2012 Coaches of the Year

Feb. 05, 2013, 5:21 p.m. (ET)

February 5, 2013

USA Team Handball is proud to announce the 2012 winners in the categories of National Coach of the Year, Developmental Coach of the Year, and Volunteer Coach of the Year.

The selection committee was composed of Athletes' Advisory Council Representative Tomuke ("T") Ebuwei, Sonja Hansen, USA Team Handball President Jeff Utz, USATH CEO Matt Van Houten and USATH Technical Director Mariusz Waralowicz.

The 2012 National Coach of the Year is Richard Kluz, from the New York City Team Handball Club

Richard's dedication, commitment and passion for the sport are unmatched in the USA handball community. Richard is always the one to show up for every practice session, help making sure the gym is prepared for play. For the fourth time in five years, Richard Kluz led a team of different players to the most coveted title of the year, the USA Elite National Championship. His passion is the biggest motivation for the players, and the experience he brings to the table has helped many athletes to become the best they can be. Kluz has been an important part of New York City Team Handball Club, and its mere existence. Richard is deserving of the National Coach of the Year award, not only because of his experience and what he has contributed for the last 30 years, but also because of his distinguished record of winning 4 out of the last 5 National Club Championships, winning the West Point Invitational 4-times in a row, and winning the Northeast League title for the 6th time in a row. His passion, experience and dedication to keep the club alive were the main reason why the NYC club has been a leader in helping to grow and develop the sport of team handball in New York, and in the United States of America.

The 2012 Developmental Co-Coaches of the Year are Attila Agoston, Robert Michalik, and Dede Piankova

Attila Agoston has served as the head coach of the U14/U16 boy's youth USA national team and has served as an assistant coach of the U20 boy's USA National Team. Moreover, Agoston is the co-founder, member of the Board of Directors, and Head Coach of both the Men's and Women's teams of Denver Team Handball Club in Colorado. He is also the Director of the Denver's youth programs. In 2010, Agoston became the Volunteer Coach of the Year as the only coach in USATH to coach both men's and women's teams to medals at the 2010 Nationals (Men - Open Division Bronze Medal, Women - Elite Division Bronze Medal). As part of his developmental coaching in 2012, Agoston did a great job coaching the U16 boy's USA National Team during the Olympic Development Program and tournament in Gothenburg, Sweden. The U.S. Played in the first category group with a record of two wins and two losses. Following the Olympic Development/Solidarity tournament the U16 team participated in the world's biggest youth team handball tournament, the Partille Cup. The U16 team didn't have a full roster and some key players were injured, but the team led by Agoston beat the Indian National Team and played very close games against the pro-European club teams with one win and five losses. In addition, as an assistant coach of the U20 boys USA National Team, Agoston participated in the IHF Trophy Cup in Mexico City, Mexico. At the IHF Trophy tournament, the U20 team played in the bronze medal game and had a great fight against the Canadian National Team where USA was leading almost the entire game before losing in the final minute.

Robert Michalik: Robert Michalik is the coach of the Ocean New Jersey team handball team. His story of coaching can truly be looked at as one of "rags to riches". About three years ago, Michalik, having been a handball player and coach himself back in Poland, decided to start his own team handball team in New Jersey. He had written personal letters inviting girls to join his team, yet each girl who decided to join had little to no previous knowledge of this new, mysterious sport. At the first practice, the girls were introduced to handball for the first time. Many of them could barely grasp it, with the score of the first game being 0-32 and a handful of injuries, discouragement, and tears. While most coaches would have been disheartened by such results, Michalik continued to believe in the girls even when they did not believe in themselves. He persistently pushed them to be the best they could be, working hard at practices and always telling them to keep their heads high.

Despite all of the setbacks, Michalik was successful in creating a young yet strong team. Currently, almost all of the girls have at one point represented the United States in tournaments around the world. Scores of games changed drastically, with the Jersey Girls now defeating teams almost by double the score. The Jersey Girls started out with nothing, and ended up stronger than teams twice their age. None of this would have been possible without the patience, drive, and high spirit of Robert Michalik.

Not only is Michalik a magnificent coach, he also has a heart of gold. The girls would easily describe him as a second father. He treats each girl on the team as if she were his own. Not once has he ever yelled at the girls or put them down. While some coaches choose to take a tough approach, Michalik has always used a positive, compassionate approach with the girls. Every birthday and holiday is celebrated with the team. He emphasizes the fact that the girls must always have fun with the sport and they must enjoy each other's company and, most importantly, enjoy playing the game. Because of this, his group keeps growing. What started out as about ten teenage girls has now grown into two groups of players - a younger group and an older group, consisting of about 20 players each. When someone thinks about the future of team handball, surely it lies here in New Jersey with Coach Robert Michalik. Through handball, the girls have become closer than ever. Michalik has created something special in their lives they will never forget. They belong to something greater - something important. They love the sport, and now cannot imagine their lives without it. All of this happened thanks to a man with hopes of starting something marvelous, and succeeding beyond his wildest dreams.

Dede Piankova: Dede Piankova has worked tirelessly to promote and grow the sport of team handball in the United States. She coached and refereed the Houston Stars club at Southwest Indoor Soccer Facility, organized, developed, and coached handball in Austin while creating the four-team Austin City League, and organized, developed, and coached in the Texas State League consisting of teams from Austin, San Marcos, College Station, Houston, and Dallas. She has helped train players and coaches for San Marcos and Dallas handball clubs, as well.

Piankova coached national teams in Uruguay and the Dominican Republic in the Pan-American Championships in both Beach Handball and Team Handball. She introduced handball to the students at multiple private schools in austin, coached Children's Summer camps at the University of Texas for three consecutive years, coached the San Francisco Smurfs, and won the Women's 2012 Fremont International Tournament and took them to the U.S. National Championships. In addition, Piankova initiated and accepted leadership for USATH Beach Handball committee.

Piankova coached the men's team from San Diego at the Huntington Beach Handball Invitational and won second place in the 16-team tournament. She helped organize, coach and referee during the CalHeat International Beach Handball Tournament. She also coached CalHeat and refereed at the Beach Handball Fall Tournament at Seacliff State Beach, Aptos, Ca., in 2012.

Piankova developed programs in three school districts in Marin County, Calif., with a two-times a week play program. This included over 200 students in 6th, 7th, 8th, and 8th grade, who now regularly play handball.

The 2012 Volunteer Coach of the Year is Wade Sutton of the North Carolina Team Handball Club

Wade volunteers his time and money to locally coach (head or assistant) five teams - Carolina Blues (alumni men), Carolina (women), Tar Heels (women), Carolina (men's). Sutton relentlessly dedicated his time over the last decade to develop and sustain a women's collegiate program at the University of North Carolina, while continuing to volunteer his time for the men's college and alumni program. This is no easy task for anyone who has attempted to create a club reliant on recruiting solely American players. His dedication paid off through the years as Chapel Hill became a strong hub for handball with sustaining men's and women's programs. Sutton has spent countless hours volunteering his time to help new coaches, developing completely new players, planning tournaments, traveling to tournaments, and involving himself with USATH for the betterment of handball through the United States. Sutton is truly deserving of the recognition of Volunteer Coach of the Year for USA Team Handball.