USA Team Handball Announces New National Team Pool Criteria

USA Team Handball recently posted updated National Team Pool Criteria for prospective National Team players.  Some of the criteria appears to be simply a more structured rehash of criteria that has been previously used to assess and identify players.  There are the usual battery of physical tests and handball skills identified, but there are also some new requirements that caught my eye.

For instance, some basic minimums were identified in terms of matches and practices each year.  A relatively modest number of matches is required (15), but a fairly substantial number of practices are now required (48 court and 72 non court).  This may seem rather simple to our European readers, but I suspect that there are very few club teams in the U.S. meeting the 48/year requirement.

More noteworthy, is a requirement for senior players to relocate to designated Regional or National Centers of Excellence by June 1, 2012(#5, page 13).  Section 5 goes further to highlight that the process for selecting these locations is planned for the first half of 2011 and that preliminary plan is to re-establish a residency program (either walk-in or live-in).  As far as I know, this is the first written indication that USA Team Handball was going to take this significant step.  More details will hopefully be coming soon in regards to the specifics of such a program and how it will fit into the current practice of encouraging European Club participation.

Also added is a requirement off the court in terms of being an Ambassador for the sport with options to support development through recruiting, refereeing and fundraising.  An appropriate requirement, in my opinion, for a sport that needs as many people promoting it as possible.

But what really caught my eye, were the closing comments in the “Athlete Development Pipeline Model” document:

Finally, as uncomfortable, inconvenient and uncanny it may feel, there is absolutely no science based nor practice based evidence of a “fast track” for high achievers to become masters in their fields. To the contrary, as Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller “Outliers” put it (sic): “researchers and practitioners in variety of fields have settled on what they believe is the magic number of for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”

“The 10,000 – HOUR RULE” sends very clear and strong message to us all involved in handball.  Handball must evolve into year around activity.

A table is then provided which tabulates what this mean in terms of 25 day month (assume you 4 or 5 days off) over a 12 year span (2.77 hours/day) or 16 year span (1.56 hours/day).    I’ll have a follow on commentary about the 10,000 hour rule.  But suffice it to say, this is a very telling stat that speaks volumes as to the historic lack of U.S. success and the challenge of developing handball experts who pick up the sport in their late teens.

USATH: Live the Olympic Dream: Tryout for Team Handball!:

USATH: National Team Pool Criteria:

USATH: USA Team Handball Athlete Development Pipeline Model:


USA Team Handball’s Egypt Connection

A strange twist of events resulted in USA Men’s National Team Captain, Mark Ortega, witnessing history in Egypt. Looking for a better training opportunity in preparation for the upcoming PANAM Games 2nd Chance tournament Mark moved to Egypt in January to train with fellow teammate Adam El Zogby’s club team, Al-Ahly, in Egypt. In two video reports, Mark chronicles Adam’s recovery from ACL surgery, life in Egypt and his search for a club to join. What starts as a handball travelogue seems starts to take a dramatic turn as protests in Egypt engulf the country. Video 2 ends with the protests starting and a discussion with a Cairo cab driver regarding their significance.

Team Handball’s weekly report on athletes playing overseas reports that Adam El Zogby is continuing his recovery and is safe and sound in his apartment situated a little over a mile from El Tahir Square.

USA Team Handball: Mark Ortega Profile.
USA Team Handball: Americans Abroad Report.