USA Handball Talk (Episode 17): March Madness Meets April Awesomeness

JD and John discuss the USA Men’s roster for the upcoming NORCA Championships, the College Women’s results and whether the College Handball Championships should change formats to an Elite Eight knockout format. results of last weekend’s Collegiate Handball Championships.

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

  • The Sportico Podcast: Link
    • We’ve copied their show opening and practice of giving a name for each episode
    • It’s a great podcast if you’re interested in sports business
  • The USA Team Handball roster announcement: Link
  • Collegiate Women’s Handball results: Link
  • A profile on the Women’s MVP, Ariane Clerc: Link
  • John’s proposed new format for College Nationals: Link

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

If you have any suggestions for future topics, a title for our podcast or have some intro music you would like us to consider please let us know on social media.

Don’t miss an episode:

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


Collegiate Handball (Part 1): A New Format for College Nationals (Sometimes Less… is More)

This is part of an ongoing series, “Charting a way forward for USA Team Handball” which is a series of commentaries exploring different initiatives to help move the sport forward in this country.

Anyone who has ever asked me what I think should be done to improve handball domestically in the U.S. will get an answer that primarily revolves around collegiate handball. In 2014, I identified the main reasons I thought this was the case and I proposed several initiatives to improve collegiate handball. Some of them have even been implemented.

One initiative that hasn’t been addressed, however, was an initiative to “Upgrade the Collegiate National Championship and Promote it as USA Team Handball’s Premier Event.” Having attended the past two college nationals and a couple more prior to the pandemic I’m now even more convinced that we should take steps to make it happen.

Step one towards upgrading our collegiate championships would be doing away with the Weekend Tournament. Here’s why I think we need to move to a new format and why I think an Elite Eight would be a good alternative.

The Weekend Tourney… A Problematic Format

Because the U.S. is a big country and teams have to travel great distances to compete, the “Weekend Tournament” has become our primary format for handball competitions. Typically, this involves playing 4-5 matches over the course of weekend. Matches are often shorter (either 2×25 or 2×20 minute periods), but it’s still way too much handball in too short of time. Crimeny! The world’s best, full time professional handball athletes complain about two matches on back to back days. In the U.S. we have weekend warriors, who maybe even shouldn’t still be playing the sport, cramming 5 matches in 2.5 days. It’s silly, crazy or <insert your adjective here> with predictable consequences.

Those consequences are tired players. Tired players that can’t play as well as they are capable of and tired players who are more susceptible to injury. College age kids are younger and for the most part better able to handle such a demanding schedule, but I’ve seen enough Sunday morning handball that I can tell that it just looks and feels different than the matches played Friday night and Saturday morning. By Sunday many of the matches become more about a battle of endurance and attrition than anything else. And, I can tell… some players are just ready to go home especially if they are playing a consolation match with little on the line.

Proposed New Format: An Elite Eight with Consolation (3 matches/team)

The obvious solution from an aesthetic and player health standpoint would be to play a Final Four similar to a club final played in Europe. Four teams, two semifinals on Saturday and a Final/3rd place match on Sunday. But, while I really like the simplicity and marketing aspects of a Final Four I’m not sure it’s the right solution. After all, the collegiate championshps are a “collegial” event and it’s a great opportunity for athletes to interact with one another. Some colleges even tie club funding support to attending a National Championship. While limiting the final tournament to four teams would greatly simplify things it would also deny too many teams the opportunity to play in a final event.

So, if 2 matches over 2 days is too little and 4/5 matches over 3 days is too much I think the Goldilocks solution would be an Elite Eight (with consolation) played over 3 days. This would still have the simplicity/clarity of a Final Four while making sure each team gets 3 full length matches. Here’s how the 1st Division would have looked if we took the 5 D1 teams and the top 3 D2 from the 2024 Championships and seeded them 1 to 8.

While an Elite Eight knockout is simple and would require fewer match there are some drawbacks to this format. The biggest one, as anyone who follows NCAA March Madness knows is that there are no second chances. With group play you can recover from an earlier loss. With a knockout tourney your title chances could be over after your first match. While the inclusion of consolation matches means you can keep playing it’s still a bummer.

Match Timing

Another drawback would be some possible complications with the timing of the matches. Ideally, each team would play 1 match/day, but this would necessitate matches being played earlier on Friday and all teams taking another day off from school. Or alternatively, some teams would play two matches on Saturday. This could be a negative, though, in Sunday matches with one side (having played on Friday night and Saturday) being more rested than their opponent (having played two matches on Saturday).


Finally, with no second chances it would be imperative that teams were properly and fairly seeded. After all, nobody wants to see the two best teams playing each other in the first game. Currently, the seeding process is limited by a lack of regular season structure in terms of college teams playing each other on a regular basis. It’s not that teams don’t want to play each other. It’s just that geography and a lack of coordination sometimes limits those opportunities. This could be addressed with the clear designation of some in-season collegiate tournaments or collegiate conferences as competitions that that will be used for seeding determination. Regional qualification matches could even be scheduled to help determine seeding.

Multiple Divisions and Size Limitations

The US Handball Union organized the 2024 Championship and decided to go with 2 Divisions. With two clear groupings of quality this was a decision that made sense and it was validated with fewer blowouts and as far as I know, no complaints from any of the teams. If there are enough teams an Elite 8 format could also work for D2. That said, in future seasons it may not be as clear cut where to draw the line between two divisions. And, how that line should be drawn. After all, if one looks at NCAA or high school sports divisions those divisions aren’t determined by the quality of the teams, but by other factors such as whether scholarships are awarded, stadium size and school enrollment. And, due to graduation and/or the arrival of key athletes the quality of collegiate handball teams can vary significantly from year to year.

Finally, at some point there is a breaking point of too many teams. (Or, there should be a breaking point.). At which point it will be necessary to reevaluate the concept of an “all comers” final tournament. The logical solution would probably be then to have regional qualifiers akin to what some NCAA sports like basketball have.

Too many collegiate teams would sure be a good problem to have. In the next installment I’ll discuss better promotion and presentation of the collegiate handball championships and how that could help fuel collegiate club growth.


USA Handball Talk (Episode 16): College Handball Groundhog Day

[MVP Gary Phillips led West Point Black to yet another title (photo: Rod Apfelbeck)]

JD and John discuss the results of last weekend’s Collegiate Handball Championships. Here’s a summary with links to some of the items we discussed:

The ongoing North American Beach Handball Championships:

  • The Ground Hog Day reference is from the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray: Link (One might think referencing such a classic movie wouldn’t be necessary, but you’d be surprised)
  • NORCA Beach Handball:
    • Streaming: Link
    • Full Results (IHF): Link
    • Note: Puerto Rico placed 2nd in both the Men’s and Women’s competition and qualified for the World Championships
  • 2024 Collegiate Handball Championship Results: Link
  • Commentary: Why just about any college could start a handball program and quickly challenge for a national title: Link
  • All Star Teams: Link

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

If you have any suggestions for future topics, a title for our podcast or have some intro music 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


College Handball Nationals (Results Summary)

Based on records and result the team were split into two divisions. Five teams were identified for D1, but all D2 teams were given the option of playing an opening match vs a D1 team to “play in” to D1. Pittsburgh and San Jose St elected to play in, but lost their opening matches and were assigned to D2

Video Streaming

Matches were streamed on multiple platforms. For matches that were recorded on YouTube I have placed a direct link (see match results throughout) queued up to the start of the match. Matches recorded on Instagram, however, cannot be queued up and are generally only searchable (fast forward/rewind) on mobile devices.

  • Friday Matches on Court 1: Link
  • Saturday Matches on Court 1: Link
  • Sunday Matches on Court 1: Link

Play In Matches

  • North Carolina (Carolina) 29, Pittsburgh 16
  • West Point (Black) 38, San Jose St 16

Men’s D1 Competition

Group Play

  • Air Force 29, West Point (Gold) 28
  • North Carolina (Carolina) 17, West Point (Black) 26
  • Ohio St (Scarlet) 19, Air Force 33
  • West Point (Gold) 14, North Carolina (Carolina) 14
  • West Point (Black) 42, Air Force 22 Video
  • Ohio St (Scarlet) 26, West Point (Gold) 19 Video
  • Air Force 11, North Carolina (Carolina) 24
  • Ohio St (Scarlet) 16, West Point (Black) 29 Video

Note: Due to scheduling/time constraints a full round robin was not played. A draw determined that Air Force would be the one team to play all four teams and it was decided that West Point (Black) and West Point (Gold) would not play an intra-club match. With this alternate format match losses (instead of points) were used to rank the teams with the tie breakers being head to head results and the goal differential vs common opponents.


Note: Air Force beat both Ohio St (Scarlet) and West Point (Gold) to finish 3rd in the standings. Ohio St (Scarlet) Beat West Point (Gold) to finish 4th.

Matches to Determine Final Ranking

  • 4th vs 5th: Ohio St (Scarlet) 24, West Point (Gold) 31
  • 3rd Place: Air Force 32, West Point (Gold) 35
  • 1st Place: West Point (Black) 23, North Carolina (Carolina) 20 Video

Final Ranking

  • 1) West Point (Black)
  • 2) North Carolina (Carolina)
  • 3) West Point (Gold)
  • 4) Air Force
  • 5) Ohio St (Scarlet)

All Star Team

  • Gary Phillips, West Point (Black) (MVP
  • Jonathan Nwokeji, North Carolina (Carolina) (MVG)
  • Dominic Orsini, Ohio St (Scarlet) (Leading Scorer)
  • Jack Tierny, Air Force
  • Jackson Tumbarello, North Carolina (Carolina)
  • Sam Proctor, West Point (Black)
  • Ethan Flege, West Point (Black)

Men’s D2 Competition


Division 2 played a modified knockout tournament with some matches eliminating the loser from the tournament and some matches keeping the loser in the tournament, but sending them to a more challenging match than the winner. The solid lines show where the match winners progress and the dotted lines show where the match losers progress. Matches where there is no dotted line are elimination matches. Depending on the stage of the tournament teams that were eliminated played additional consolation matches vs other eliminated teams.

Match Results (Main Bracket)

  • Match #1: North Carolina (Tar Heels) 27, SUNY Cortland 14
  • Match #2: Ohio St (Gray) 26, Olin 21
  • Match #3: Case Western Reserve 28, Auburn 19 Video
  • Match #4: James Madison 27, Miami (OH) 26
  • Match #5: Pittsburgh 17, North Carolina (Tar Heels) 18
  • Match #7: San Jose St 33, Case Western Reserve 18
  • Match #8: James Madison 22, Ohio St (Gray) 24)
  • Match #9: Miami (OH) 25, Auburn 22 Video
  • Match #10 (QF): Case Western Reserve 25, Pittsburgh 28
  • Match #12 (QF): North Carolina (Tar Heels) 17, James Madison 22
  • Match #14 (QF): San Jose St 35, Miami (OH) 29
  • Match #17 (SF): Ohio St (Gray) 17, Pittsburgh 24
  • Match #18 (SF): San Jose St 26, James Madison 33
  • Match #22 (1st Place): Pittsburgh 34, James Madison 23 Video

Match Results (Consolation)

  • Match #6: SUNY Cortland 25, Olin 23 Video (portion of 2nd half)
  • Match #11: Auburn 25, Olin 28 Video
  • Match #13: SUNY Cortland 27, Olin 22 Video
  • Match #15 (5th Place): Case Western Reserve 22, Tar Heels 20
  • Match #16: Auburn 19, Miami (OH) 29
  • Match #19 (9th Place): Olin 26, Auburn 21
  • Match #20 (7th Place): Miami (OH) 29, SUNY Cortland 19
  • Match #21 (3rd Place): San Jose St 33, Ohio St (Gray) 25

Final Ranking

  • 1) Pittsburgh
  • 2) James Madison
  • 3) San Jose St
  • 4) Ohio St (Gray)
  • 5) Case Western Reserve
  • 6) North Carolina (Tar Heels)
  • 7) Miami (Oh)
  • 8) SUNY Cortland
  • 9) Olin
  • 10) Auburn

All-Star Team

  • Joseph Kuo, San Jose St (MVP) (Leading Scorer)
  • Amit Kumar, Olin (MVG)
  • Joshua Ko, Case Western Reserve
  • Zachary Greenstein, Pittsburgh
  • Marcus Washington, Pittsburgh
  • Luke Bush, James Madison
  • Merrick Adams, James Madison

Women’s Competition (Check back for updates)

Group Play

  • Ohio St 21, West Point (Gold) 20
  • North Carolina (Carolina) 11, West Point (Black) 21
  • Ohio St 18, North Carolina (Tar Heels) 9
  • West Point (Black) 30, Ohio St 15
  • West Point (Gold) 11, North Carolina (Carolina) 18
  • West Point (Black) 33, North Carolina (Tar Heels) 3 Video
  • West Point (Gold) 18, North Carolina (Tar Heels) 3
  • North Carolina (Carolina) 19, Ohio St 19 Video


Note: Due to scheduling/time constraints a full round robin was not played. Ohio St played a full round robin and it was decided that both West Point and North Carolina would not play intra-club matches. With this alternate format match losses (instead of points) were used to rank the teams with the tie breakers being head to head results and the goal differential vs common opponents.

Note: North Carolina (Carolina) placed 2nd due to their superior goal differential in their common matches with Ohio St.

Matches to Determine Final Ranking

  • 4th vs 5th: West Point (Gold) 14, North Carolina (Tar Heels) 7
  • 3rd Place: West Point (Gold) 16, Ohio St 14
  • 1st Place: West Point (Black) 25, North Carolina (Carolina) 9 Video

Final Ranking

  • 1) West Point (Black)
  • 2) North Carolina (Carolina)
  • 3) West Point (Gold)
  • 4) Ohio St
  • 5) North Carolina (Tar Heels)

All-Star Team

  • Ariane Clerc, Ohio St (MVP) (Leading Scorer)
  • Becky Gonzalez, North Carolina (Carolina) (MVG)
  • Mathilde Mortensen, North Carolina (Carolina)
  • Savannah Weston, West Point (Black)
  • Maci Hodgins, West Point (Black)
  • Ksneyia Farrell, West Point (Black)
  • Sydney Rhuda, West Point (Gold)

USA Handball Talk (Episode 15): College Nationals Preview

US Handball Union Executive Director, Michael King joins the podcast to discuss this weekend’s College National Championships. Here’s a summary with links to some of the items we discussed:

Current News Items

  • The ongoing North American Beach Handball Championships:
    • Video (Live and On Demand): Link
    • Canada’s remarkable comeback vs Mexico: Link
    • Results:
  • USA Sr Men Friendly vs France on May 11th: Link

College Nationals Preview

  • The Men’s Tournament Divisions
    • Pittsburgh will play in D1 if they North Carolina Friday night; they will drop to D2 if they lose
    • San Jose St will play in D1 if they beat West Point (Black); they will drop to D2 if they lose
  • Tournament Schedule: Link

  • Men’s season record with college vs college matches in parentheses
    • D1
      • West Point (Black)  8-1 (5-0)
      • West Point (Gold)  9-5 (4-1)
      • Air Force 5-6 (0-1)
      • North Carolina (Carolina) 7-5-1 (5-2)
      • Ohio St (Scarlet) 19-0-1 (18-0)
    • TBD (Will play in D1 or D2)
      • Pittsburgh  13-7 (11-6)
      • San Jose St  0-0 (0-0)
    • D2
      • James Madison 9-6 (12-9)
      • Case Western Reserve 11-8 (10-7)
      • Ohio St (Gray) 9-14 (9-11)
      • North Carolina (Tar Heels) 3-10 (3-6)
      • Miami (OH) 7-16 (7-15)
      • Auburn 0-5 (0-3)
      • Olin 0-0 (0-0)
      • SUNY Cortland 0-0 (0-0)
  • D2 Format
    • Matches with 1 solid and 1 dashed line have both the winner and loser moving on in the bracket
    • Matches with just 1 solid line are “elimination” matches; the winner advances, but the loser is either finished or will play consolation matches
  • Women’s Teams
    • West Point (Black)
    • West Point (Gold)
    • North Carolina (Carolina)
    • Ohio St
    • North Carolina (Tar Heels)

USA Handball Talk (Episode 14): Hungary, Hungary Hippo

We cover a couple or recent news items and then discuss the Ohio State Handball Club’s Spring Break trip to Hungary. Here’s a summary with links to some of the items we discussed:

  • The Hungry, Hungry Hippo Board Game: Link
  • TSV Bayer Dormagen article on Patrick Hueter “stepping away” next season: Link
  • The IHF Beach Handball Showcase: Link
  • IOC Rep, Kit McConnell explaining why beach handball (and several other proposed “disciplines”) weren’t added to the LA 2028 Olympic Program: Link
  • Dragan Dukic (Tatabanya’s Coach): Link
  • Scrimmage vs the Tatabanya youth team: Link
  • My view during the Olympic Qualification Tournament matches: Link
  • How combining handball development with traditional touristy travel is a better cultural experience
  • How Mark Cuban helps USA rugby and his college rugby club: Link
  • The business opportunity for a “Handball Travel Company” to arrange more trips for USA Collegiate Clubs
  • Rugby tour company: Link
  • Travel Company that advertised in the early days of the Team Handball News Website that ripped off some handball travellers: Link

Finally, a big shout out to USA Women’s Coach, Edina Borsos, for her help with arranging the logistics for the trip.

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

If you have any suggestions for future topics, a title for our podcast or have some intro music 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

2023 College Nationals Preview

The 2023 USA Team Handball National Championships throw off Friday at 3:00 PM US ET at the Heminger Center on the campus of Tiffin University in Tiffin, Ohio. Twelve Men’s and 4 Women’s teams will be competing with matches taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Here’s a brief overview of the event:

Women’s Championship

The four women’s teams participating West Point’s 1st and 2nd teams, Ohio St and North Carolina. (The 1st team is identified as West Point-Black and the 2nd team is West Point-Gold). The four teams will first play a round robin which will be used to seed the teams for a knockout tournament with the Final being played on Sunday at 12 noon.

The teams are familiar foes as they are the same teams that participated in last year’s championships and they have already played each other several times this season. West Point-Black hasn’t lost to the other sides this season and is a strong favorite to defend their title.

Men’s Championships

Twelve Men’s teams will take part in the tournament and they have been drawn into four groups of three teams. The top two teams from each group will advance to the knockout tournament while the 3rd place teams will play in a consolation round robin group. Here’s a quick summary of the groups:

Note: West Point, Ohio St and North Carolina each have 2 team participating and a (1st) or (2nd) is used to initially define which is the designated 1st and 2nd team

  • Group A: Air Force, Tar Heels (2nd), SUNY Cortland: Air Force is the favorite to win the group with the Tar Heels likely to take second. Cortland is a brand new club playing in their first tournament so they will be looking to learn from these opening matches.
  • Group B: Ohio St-Scarlet (1st), West Point-Gold (2nd), Cincinnati: Ohio St-Scarlet narrowly lost to West Point’s 1st team in the championship match so they are the clear favorite to win the group. That said, they probably won’t want to overlook West Point-Gold which is the most competitive 2nd team in college handball. Cincinnati has not played Ohio St close this season so they are the likely 3rd place team
  • Group C: West Point-Black (1st), Ohio St-Gray (2nd), Auburn. Having won 14 straight titles it’s hard not to see West Point taking 1st place. Ohio St-Gray and Auburn will battle for 2nd place
  • Group D: Carolina (1st), Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and Miami (OH): Carolina took 3rd place last year and is the favorite here. CWRU and Miami are relative newcomers and will face off for 2nd

U21 Players to Watch: 6 athletes represented the U.S. at the 2022 North American & Caribbean Handball Confederation Jr Championships (U21) where the U.S. finished 2nd and qualified for the World Championships this summer. Those athletes are

  • Charlie Harper, Left Back, Ohio St-Scarlet,#43
  • Mark Miller, Right Back, West Point-Black, #9
  • Gary Phillips, Right Wing, West Point-Black, #11
  • Samuel Proctor, Pivot, West Point-Black, #15


  • Web Streaming: Link
  • Men’s Competition Page: Link
  • Women’s Competition Page: Link

Shaquille O’Neal Reportedly Interested in Supporting the Development of American Handball

Gauthier Mvumbi, Detroit Handball Club Ambassador… Shaquille O’Neal, American Handball Ambassador At-Large?

Gauthier Mvumbi, Detroit Handball Ambassador

During the 2021 World Championships this past January, Gauthier Mvumbi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a media sensation and was christened the “Shaq of Handball”. This got the attention of Shaquille O’Neal and he even reached out to Mvumbi via Instagram. For a while Mvumbi was the darling of the handball media world, but I figured his 15 minutes was going to be up pretty soon.

Then a few weeks ago, Detroit Handball announced on social media that Mvumbi had agreed to be a handball ambassador for the club. I greeted this announcement with skepticism and, in part, it directly led to a recent podcast discussion on social media with Detroit Handball Club President, Joey Williams. During the podcast, I tried to get a straight answer as to just what this “ambassadorship” entailed, and from my perspective I never really got a satisfactory answer. Being somewhat old school, I wrote the whole thing off as pretty much attention for attention’s sake.

The Two Shaqs are Still Talking

But, then I read that the two Shaqs have continued their friendship and according to a recent interview in the French newspaper, L’Echo Republicaine, they are still in contact with each other. Further, Shaquille O’Neal apparently has some interesting in helping out handball in the U.S.

Here’s a translation of a portion of the interview

Gauthier Mvumbi, you will become the ambassador of US handball. Explain to us!
I will help promote handball in the United States, help its development. I will participate in internships, summer camps, gala matches. I will go back and forth, but I remain above all a handball player in France or in Europe.

In which big American city?
The Detroit club contacted me. In the near future, Shaquille O’Neal also wants to be involved and take on some responsibilities. Shaq would like to explore possibilities to help make handball more attractive in the U.S.; With a 5 year time frame.

Are you still in touch with the NBA star?
We talk to each other regularly. The plan is to go to the U.S. in July and meet each other in person. That will be something!

Shaquille O’Neal as a Handball Ambassador?

Shaq wants to help make handball more attractive in the U.S.? Wow! It true, that would be a godsend of epic proportions. A few years ago I highlighted what USA Team Handball should look for in terms of new Board Members. I identified a need for millionaires (or even better, billionaires) and handball gospel spreaders, who could help educate the U.S. Shaq would be both in one package.

Shaq made a small fortune as an athlete ($292M on salary alone) and he continues to add to that fortune as a pretty effective ad pitchman for a number of different products. He’s got a fair amount of cash that could be put to good use. With the USA Team Handball budget at around $500K he could effectively buy out the organization if he wanted to.

But, where he would really shine is as a handball pitchman. He has millions of followers on social media and one Tweet or IG post from his Shaqness would effectively reach more new fans and players than a year’s worth of carefully crafted social media campaigns from various handball outlets in the U.S. and world-wide.

How Shaq Could Help Handball in the U.S.

Shaq as an ambassador and proponent for the sport could be an epic game changer in so many ways. Here are just a few ways he could help out:

  • Athlete recruiter: With a few targeted social media posts Shaq could reach hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of potential new handball athletes at all levels. Which, of course, would be really cool, but hopefully such a message could be coordinated with U.S. clubs nationwide so that they could be effectively prepared to engage with the new Shaq recruits.
  • TV and Web Streaming advocate: There currently is no TV home for handball in the U.S. beIN Sports TV and ESPN+ have failed to meet expectations. Shaq works for TNT and coincidentally, play by play for the Olympics will be provided by Matt Winer with NBA TV. Both properties are owned by Turner Networks which has been bought out by AT&T and will now be combined into a new to be named conglomerate with Warner Media and Discovery. A new media behemoth which will likely have a new streaming platform.
    • What if Shaq advocated for this new streaming platform to carry the EHF Champions League, the World Championships and other handball events?
    • What if they had Shaq, Kenny, EJ and Charles Barkley do an Inside the EHF Champions League show? And, maybe Matt Winer (with his newfound handball experience) could replace EJ as he has done in the past. Yes, those guys know nothing about handball, but, trust me, it would still be really entertaining!
  • Sponsor a college program: The interview states that Shaq wants to make the U.S. “Championnat” more attractive. Literally, that means the “National League” and the U.S. doesn’t actually have such a league. Our vast size and the amateur status of the sport pretty much makes that impossible and creating a pro or even a semi-pro league would require some major investment. While Shaq has the resource to create such a league, a more practical effort near term would be to beef up the U.S. collegiate competition. In particular, Shaq could support one college program with the intent of turning that program into a national power. As, I wrote last year a modest investment could very quickly create a national title contender. What college to choose, though? His alma mater, LSU is a candidate, but an HBCU would also be a possibility.

Those are just some possibilities. Share your ideas on social media: Twitter Facebook Instagram

Earlier commentary: “What if Shaq had played handball?”: Link

Commentary: Re-Imagining the U.S. Collegiate “Olympic” Sports Model (Part 2): “Free” Development Courtesy of American Football. Why? And, Why Just for some Sports?

This Collegiate System doesn’t make much sense… It just doesn’t.

In Part 1, I highlighted the dramatic funding disparity between club and varsity sports. In Part 2, I review how much “Olympic Sports” cost Ohio St and why to a large extent American Football pays for everything.

There are a lot of ways one can classify or categorize the sports that are played at American colleges and universities. It can be confusing and sports are often lumped together in categories that can be misleading. Here are some of those categories and some basic definitions for them:

  • Revenue Producing Sports: These are sports which produce significant amounts of revenue and at many colleges they have a positive balance sheet.
  • Non Revenue sports: These sports do not generate much revenue and in most cases have a negative balance sheet.
  • Varsity Sports: These are sports that are managed and funded by a school’s athletic department
  • Club Sports: These are sports managed and partially funded by a school’s Student Services or Recreation Services department.
  • NCAA Sports: These are sports that are sanctioned by the NCAA. Schools choosing to participate in NCAA competitions are required to follow NCAA rules, particularly when it comes to recruiting and scholarships.
  • NCAA “Head Count” Scholarship Sports: These are sports where the NCAA requires every scholarship athlete to receive a “full ride” scholarship. (In other words everything is paid for.)
  • NCAA “Equivalency” Scholarship Sports: These are sports where “partial” scholarships can be awarded and split among the roster of athletes. Coaches can still choose to award full ride scholarships to some athletes, but this will then limit the number of partial scholarships available.
  • Olympic Sports: These are Olympic sports, but the definition is pretty fluid. Non varsity sports (which also happen to be Olympic) are usually not part of the discussion. Additionally no distinction is typically made as to what role these college competitions actually have in terms of developing athletes for Olympic competition.

These categories can overlap into some fairly complicated Venn diagrams, but I’ve tried to group them in terms of net revenue and their relevance to athlete development for future Olympic competitions. Remember this analysis is for just one college, Ohio St, and it was compiled using this publicly available data: link

Net Positive Varsity Sports

At Ohio St, and at most colleges, there are only two sports that generate significant amounts of revenue: American Football and Men’s Basketball. At Ohio State they are also way on the plus side and generated $55M and $14M respectively in 2019. And, as we shall see as we look at the rest of the categories they essentially pay for all the other sports that lose money.

Varsity Sports (Olympic: Primary Development Pathway)

These 21 sports are Olympic sports where college programs are the primary development pathway for future Olympic athletes. It can be debated somewhat as to how vital college programs are for each individual sport, but I think it’s fairly safe to say that the vast majority of the athletes in the sports listed above would not have been Olympians if these college programs didn’t exist.

Here’s some food for thought:

  • How much value is the USOPC and the individual sports National Governing Bodies (NGB) getting out of these programs at Ohio St? Well, if one divides the net revenue (-$27M) by the total scholarships (179.3) it amounts to roughly $150,000/year for each full scholarship athlete. Multiply that by 4 and that is $600,000 over 4 years of college education… all for 1 potential Olympic athlete. (Yes, if one wants to further divide by partial scholarships and walk on athletes (total 702) you’ll get a smaller number: $38,000/year or $153,000 over 4 years.) That being said, in most cases the top athletes with the most potential will probably have a full ride scholarship.
  • Keep in mind… that these college sports program cost the USOPC and the individual sports NGBs nothing. All of this development of athletes is “free” and does not come out of their budget.
  • And, this is just for one college. Ohio St is big college with a fine tradition and one of the largest budgets, but it’s still just one college. There are 130 large schools (D1 Football Subdivision Schools (FBS)). There are an additional 217 Colleges with sizable budgets (D1 basketball schools without a D1 FBS football program). And, then there are several hundred smaller colleges with sports programs, albeit with fewer or no scholarships.
  • All of this is paid by college football and to a lesser extent Men’s college basketball? How does that make sense? Did the players sign up for this?

Varsity Sports (Secondary/Very Limited Olympic Development and Non Olympic)

The 12 varsity sports above have only marginal or zero benefit in terms of the development of Olympic athletes. The reasons vary, but are mostly related to athletes turning pro without collegiate careers or in the case of gymnastics and synchronized swimming athletes become high level competitors without college training. And, then the last 4 sports listed aren’t Olympic sports. Baseball and softball will be back for Tokyo, but won’t be played in Paris. Lacrosse hasn’t been an Olympic sport since 1908 although they surely would like to get back on the Olympic Program.

A Side Note on Fuzzy Math

It should be noted that all of this self reported data from Ohio St should be taken with a grain of salt for multiple reasons. One big reason is the actual cost of a scholarship is open for a lot of debate. In most instances schools are not actually paying that full cost or losing out on the money that another non scholarship athlete would pay. Further, if one reviews the Ohio St database there’s some big accounting lines that aren’t associated with any particular sport. A whopping $75M (expenses) and $61M (revenue) is not explained or attributed to any individual sport. (See pages 15 and 16 in the report) I’m thinking one could probably actually attribute those costs if they really wanted to. As an example, how much time to you think the Athletic Director spends on football and synchronized swimming issues respectively?

Why this Crazy System?

If you ever live outside your home country, you’ll get the chance to see first hand how other countries do things and inevitably you’ll find yourself questioning how things are done back home. For me, personally, there were two big topical areas that came to mind. Health care and our sports structures. I won’t get into health care, but let’s talk a bit about how sports are organized in the U.S. and specifically, our college sports structure.

The European sports model is by no means perfect, but once exposed to it, it doesn’t take long for an American to compare it to the system they are familiar with… and start to scratch their head. Honestly, it’s pretty hard to look at the numbers above and defend this crazy system. Certainly it is impossible to do so from a fiscal viewpoint. Men’s football and to a lesser extent men’s basketball subsidize almost everything. That just doesn’t make any sense. And, worse the athletes playing those sports are not paid their market value and they have to become college students in order to play. Don’t get me wrong. Getting a college education is a good thing, but there’s no real reason it has to or should be tied to playing a sport.

So why do we have this crazy system? Well, if you do a little research you’ll discover that over time a system which made sense for amateur collegiate competitions gradually made less and less sense as two sports, American Football and Men’s basketball, grew into bigger and bigger sports with professional leagues. Instead of these sports becoming fully professionalized from age 18 and up, colleges hung on to these sports creating pseudo professional leagues which also became the de facto development competitions for the pro leagues.

At the same time other collegiate sports did not grow to the same extent, but since they were part of school athletic departments and the NCAA they were still provided substantial levels of support. This support was provided in part due to tradition and in part, due to NCAA requirements. Further, a U.S. law, Title IX required colleges and universities to provide equal opportunities in terms of sports and scholarships for women.

So essentially, over time we have created a system where hundreds of colleges in order to keep their cash cow revenue sports have agreed to fund dozens of other sports which are a net revenue loss.

A Crazy System, but it’s not All Bad

This system might seem a little crazy, but depending on where you stand it’s not all bad. More opportunities for women to play sports… That’s a good thing.

If you are involved with one of the dozens of sports propped up by this system it’s a great thing. If you are an athlete you have the opportunity to perhaps earn a scholarship and play in a well organized competition. If you are a high level coach there are multiple, good paying job opportunities. If you are part of the youth sports industry this system will help ensure that plenty of youth athletes will be interested in furthering developing their skills via sports clubs. If you are a sports NGB all of this development from youth to college is infrastructure that you don’t have to pay for. Indeed, it is often an additional source of revenue.

Of course, I know what supporters of these dozens of sports are saying as they read this. They are saying that their sport isn’t being propped up, but rather the demand from athletes was already there. That colleges are just responding to the growing demand from their sport.

I would argue, however, that they are exaggerating this demand in most cases. For sure, all sports have some level of intrinsic demand. Sports are fun and people play them just for fun. That being said most sports if they lost NCAA status, the great organized competitions that come with that status and, of course, the scholarships would see a significant decline in interest at all levels.

Different Tiers, Different Perspectives

Much has been written and said about how American football and men’s college basketball athletes should be paid for their efforts. After all they are bringing in revenue. Call these sports the top tier.

Much has also been written and said about the other NCAA sports that are in some cases now being cut from some schools. And, that these “Olympic Sports” are getting short changed. Call these sports the middle tier.

And, then there are sports like team handball and rugby with no NCAA status. Call this the bottom tier.

As a proponent of a sport in the bottom tier I can only look at the middle tier’s whining and say, “Give me a break! Good lord. You guys all lose money. Quit whining. You don’t realize how good you’ve got it.”

Here’s some food for thought for you:

  • Ohio St University (just 1 college) spends more on 33 sports than USA Team Handball does as a national federation. Yes, for the last several years the expenses for USA Team Handball has been around $500,000. Divide that in two for Men/Women and only Men’s Rifle and Women’s Pistol at Ohio State have a smaller budget.
  • NGBs which have an NCAA component typically receive more grant money from the USOPC than USA Team Handball does. Contemplate for a moment where those NGBs would be in terms of competitiveness and fiscal status if they didn’t have that NCAA component?
  • Finally, here’s something else that will have you scratching your head again. Quite a few scholarships are actually awarded to foreigners. In fact, in 2019 there were 3,455 international student athletes playing Division 1 sports. Roughly 12% of Division I. Yes, U.S. colleges are spending millions of dollars to develop foreign athletes; many that have gone on to win Olympic medals. How does that possibly make sense?

Time to start over? The pandemic has exacerbated the dramatic difference between Tiers 1 and 2 with some schools dropping some sports. But, maybe this just isn’t an issue between tiers 1 and 2? In part 3, I’ll discuss how the pie should be split more equitably between tiers 2 and 3.

Commentary: Re-Imagining The U.S. Collegiate “Olympic” Sport Model (Part 1): The Enormous Disparity between Varsity and Club Sport Funding

Yearly expenses for several sports programs at Ohio State University. Team Handball actually does have a bar, but at $3,376 it just doesn’t register at this scale.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has been a catalyst for several colleges and universities to reevaluate their collegiate sports programs. And, that reevaluation has resulted in 90 sports teams being dropped from the athletic departments of 26 schools. All told, around 1,500 athletes will no longer be competing at the Varsity level. (Source: NBC Sports: College sports cuts in the wake of Covid-19 are clouding the future of Olympics participation)

As you might expect a number of people are very upset with this development. This includes the 1,500 athletes who in many cases have lost a partial college scholarship, the college coaches who have lost jobs and the Sports National Governing Bodies (NGB) that have lost multiple sources for the development of potential future Olympic athletes. Not to mention the entrepreneurial $30 Billion dollar youth sports industry that has sprung up in part to develop athletes to get those scholarships.

Many articles and comments are along the lines of what a shame it is that this collegiate support for “Olympic” sports is being lost. And, that it will inevitably impact Team USA performance in future Olympics. My gut reaction to all this hand wringing is…

Hold on a second…You’re not talking about “all Olympic” sports here.  Cry me a river and welcome to my world, fencing, shooting, etc.

This visceral feeling is well founded, both as a former college handball player and coach.  I’ve seen first hand the disparity in terms of resources and support with what an Athletic Department “Varsity” sport receives and what a Club Activity sport receives.  It’s night and day.  Varsity sport athletes have scholarships, full time coaches, dedicated practice space and substantial travel budgets.  Club sports typically have no scholarships, volunteer coaches, often compete for gym space and sometimes get a little funding to defray a portion of their travel costs.

As I started working on this commentary, however, I realized that I needed to go beyond the gut reaction and that it would be better to quantify just exactly what the financial disparity actually is.  This resulted in a trip down the rabbit hole only to discover that it’s even worse than I had imagined.

Ohio State University Support to Sports Programs

There are many colleges and universities in the U.S., but only 19 collegiate handball clubs in the U.S.  For my initial investigation I chose Ohio State University which has an extensive NCAA sports program and a team handball club. 

It took a little digging and some reorganization of available data, but here is a table which lists the total expenses for every varsity sports program and the team handball club. 

Sources: Ohio State University Equity in Athletics Data Analysis (EADA) 2018 submittal; Ohio State Handball Club Financial Summary (avg of last 2 seasons)

Time to Rethink These Allocations… You Think?

For me, this data was a real eye opener. I always knew that club sports were getting the short end of the stick, I just didn’t realize how short it was. Seriously, handball’s budget is over 1,000 times smaller than men’s ice hockey. Or, just 44 times smaller than women’s pistol. Pick your varsity sport. It doesn’t matter. It’s a big difference. A really big difference.

Does such a big difference make sense? Should there perhaps be some reimagining about how this funding is allocated?

Of course, there should be. And, I’m not alone when it comes to such thinking. Recently, the New York Times published an essay by Tom Farrey of the Aspen Institute, “Colleges Are Cutting Varsity Sports. That Could Be a Good Thing.” In the essay he make several great points about why indeed it could be a good thing. How such a shift could lead to fewer parents chasing scholarships for their kids and how club sports can often provide a better balance for students between athletics, academics and just being a college student.

Overall he concludes that:

“Reducing the number of varsity teams will mean fewer athletic scholarships, but also potentially less money spent pursuing them and more university support for other forms of campus sports.

I’ve added the italics and boldface, because the words “potentially more university support for other forms of campus sports” are music to my ears… except for that pesky word, potentially. Because such a reallocation is easier said than done.

In Part 2, I’ll take I’ll examine what it might take for the word potentially to become reality. At the same time I’ll try and play devil’s advocate to justify why sports like Ohio State’s Synchronized Swimming program should continue to expend resources at a $1.1M/year clip.

Why Just about any College Could Start a Handball Program and Quickly Challenge for a National Title

Yes, in theory, any random college could make a title run.

I’m not generally one to make audacious predictions because… well, because data and thorough analysis usually result in the conclusion that it’s just not going to happen. But, sometimes audacity is indeed possible.

A former intern for the Pardon My Take (PMT) Podcast recently got a hold of a handball and has issued a few team handball related tweets (1, 2, 3). It’s always great when the sport acquires a new fan, but it also got me to thinking.

Could Billy Football or someone else, coax a few friends, start a brand new club and come out of nowhere to win a national collegiate handball?

On the surface, it seems crazy to even consider this as a possibility. How could a brand new club with totally inexperienced players win a national title? C’mon… And, for almost any other sport in the U.S. it would indeed be a crazy proposition. Most sports are just too established for some upstart to knock over the apple cart without a massive injection of resources and stellar recruiting.

But, team handball is not “most sports” in the U.S. Here’s why it could be done.

  1. Few Contenders: There are currently only 15 Men’s collegiate programs in the U.S. And, only a handful of those programs are firmly established.
  2. Minor Experience Gap: Colleges are guaranteed to lose athletes each year to graduation. And, since most athletes are brand new to handball every college has to constantly bring brand new handball players up to speed. Thus, even a brand new program has only a 1 to 2 years gap in experience.
  3. Modest Raw Athletic Talent: The current collegiate handball game has several athletes with solid athletic talent, but overall the level of athleticism is fairly modest. This, of course, makes sense. The best athletes tend to get college scholarships in other sports.

So, what’s the blueprint for such audacity?  Here’s what it would take:

  1. Great Recruiting: Not traditional recruiting whereby a coaching staff convinces great high school athletes to commit to attending their college.  But, in this case great recruiting to get the best possible athletes already on campus to commit to this club sport.
  2. Great Handball Coaching: Taking great athletes and turning them into capable handball players is easier said than done.  But, make no mistake. It can be done.  And, a good coach could accomplish such a transition relatively quickly.  Keep in mind… we’re not talking about a 5 year project to win an Olympic Gold Medal, but a much more feasible collegiate title.
  3. Great Organization:  There are a lot of nuts and bolts logistical issues that go into successfully running a collegiate club.  From finding a time and place to practice, to uniforms, to transportation to tournaments.  It doesn’t just happen.  It takes planning and preparation.
  4. Regular Competition Against Quality Opponents:  Last, but not least, teams and players need to be tested in competition.  And, generally that means getting your butt kicked by teams that are better than you so you can learn how to win.

So, could some random D3 College in say, western Massachusetts tick off these 4 boxes? Well, it’s possible, but right now, I would say they probably could only check off 3. Here’s what could be done.

  1. Recruiting. In theory, it would be good to have some athletes that already know each other. Perhaps a group of seniors finishing off their D3 football careers could be coaxed into trying handball for a season. Ten such athletes would be a good core group to start with. Not future NFL players, but I suspect enough raw athletic talent to eclipse every other current collegiate handball squad, but perhaps West Point.
  2. Handball Coaching. Unless there is some handball expert living quietly in the Berkshires I suspect this is going to be a problem. Maybe, however, some capable coach could visit for a handball boot camp. This might take some PMT sponsorship.
  3. Organization. A coach or team captain with organizational skills is a must. It just requires someone to step up and take the lead.
  4. Regular Competition. Western Massachusetts is in driving range of both Boston and New York City. A trip to Montreal wouldn’t be too hard either. If desired, there would be plenty of opportunities to play and learn the game.

The Wild Card: Pardon My Take Sponsorship

So while this might be possible, I’m thinking it’s going to need a little extra jolt to actually happen. And, there probably could be no better jolt than a little Pardon My Take sponsorship. What would that entail? Some publicity to encourage on the fence recruits, enticing a name coach to help out and for sure, some splashy uniforms.

Hey Big Cat and PFT Commenter: I know an Olympic Gold medal is the end goal, but you know what: Helping some random college come out of nowhere win a Collegiate National Championship would be pretty cool too. And, it would be great proof of concept trial run before embarking on a far greater challenge.

Would it be easy? No. It would take a lot of work, some humility and a lot of commitment. The other collegiate programs might not be world beaters, but there are some quality athletes out there and they have a head start in terms of experience. But, make no mistake it could be done.

Any Other Takers?

This, actually, is not the first time I’ve had such audacious thoughts regarding our college game. In 1976, Air Force almost won an open club title with a roster mostly composed of their D1 hoops tean (doesn’t hurt to have two future Olympians playing). It doesn’t take much imagination to envision a gifted group of athletes winning just a college title.

Three years ago, Virginia practically did exactly what I’ve described, losing to West Point in a close final, albeit it wasn’t done in a year, but was more of a 3 year effort. And, somewhat incredibly, they accomplished what they did without the benefit of a coach. (Podcast with UVA Handball: Link) I suspect if Virginia had had a coach with the requisite handball knowledge, recruiting and organizational skills they probably would have won a couple national titles. Might even have started a dynasty.

The reality is that right now a juggernaut college team could probably be created about anywhere in the U.S. Sure, it wouldn’t be easy and some locations would be more challenging… but, make no mistake it could be done. In fact, I’ve told multiple aspiring coaches in the U.S., that if they really want to show how good of a coach they are, they should start a college program from scratch and take that program to a national title.

Any takers?

A Junior College in Fort Dodge, Iowa Won a Collegiate Rugby Title: Really? What the? Could that Happen in Handball?

Iowa Central Junior College: D1AA Collegiate Rugby Champions:
Could that possibly happen with Team Handball

As rugby in the U.S. is the closest parallel to what handball might someday be in the U.S., I regularly listen to several rugby related podcasts. It’s kind of fun to listen to discussion related to their NGB, their fledgling pro league or their college game and simply switch the word “rugby” with “handball” to see if it still rings true. Quite often it does and quite often it gets me wondering whether some development or effort being tried there could be applied in a handball context.

Yesterday, I was “gobsmacked” by this podcast interview with Brent Nelson, the rugby head coach of the Iowa Central Tritons, the 2019 D1AA National Champions. Gobsmacked because of the following:

  • How does a small college beat far larger colleges?
  • How does a Junior College (2 year program) compete with traditional colleges (4 year programs)?
  • How does a coach recruit “anyone” to come to Fort Dodge, Iowa? Let alone international students and inner city kids from Florida? (FYI: I’m from a small town in Iowa; This is truly amazing)
  • This program started from scratch just 6 years ago. In that time they’ve jumped 2 levels of play. Sometimes by design… sometimes because the other schools kicked them out because they were too good.

Some bigger picture thoughts:

  • It’s not the first time that the JUCO (Junior College) route has been considered for team handball: Link
  • Not every young adult is inclined to get a 4 year degree. This could be a great path, a better path for some athletes.
  • But, some of these athletes do indeed continue their education at a four year school. Could North Carolina, Texas A&M and other schools be in a recruiting war for talent some day?

Not sure where such a program would be started, but based on what Iowa Central has overcome and accomplished, it clearly could be done for team handball.

Goff Rugby Report Article: Link

#SeniorNight: Air Force Team Handball Class of 2020

Handball Athletes, Future 2nd Lts and Air Force Pilots
L to R (Brian Brown, Nate Luther, Mark Simpson, Richard Vaughn, Austin Faulkner and Will Walker. Other Club Seniors headed to pilot training are Anthony Sanders and Pen Pagel)

ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt has been using his Sports Center platform to honor High School and College Seniors who didn’t get to finish their final season. I respectfully submit Air Force Team Handball’s Eight Graduating Seniors for #SeniorNight.

A lot can happen in just a month. A lot.

Air Force Team Handball: Just One Month Ago

On February 28-29, 2020, I had the opportunity to watch Air Force go 4-0 to take the title in their own Air Force Invitational. I had seen them play several times in the past few years and without a doubt I had never seen them play so well. A comprehensive 26-18 victory over North Carolina on Saturday and then an exciting last second, 28-27 victory over Dallas THC (Video) to take the title on Sunday.

Solid defense, smart shots on offense, limited turnovers. Individually some fine play, but clearly a collective team performance. After their victory over Dallas I made a point of telling the team that it was the best I’d seen an Air Force team play in years and made a prediction that was actually more of a declaration:

“Play like you did this weekend and you guys will beat West Point and win a national title.”

A bold statement since West Point has won 14 straight national titles and Air Force hasn’t beat them since 2008. Bold, but one that I stand by and not just because I’m a biased AF Academy graduate. In a different world maybe I would be sitting right now in the Columbus, OH airport writing about such a victory in the recently completed Gold Medal match at the 2020 College National Championships.

But, that’s not the world were living in now. And, it sucks… It sucks big time. Sucks for any handball player from any school that would have played in the Collegiate Tourney this past weekend. Sucks especially for the seniors.

For the eight graduating seniors at Air Force and the journey they’ve had it’s surely been really tough. Most of these eight seniors have been playing handball together all four years. They went from basic cadets with little or no knowledge that handball even existed as a sport to passionate athletes that have bonded over four years of practice and competition. The Collegiate National Championships would have been the culmination of that journey. One last opportunity to play for a title.

Like everyone the Cadet’s lives were upended by the Coronavirus Pandemic. But, this past month they’ve also been impacted in additional ways.

Just two weeks after the AF Invitational the Air Force Academy cancelled Spring Break. Most of the Air Force team had been looking forward to a trip to the Netherlands for a training camp and competition. Unlike most colleges, however, not everyone was sent home. Instead, just the Freshman, Sophomores and Juniors were sent home while the Seniors remained on campus to help ensure their on time graduation and entry into the Air Force. Additionally, to facilitate social distancing, all the Senior Cadets were moved into their own dorm rooms spread out as much as possible in the Academy’s two dorms. Classes then resumed online and for the seniors it became a surreal existence as the roughly 1,000 cadets left on campus were essentially “alone” together with strict limits on any interaction.

Needless to say this was not an ideal situation and when last week 2 cadets committed suicide within 3 days of each other the Air Force went into crisis mode. After much discussion social distancing rules were relaxed and it was decided to speed up graduation to April 18th. To give you some idea of the extraordinary times we live in this is the first service Academy to graduate early since West Point had cadets do so during World War II.

So now the 8 seniors will graduate early and all 8 will be headed to pilot training. (Contrary to what you might think not everybody who goes to the Academy becomes a pilot and for 100% of a sports club team to do so is kind of special.) Being a pilot is surely a dream and goal they’ve been working towards many years before heading to the Academy.

The minor downside for these 8: Being an Air Force pilot and continuing your handball career isn’t an easy or practical thing to do. Perhaps some of these guys will find their way to an open club nationals on down the line, but more likely than not several have played not just their last collegiate handball match, but their last handball match ever.

In a different world that last match would have taken place this past weekend. That’s a bummer… for them… for you… for me… for everybody.

On the plus side. These eight are going to be serving our country for years to come. And, we couldn’t ask for a better group of young men to do so.