National Team Athletes Win Big at First Open Beach Championships

April 30, 2014, 12 p.m. (ET)
National Team Athletes Win Big at the first annual American Open Beach Handball Championships

By: Maurice Godwin 


USA Team Handball athletes celebrate their success at the 1st American Open Beach Handball Championships last weekend

Players training in the USA Team Handball Residency Program in Auburn, Alabama, took home medals from the first annual American Open Beach Handball Championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama, this past weekend. 

The Women’s USA Team Handball National Team defeated a strong Colombian Team, [2:0], to win gold medals and the Mayor’s Cup, and the Men’s USA National Team players earned bronze. In addition to a gold medal, the Women’s National Team goalkeeper, Staci Self, won the Most Valuable Goalkeeper for the Women’s Division. 

WNT goalkeeper Staci Self (center) earned the first ever AOBHC Women’s Most Valuable Goalkeeper award

The aforementioned Santa Catalina Islas Colombian Women’s Beach Handball Team won the Women’s Division silver medal. In the Men’s Division, the Santa Catalina Islas Colombian Team won the Men’s Division gold medal, and the Miami Panthers Team Handball Club earned silver.

Teams also took home monetary prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250, for first, second, and third-place finishes, respectively, provided by the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Sports Commission. 


The first ever American Open Beach Handball Championships were held on The Hangout, Gulf Shores, AL

The three-day tournament, held in front of the Hangout in Gulf Shores, Alabama, was organized by Dede Piankova, Chairwoman of USA Beach Handball and president of the American Community Team Sports (ACTS) non-profit organization. This event was part of a movement to add the sport of beach handball to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and to increase opportunities for American participation in international Beach Handball events.
Ms. Piankova is also leading the initiative to increase participation in beach handball among elementary, middle, and high schools in the Gulf Shores area, as well as to promote the sport in the United States in general. Her incredible efforts with beach handball are laying the foundation for what may become a staple in American physical education curricula, and the future of United States beach handball success at the international level. 

Over 120 children and teens attended the Open Beach Handball Championships over the weekend

In attendance were the Mayor of Gulf Shores, Robert Craft; Gulf Shores Director of Recreation and Cultural Affairs, Grant Brown; former USA Team Handball Presidents Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich and Dennis Berkholtz; USA Team Handball Women’s National Team Coach, Christian Latulippe; and 1996 USA Team Handball Olympian Derrick Heath. Mike Noble, official announcer at the five most recent Olympic Games for team handball, served as the announcer and production manager of the main court during the tournament. 

Former Olympian Derrick Heath, Mayor Robert Craft, former USATH presidents Tom Rosandich and Dennis Berkholtz, and WNT coach Christian Latulippe attended the tournament

Beach handball, while very different from indoor team handball, provided the National Team athletes and Residency Program attendants the opportunity to build chemistry leading up to major handball tournaments and competitions. 

Many of the National Team athletes will be competing on various city teams in the Club National Championships held May 16-18 in Reno, Nevada. The USATH Women’s National Team will be competing in a friendly invitational tournament from June 3 – 12 in Brazil, while the Men’s National Team will travel to Uruguay for the Pan American Championships, held from June 22 – 28. 

To learn more about USA Beach Handball, please contact Dede Piankova at or visit them on Facebook. For more information about the championship tournament, visit the AOBHC website

Thanks to WNT athlete Ashley Van Ryn and former USATH President Thomas P. Rosandich for photo contributions to this article.