough as it is. Convincing American citizens to play and then teaching them to play, all while being competitive is next to mission impossible. Most clubs are not likely to really tackle this challenge unless they get some help or are essentially forced to.

But, while USA Team Handball could implement an incentive strategy I’m not so sure it would work. Carrots to incentivize developing American players would probably be received favorably, but there would certainly be resistance to any sort of roster control. And, I don’t think carrots alone would be sufficient enough to do the trick.

Because of this reality, I’m inclined (or perhaps resigned) to maintaining the status quo. Provide our expat teams and even Canadian clubs the opportunity to compete in a National Championships. Competition is good and who knows maybe some old school, primarily American citizen teams will also start to emerge.

Instead, I think efforts to expand the number American citizens playing handball should simply follow the data. All one has to do is look at the percentage of Americans playing college handball which is near 100%. And, the resources and structures that colleges provide to their club sports. And, the multitude of students all living in the same location looking for a club to join. It is a no-brainer as to where the focus should be if one wants to gets more Americans playing the sport: It should go towards expanding and improving the collegiate game.

So, while the low American participation rate at the U.S. National Championships is a concern I would be hesitant to enact new rules to increase the numbers of Americans playing. In part 2 of this series I will take a closer look at the super clubs that often take home the title.