COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The United States Olympic Committee has announced that USA Team Handball has been awarded probationary status as the National Governing Body for the sport of Team Handball.
As the new National Governing Body, the organization will be responsible for meeting the obligations detailed in both the USOC Bylaws and the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, including establishing procedures to insure continuity of international, Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic Games programs for the sport.
USA Team Handball officially took on the oversight of the sport in the U.S. on April 30. Following the guidelines of the Ted Stevens' Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, the USOC will recommend USA Team Handball to the Federation Internationale de Handball (IHF) as the sport representative in the United States within 61 days.
"We are happy to be recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee and look forward to getting team handball going strong in the U.S.," said Dieter Esch, Chairman of USA Team Handball. "We believe that we have the means and the tools to get that done. We will do that on two different levels. One is the grassroots level and the second one is to create a professional league which goes along with the regular development of team handball in the U.S. We believe very strongly that the sport can be successful in the U.S. It's physical, it's fast, it's high scoring and it's a great television and spectator sport. We believe if team handball gets properly developed, it will find millions of spectators and thousands of players in this country."
This announcement is the latest stepin rebuilding the governance structure for the sport of team handball in the United States. The United States Olympic Committee decertified the prior NGB for Team Handball on February 11, 2006. Since that time, the USOC has administered the sport of Team Handball under the guidance of Mike Cavanaugh with the USOC developing a plan to have a new National Governing Body in place as soon as possible. Applications from groups wanting to be the new NGB were due to the USOC by July 23, 2007. Public hearings were held on August 30 and September 13, 2007.
Two distinct groups emerged during this process: the Utah Team Handball Foundation (under the direction of Esch) and the American Team Handball Association. The USOC's Membership Working Group recommended to the USOC Board of Directors to recognize the Utah Team Handball Foundation on a probationary status as the new National Governing Body for the sport of Team Handball in the U.S. The USOC Board of Directors voted to move forward with that recommendation.
Once selected and approved as the new NGB, the Utah Team Handball Foundation changed its name to USA Team Handball. The group is chaired by Esch, who is the co-owner of the Wilhelmina Modeling Agency in New York City. Esch, a native of Germany, developed his affection for the sport of team handball while growing up in Germany.
The United States Olympic Committee staff has worked with USA Team Handball to transition operations to ensure the greatest probability for success. Esch and the leadership of USA Team Handball were in Colorado Springs, Colo. at U.S. Olympic headquarters to meet with key divisions and staff to initiate the transition the week of May 26. Following these initial meetings USA Team Handball will create a comprehensive, mutually agreeable plan with timelines and milestones to ensure that they will meet the criteria to remove the probationary status.
Consistent with the requirements of all other summer NGBs, USA Team Handball will be required to submit a quadrennial plan for 2009-2012 that details how USA Team Handball will promote and grow the sport with a focus on achieving sustained competitive excellence in international competition.
Team Handball is a sport similar to basketball and soccer, played on an indoor court that's 40 meters long and 20 meters wide with seven players on a side. The game is fast-paced like basketball and goals are scored by throwing the ball into the net. It was first played in the Olympic Games in 1936 in Berlin, Germany, but was not held again until 1972 in Munich. It has been part of the Olympic Program since that time.
The U.S. men's best finish in Olympic competition was a sixth place in 1936 at the inaugural Olympic tournament. The team hasn't cracked the top eight since then. The U.S. women finished fourth in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles for the best finish for any U.S. Team Handball team. They were seventh in 1988 in Seoul, Korea; sixth in 1992 in Barcelona and eighth in 1996 in Atlanta. U.S. teams have not qualified for an Olympic Games since the 1996 Games in Atlanta. The last time the U.S. teams qualified for the Olympic Games without the home country inclusion was in 1992 in Barcelona.