UCO hosted the U.S.A Women’s handball team (USAHT) scrimmages, a preliminary selection for the candidates that will represent the U.S., on June 13-14.
During the week of try-outs, the coaches conducted interviews to determine players’ goals, mindset, and long-term plans. Wednesday and Thursday, the women participated in full scrimmages translating their drills into a full play. For a spot on the team, the players went through rigorous handball-specific testing and preliminary tactical evaluations. Among the group, were a variety of women from universities and high schools across the U.S. as well as a handful of European based American athletes, including veteran players and new ones. Twenty athletes, including additional players not present, battled it out for the 15 spots on the USAHT.
Karoline Borg, a likely candidate from Norway, has been playing for 14 years before arriving in the states to play. Her journey to the U.S. national team began two years ago when her family made the decision to contact the USAHT allowing Borg the opportunity to try out for the team.
“There are so many athletes here and most of them come from basketball,” Borg said. “It’s a different style of playing but this past year the skill level has gotten so much better.”
Stephanie Hesser, a seventeen-year-old high school senior from Colorado Springs says she got into the sport because of her mother, a former professional handball player from the Romanian national team. The mother-daughter duo was present on the field during practices. Her mother is the current goalie coach. Hessen, a leftwing on the field, comes from a background of volleyball and basketball, and admits that the level of contact in handball is greater to any other sport she’s played despite the easy transition.
“There is more contact,” Hesser said. “It’s fun but you have to work harder.”
During the season the players have three to four hours a day of handball practice and an additional two days of physical training, which includes lifting and running, according to Technical Director Mariusz Wartalowicz.
“Handball is unique because it requires speed and it’s aggressive,” Borg said.
Handball composes a mix of sports like water polo, lacrosse, soccer, and basketball. It combines the pyramid of athletics: running, jumping, and throwing. Players in consideration will require the qualities of technical and tactical abilities as well as the “silent skills” such as communication skills, stress adversity, and strong leadership, said Wartalowicz.
For a list of athletes who participated visit www.usateamhandball.org .The roster for the Pan American Games will be released later this month. The women selected will participate at the Pan American games in Guadalajara, Mexico later this year. If the team medals, they would qualify for the Olympic Games in London. In the meantime, the players will have a European Tour in August, and the Pan American Games Training Camp at Lake Placid, in September.
According to Wartalowicz, the coaches plan to rebuild the USATH team into a stronger competitor. In recent years, the team has fallen under the radar but with some success in Mexico, they can gain a greater awareness and support for handball in the U.S.
Furthermore, USATH is meeting with UCO officials to discuss restarting a National Team residency program at the university.