IOA Sports Partners, the organization that was formed by the Insurance Office of America’s president and CEO Heath Ritenour to assist teams, leagues, and other sporting related business partners with comprehensive business solutions, recently announced that the planned 2020 USA Team Handball National Championship has been canceled.
This decision was made by both IOA Sports Partners and USA Team Handball in an effort to minimize the risks that would be associated with maintaining operations and games during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Though this decision was a difficult one to make, it ultimately will prove to be beneficial to all players and fans, as the safety of each individual is a top priority in these uncertain times.
Instead of dwelling on the championship’s cancellation, the USATH is dedicating its focus on returning next season in 2021 and ensuring that all of its clubs and members are given up-to-date information via their channels for digital media and their newsletter. Clubs that made registration payments will be reimbursed within the next couple of weeks as a result of this cancellation.
2021 Season Return to Play Plan
The USATH has dedicated themselves to creating a return to play plan that is both realistic and safe. All of the following USATH return to play guidelines are heavily based on guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other recommended health and safety restrictions.
- Players should not participate in public Handball games with others if they possess any of the key indicators that they may have coronavirus — or if they have encountered anyone known to have the coronavirus within the past two weeks.
- Players should not participate in public Handball games with others if they are immunocompromised.
- Players should self-isolate for at least 14 days, or for seven days if they have been tested twice, before making plans to travel with their teammates to play Handball games against other teams.
- Players and clubs are recommended to follow the previously mentioned guidelines, along with any new guidelines that have been released by the CDC.
The USATH’s return to play guidelines are recommendations, not mandates. While players are strongly recommended to follow them, the guidelines will not be strictly enforced.
Getting to Know USA Team Handball
USA Team Handball, also known as USATH, is the only official organization that has been acknowledged to reside over the Olympic sport Team Handball in the United States. This organization is responsible for professionally managing handball at a national level, ensuring that teams are formed and trained and that other everyday operational requirements are fulfilled.
The mission statement and goals of the USATH include generating excitement, awareness, and interest in handball by developing the sport into a nationally recognized, official structure comprised of organized teams that compete against each other. Within this structure, teams will be organized at both the national and local levels, much like other national sports leagues. USATH ultimately wishes to popularize the sport among Americans, encouraging people of all ages to get out and play Team Handball.
USA Team Handball-Verizon Sponsorship
In January 2020, USATH made an official announcement that they would be partnering with the major phone company Verizon with the potential to extend the relationship until the end of 2024. As the official jersey sponsor for Team Handball, Verizon will integrate their logo into the designs of all USATH player uniforms. Furthermore, all of Team Handball’s future events, tournaments, and championships will now be “Powered by Verizon.” This partnership is expected to substantially increase the popularity of Team Handball as a sport, as Verizon is capable of providing the necessary funds to both create new events/tournaments and promote these events.
Handball’s U.S. Growth and Olympic Aspirations
Securing a partnership with Verizon was the first major step for Team Handball with regards to increasing its chances of becoming a nationally recognized sport. While Team Handball is a relatively well-known Olympic sport in other countries, it has yet to really take off in the United States. Barry Siff, USA Team Handball’s CEO, believes that Handball has the potential to become very popular in the U.S., given that the sport is very fast-moving and easy to understand. Siff is hoping that the sport will gain enough popularity to receive more partnerships from large companies similar to Verizon and thus grow even more.
After consulting with nations where Team Handball is an established sport, Siff received valuable guidance regarding how to build handball’s awareness. USATH’s plan is to start small and slowly build up awareness by integrating handball into schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, and nonprofit organizations. Siff has emphasized the importance of developing a “grassroots network” to popularize the sport. These networks are going to be initiated in cities throughout the U.S., such as Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Los Angeles.
Word of mouth and building up popularity slowly through integration will likely assist in increasing the popularity of handball. As of now, the USATH has developed a relationship with New York Edge, “the region’s largest provider of afterschool programs.” This partnership entails USATH giving schools sporting resources and schools making Handball one of the activities that children can participate in.
All of these previously mentioned efforts will help increase the popularity of Team Handball in the United States, thus improving the chances of a U.S. team qualifying to participate in the Olympics.