Update from CEO, Matt Van Houten: December 2012

Dec. 28, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

To the Team Handball Community:

I hope all of you are enjoying a fantastic holiday season. I would like to apologize for the delay in sending out this note. I certainly intended to do this sooner and I can assure you that I will be sending out regular updates on the status of USA Team Handball now that at least some of the dust has settled since my start date. I sincerely appreciate all the gestures of support I’ve received from many of you. I’m posting this to give you all an update as to what has transpired since I started on November 1st, as well as a general statement of what to expect from me going forward.

Many of you know that I was the Chair of the USOC Athletes’ Advisory Council from 2009 until I started work for USATH. During my tenure as AAC Chair, the theme of my leadership was collaboration and transparency. This theme will continue with USA Team Handball.

Based upon the experience I gained from my role on the AAC, having seen firsthand the issues confronting many of the National Governing Bodies, it was clear to me that the best place for the headquarters of USA Team Handball was Colorado Springs. Especially for an organization that is struggling to generate the resources to fund our programs, there were clear benefits of being present in the city where the USOC is based, as well as some 26 other NGB offices. I can say without reservation that the decision to establish the office here has been universally embraced by the USOC. I believe it has already shown dividends in being able to collaborate with other sports and learn their best practices. Team Handball will be able to maximize the resources it receives from the USOC through our presence here.

It is a priority for me that the operations of USA Team Handball be transparent and open to the membership. I know many of you have felt that this has not been the case in the past. I would like to bring back the annual meeting which used to take place every year at Nationals. It is my intention to bring our bylaws into compliance with the general standard for National Governing Bodies, which would entail conducting elections to fill two board seats from the general membership. As members, you may not have received as much information as you might have liked over the past few years and I intend to change that.    

I will be candid with all of you– USA Team Handball is in dire financial straits. For many years, the primary source of funding for our sport was the USOC. The USOC has shifted its resource allocation strategy so that it primarily funds sports which have a strong likelihood of winning a medal at the upcoming Olympic Games. Based upon this new philosophy, the amount of funding we have received from the USOC has decreased significantly in recent years. Until we can become financially self-supporting, we will always be in a position of dependence upon the USOC on a year to year basis and this will directly impact our ability to train our athletes. Ironically, the world perceives the United States as a country with unlimited resources and yet our organization is literally counting every penny. I am working in Colorado Springs without any administrative support, in order to minimize our overhead expenses.

The members of USATH have always been passionate about our sport. We have something in common at our core: the fact that we have all discovered and fallen in love with this incredible sport, at some point in our lives. We are truly a family. Having played this sport for more than 27 years, I can say that I consider it a permanent part of who I am as a person. When Americans first see the sport, whether it is during the Olympics or in a local gym, they fall in love with it.  They immediately realize that handball has everything that Americans love about athletics:  Running, jumping, throwing, rough physical contact, scoring, strategy and excitement, to name a few. I’m confident that all of you would love to see our sport grow and prosper, ultimately becoming a source of national pride. 

Our main asset right now is our membership base. The passionate volunteers who donate their time and experience are the foundation of our sport within the United States. In order to make progress toward becoming competitive, we need to expand our resources. We need to grow the sport at the youth level to increase the number of people playing the sport and therefore increase the exposure of Americans to the sport. There are two ways that you can help: financially or developmentally. Financial help can come in many forms. You can donate any amount and take advantage of the tax deductibility of your donation. You can help me connect with potential sponsors or donors. You can encourage your family and friends to become members.  Developmentally you can put on a clinic at a middle school or at the local YMCA. You can promote your club team and increase the number of athletes playing in your area. You can talk about the sport to your friends, family, acquaintances, local sports reporter, etc.

If you donate during the last few days of 2012 you can take advantage of the tax deduction on next year’s tax returns. There is now a donation link on the website. You can always earmark your donation for a specific program or purpose, whether it is one of the national teams, youth development, officiating or coaching programs. Just contact me to let me know if you wish to earmark a contribution.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have information about potential sponsors, donors, or sources of revenue that we can capitalize on to increase our ability to promote the sport. Those of you who know me know that I will give you the straight story and I won’t promise anything that can’t be delivered. My office number is 719-866-2203, my mobile number is 607-220-3464 and my email address is mvh@usateamhandball.org. I look forward to seeing you in the New Year…


Matt Van Houten