Belle Vernon’s Viva Kreis plays high-level international handball with the US national team

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022 | 6:16 p.m.


Viva Kreis took part in a barnstorming training world tour with the American junior and senior handball teams.

The rising Belle Vernon eldest is seeing and bonding with her teammates, with her mother, Mary, by her side as she continues to extend her fledgling playing career.

The trip was also a cultural experience for Kreis.

“The best part of being on Team USA is traveling and playing alongside my amazing teammates,” she said. “In our squad of 17 junior players, we have 14 girls who have dual citizenship of Germany, Norway, Sweden, Mexico, Argentina, Poland, Britain and Canada.

“All attend boarding schools or are part of elite clubs specifically for handball athletes. With them, I discover eight different languages, cultures and traditions on and off the pitch. It is a unique privilege to learn first hand about their countries, their schools, their families and their handball experiences.

Kreis began with a trip to France, where she spent four days and visited the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Sacré-Coeur.

A two-week camp was held at the Maison du Handball.

“We had never seen anything like this before, for any sport,” said Mary Kreis. “The team lived, ate, practiced, attended meetings and video sessions and played. Several legendary French coaches and players gave the team motivational talks and even led training sessions with them.

The players received tickets to attend the Challenge Cup elite championships.

Team USA was the first to visit the Olympic Training Center, which will be open to athletes from the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Viva Kreis has played four matches with her teammates, three against French teams and one against the Moroccan national team. Classified as a junior athlete, she started for the senior team on the left wing.

“My favorite part was the intensive training of handball techniques with my team,” said Viva Kreis. “We have been coached by some of the best coaches and players in France, including Olympians and world champions.”

Handball is like football, only players hold and pass the ball, trying to kick it into the goal. There are seven players on each team.

Kreis was one of four 20-and-under junior players invited to the camp.

After France, Kreis traveled to Budapest, Hungary, for the junior team’s 10-day training camp, ahead of the World Junior Handball Championships which kicked off in Slovenia on Wednesday. Kreis scored a goal in the US team’s opener against Poland.

Mary Kreis has been involved in her daughter’s experiences as a team volunteer.

The Kreises also traveled together to the United States Junior Women’s National event in April in Mexico.

Her duties: “Laundry, cultural event planning, interviews, videography, writing and more,” she said. “I have now been asked to lead the US delegation to represent the team and assist the coaches and primarily to support the players. I am honored to serve in this role – and to have been recognized for my laundry skills and tourist guide.

“It was exciting to see the whole team come together in Hungary and to welcome new members who joined our team from our qualifying competition in Mexico,” said Viva Kreis. “I’m looking forward to growing as a team ahead of the World Championships.”

The Kreises stayed at a handball boarding school on Lake Balaton in Hungary.

“We live in their dorms, eat great meals in their cafeteria, and train on their awesome hardwood handball floors,” Viva Kreis said. “Over the past three weeks, I feel that not only has my performance on the pitch improved, but also my understanding and feeling for the sport. It all falls into place thanks to the quality and quantity of coaching that I received. Three weeks is a long time to do nothing but practice. … I loved every moment of it.

Bill Beckner Jr. is an editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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