USA Team Handball has announced that Robert Hedin has been hired as the interim coach of the USA Men’s National Team. His assignment will continue in the upcoming PANAM Games qualifying games against Canada on September 2 (Auburn) and September 5 (Montreal).
Hedin, 52, is from Sweden and is currently the manager of the club in St Hallvard, a suburb of Oslo, Norway. Hedin has extensive experience, both as a player and a coach. His playing career includes two Olympic silver medals at the 92 and 96 Olympics and his club career included stints in Spain, Germany and Switzerland.
His most notable coaching stint was as head coach of Norway from 2008 to 2014. Club coaching assignments include Melsungen in Germany, Aalborg in Denmark and most recently Bregenz in Austria. At the end of the 2016–17 season, he reportedly returned to Norway at least in part to facilitate his wife’s screenwriting career.
Remark: This is an excellent location for USA Team Handball. Although this is only a temporary assignment, Hedin will have the opportunity to show what he can do as a coach in the 2-game series against Canada. Canada beat USA 33-31 in April and gained valuable experience with their 5th place finish at the Pan American Championships in June, but they are clearly beatable. In my opinion, success will depend on selecting the right players and then training them as a team in a short period of time. It may be far from the kind of challenges a coach faces in a more structured European environment, but it’s the kind of challenge an American coach often faces.
Coach Hedin will have his first opportunity to evaluate some of his players in two weeks with a tryout scheduled for Auburn on July 22. It will be interesting to see which players there pique his interest as well as which dual citizens end up making the roster for the matchup against Canada. And, finally, the team’s performance in the critical 2-game series in September.
A win on aggregate will directly qualify USA for the 2019 PANAM Games. A loss will result in USA playing in a 2n/a lucky tournament against a stronger Chilean team from South America and 2 teams to be determined from Central America and the Caribbean.
Qualifying for the PANAM Games could also lead to talk of erasing the “interim” from Hedin’s head coaching title. But, should that happen, a whole host of other issues would need to be resolved to include salary and job responsibilities. For example, would a permanent head coach address player recruitment and development challenges that are unique to the United States?