Stefan Bögel has been a handball players’ agent since 1995, working all around Europe to help players of all nationalities find opportunities with professional handball clubs.
In 2019, he began working with Forum Club Handball, with one of the program's goals being is to find opportunities for USA Team Handball’s athletes with well-established, professional European teams.
The idea is simple: in order to get American handball players to the next level of skill and competition in a short period of time, they need to train with the best.
“We’re only in the first year of the FCH program, but I would say, in this short period of time, the players have developed quite well. Drew Donlin with the Spanish team Ademar León and Rene Ingram with the Swedish team IFK Kristianstad, for example, they've made great progress and have tremendous potential,” Bögel said. “We definitely need to work on finding more women and female athletes from the U.S. to integrate into this program. I hope we will make more progress on that in the future. But overall, the program is working very well.”
One of the program’s recent successes is 15-year-old Polish American, Tristan Morawski, who just signed with German club SG Flensburg-Handewitt and will begin playing for its U17 team in August.
Flensburg competes in the Handball-Bundesliga and its youth teams have been German champions for the last two seasons.
Morawski, who was born in New York and has lived in five countries, was exposed to handball from a very young age. His father, Tomasz, played for Poland’s national team, as well as a number of professional clubs, including KS PGE Vive Kielce.
“Since I was a very small kid, I've always wanted to play in the Olympics. I really wanted to play handball professionally, like my dad, and carry on the legacy that he left behind,” Morawski said, who is 6 foot 6 inches tall and has been playing for the club ETSV 09 Landshut with his younger brother Kailan, who turns 13 in the fall.
“I was very excited, happy and nervous to hear that I would be getting a contract with Flensburg. I'm really looking forward to becoming a part of their academy. My dad has done a great job of getting me ready for this — if he hadn't trained me, I would not be ready for the intensity of the training.”
Morawski gained some critical experience earlier this year, playing with the U.S. youth and junior men's team and getting coached by U.S. Men's Senior National Team head coach, Robert Hedin. He was the youngest member of the 15-man roster, competing at the 30th annual Sauerland Cup in Menden, Germany in January.
“I felt a lot of excitement when we were standing on the court, representing the United States. There were a lot of people there cheering for us, I remember seeing these little girls banging on these drums and chanting ‘America’,” Morawski said. “The Sauerland Cup was a really good experience for me and I felt like I was in a second family because everyone on the team was really caring. I really want to thank Coach Hedin for believing in me, it's an honor to have been coached by him. I also got to learn from Sebastian [Wheeler] and Brody [Wide] and I think they’re both very motivated, skilled and dedicated to handball.”
Morawski isn’t the only player from USA Team Handball who will be at Flensburg. Men’s National Team veteran Ty Reed is going into his second season there, placed through the FCH program as well.
“Flensburg has been an amazing experience for me, as it’s one of the best developmental programs in Germany, and that is very clear by the professionalism of everyone involved with the club. From court training to weight training to diet and nutrition, Flensburg checks all the boxes and is one of the coolest handball cultures I’ve encountered during my career,” Reed said.
“The FCH program has done an incredible job of allowing opportunities that I would not have had otherwise, and I’m excited for Tristan to be getting involved with a program like Flensburg. I think it can only benefit his handball future.”
Morawski will soon be moving 1,000 kilometers, or 10 hours, away from home to start his training with Flensburg. But he’s looking forward to the move and to more opportunities with the U.S. national team in the future.
“I am really excited to think about what’s to come, in terms of getting to the next level and trying to become one of the best. I do have a goal to be the best player at my position and compete for Team USA in the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics, which would be a huge honor for me," Morawski said.
I’m also really excited to play with the guys on the team again, and I’m really missing them right now. Hopefully we’re able to compete together again soon; but for now, I can't wait to move in and I’m excited to start as soon as possible.”
Bögel is looking forward to seeing Morawski's development in the near future.
"I predict that he'll be a very good handball player after a number of years at Flensburg," Bögel said. "This is a huge step for Tristan."