While working on the next part of my commentary on whether an austere residency program is better than none at all, I listened again to an interview I conducted with the board member, David Thompson, in May 2010. The interview took place after the town hall meeting at the 2010 Nationals in Las Vegas and focused on the board’s recent decision not to fully fund the events of qualification for Olympic qualification. (Listen for yourself: the podcast is 22 minutes long and the link is at the bottom of the page)
The circumstances are similar, but different in some respects. Funding, then as now, was the problem, but in 2010 the board was only committing to minimal funding. Whereas for 2 years, we have funded a residency program and organized quite a few competitions for our national teams.
What is striking now is to compare the final results in terms of Olympic qualification.
2011: USA Team Handball did as little as possible for our national teams. No residency program, part-time coaches, virtually no preseason games and short training camps. Result: Qualification for the 2011 PANAM Games.
2015: USA Team Handball did everything it could with its meager resources: a full-time residency program, full-time experienced coaches, several preseason games: the result: non-qualification for the 2015 PANAM Games.
And, if you want to go back to 2007, the women’s team failed to qualify for the 2007 PANAM Games despite a residency program for several years in Cortland, NY. And, if you go back even further, the United States qualified for the PANAM Games in 2003 and the men even won a medal.
Yes, if you focus only on the most important benchmark of competitive events related to Olympic qualification, the best results over the past 12 years have occurred when the least resources have been spent.
Of course, I’m skeptical of residency programs, but that kinda scratches my head. I will attribute these surprising results mainly to the other variables at play, such as the quality of competition in those years. The argument against residency programs will never be that they don’t help prepare US national teams. No, the argument is whether they are worth the cost when there are so many other efforts that need financial support.