Christine Mansour had worked hard last year to line up an amazing 2020.
As an entrepreneur and content creator running her own business, she built up an exciting number of professional gigs, some of which she had found through guests on the “What Is Money” podcast that she has been hosting for two seasons now.
As a member of the U.S. Women’s Beach National Team, she was ready to go to Pescara, Italy, with her team to represent the United States and compete in the International Handball Federation’s 2020 Beach Handball World Championship.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Mansour suddenly found her life turned upside down.
“So many people have it worse than me in this pandemic, but all of my projects got cancelled. Everything that I had worked so hard last year to build out for this year got cancelled, or postponed and eventually cancelled,” Mansour said.
“It was really hard for me for the first couple of months. It wasn't ideal, financially. COVID taught me that I was putting too many of my eggs in one basket, something could happen with one project and my income could be significantly slashed.”
Meanwhile, the Beach Handball World Championship event was in flux as well, leaving the team with a host of questions and throwing off the momentum from their preparation.
“COVID hit right after an amazing training camp that we had in San Antonio, Texas. It felt like we were building upon skill sets in each drill, so by the end of the weekend, I felt like we were a completely different team…just so improved, ready to tackle the year,” Mansour said.
“We always had a lingering feeling in our minds about staying ready and maintaining that physical and mental sharpness in case we got called to compete. But once they postponed the Olympics, we pretty much knew that our tournament was also going to be postponed.”
Mansour has been training and practicing on her own during the pandemic. The Naples, Florida native lives by the beach in San Diego these days, so she’s been getting out on the sand as much as she can for sprints, drills and more.
The team has also been holding weekly calls to keep everyone as cohesive as possible while physically apart, led by head and assistant coaches, Lisa Dunn and Michelle Mensing.
“We've established our team’s core values and have really developed a strong mentality through these weekly calls. We’re also trying hard to increase our handball IQ,” Mansour said. “We’re a pretty young team and have a lot of natural athletic talent, but need more of that knowledge and familiarity. We've been watching a lot of film and analyzing different teams, so that when we're ready to compete, hopefully that will translate into more success.”
Mansour first discovered handball while studying behavioral economics at Harvard University, when she saw the sport for the first time on television during the London 2012 Olympics, which prompted her to immediately search online for the nearest handball club.
She briefly played with the Boston Team Handball Club before getting invited to attend a tryout for the U.S. Women’s National Team in Lake Placid, New York. Mansour was called for a tournament in the Dominican Republic, which ended up getting cancelled – leaving her with an excitement about handball, but nowhere to play.
“I wanted to play, I wanted to learn. I was like, screw it, I'll just start a handball club at school,” Mansour said. “Suddenly, I was the coach and founder of this club for this sport that I didn't really know how to play yet. I went to recruiting fairs and was posting online — I just needed bodies to help me practice.”
After graduating and moving out to California, Mansour continued to follow along with handball on social media. She soon learned that there was a beach version of the sport she had been so intrigued by.
“When I learned about beach handball, I thought, ‘amazing, this is literally exactly what I want’, the 27-year-old said. “When I stepped out on the beach for the first time, all of my experiences came together and I knew immediately that this was the sport that I was meant to play.”
Mansour went to an event and was hooked. She was a formidable presence on the sand in no time, named Most Valuable Player at the 2019 North American and Caribbean Handball (NORCA) Championships in Trinidad & Tobago, trained with the team in Paros, Greece, and competed at the first-ever ANOC World Beach Games in Doha, Qatar…and she’s just getting started.
With domestic handball tournaments and training on hold, Mansour decided to seize another opportunity that came her way. She recently has signed on to play professional indoor handball with Dutch handball team Handbal Volendam (KRAS/Volendam), starting in September.
“I'm doing this to help my handball game, my IQ, my physical fitness and so much more. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn from people who have been playing the sport for years. We just don’t have that kind of experience in the beach program, so I'm just trying to do as much as I can to learn,” Mansour said, who will be coached by USA Team Handball national team assistant coach, Mark Ortega, who was recently appointed head coach for the Volendam women’s team.
Men’s National Team member Alexander Binderis also recently joined the club, which was founded in 1963.
“I think it's the perfect time for me to seize this opportunity with Volendam right now because there won’t be any competitions this fall and I have nothing keeping me in the States,” Mansour said. “I’m trying to make the most of this time. It also ties into the remote work that I’ve established during this pandemic…I can keep doing that in the Netherlands, so it's all coming together, which is really wonderful.”
Mansour adapted her mindset towards content creation as well, developing a new way to continue her projects: remote directing.
Sending her clients cameras, a chest strap, and equipment so that she is connected to them via video call, Mansour is able to walk someone through a shoot from start to finish and capture the footage necessary to properly tell a story.
“If I enable others to create their own content, that's ultimately easier and more financially stable for them,” Mansour said. “That’s been a huge pivot for me with COVID and I'm thankful for this time honestly, because it forced me to shift into a more sustainable model instead of one-off projects.”
Within both her professional and athletic careers, Mansour’s resilient and innovative mindset has helped her turn the current challenges in 2020 into opportunities. She plans to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic stronger and better than ever.
“My dad and sister are both entrepreneurs, so I've always had that entrepreneurial spirit in my blood. That’s actually the main theme I've noticed among beach handball players, is that entrepreneurial spirit you need to have within you to dedicate yourself to a more obscure sport like this,” Mansour said.
“Knowing that it's going to be a struggle, knowing that the focus is not only competing and representing your country, but also having that huge responsibility of promoting your own sport. It’s multi-faceted, but it’s that drive and that spirit…it’s so inspiring to me that people around the world are pursuing their passion for beach handball through an entrepreneurial lens.”