Julia Malysz defended the goal for the U.S. youth women's national team in Montreal this past October.
With nine years until the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028, the handball players stepping on to the court for the United States could still be in middle school at this point.
Meet Julia Malysz, a 14-year-old goalkeeper from Orland Park, Illinois, whose dream is to one day play in the LA 2028 Olympics for USA Team Handball.
Malysz recently defended the net for the U.S. youth women’s national team in Montreal at the IHF Trophy in October, where the team finished fifth with a 3-2 record.
“In terms of handball teams, there are close to none in Illinois, so I'd never played in a real match against another team,” Malysz said, who is currently in eighth grade at Century Junior High School. “But the competition in Canada was an awesome experience because I finally got to see what it was like to play at that level. I learned a lot of new things as a goalkeeper, lots of new techniques.”
With her family hailing from Poland, Malysz began playing handball when she turned 11. Her father had played for 20 years, both in Poland and in the United States.
Malysz still travels to Poland every so often, and watched the Polish handball team during a match at the Y20 Women’s Team Handball World Championships last year.
“At first, I didn't know what the sport was, but then I found out that I really liked it. it was something new and different," Malysz said. "Once I started to play, I realized that I really love handball and it’s my favorite sport. This is my fourth year playing as a goalkeeper.”
She first played for a Polish organization, Tatra Team Handball, coached by Małgorzata Gunka, before transitioning to the youth national team and working with head coach Craig Rot.
“Craig's practices are usually three times a week, and currently, I am striving to get better. I'm trying my best at practices,” Malysz said. “A year ago, my dad built a handball net for me in the driveway, so I've been practicing on that all summer.”
Malysz's father made a handball goal for her in their driveway at home. Malysz has been practicing with it all summer.
Malysz said her role model is now retired Polish goalkeeper Sławomir Szmal, who used to play for VIVE Kielce, Poland’s top men’s team. She loves the focus that is required in defending a goal against oncoming shooters.
“I love the challenge of just having to really focus on the ball and not the people's movements because they can throw you off. It doesn't bother me how hard they throw the ball,” Malysz said. “I tell myself to imagine the ball like it's a piece of candy. You want that candy, you want to grab it.”
Malysz has been committed to honing her craft, attending handball camps both in the U.S. and in Poland. She got to practice against older players at one two-week handball camp run by Artur Siódmiak, who has won two world championship medals playing for the Polish national handball team.
The Los Angeles Olympics may be far in the future, but that doesn’t stop Malysz from seeing it as her top goal. She may be practicing in her driveway now, but she could be playing on an international stage someday.
“Hopefully, the top goal is in nine years, playing in the Olympics in LA. That would mean the world to me, I can't even explain the joy that I would get from that,” Malysz said.
“It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience and not many people get that experience, especially with an Olympics hosted in the United States. If that were to happen to me, I would be very proud and feel grateful that I could make it that far, and that I accomplished my goal.”
Malysz competing on behalf of the Chicago Inter Handball Club at the Michael Lipov Memorial Cup X.