Above: Thomas Barrett talks about the sport of handball
Most dreams of being an Olympian are dashed when you don’t make your middle school track team or that, despite hours of laps in the pool, you lack the genetics (and height) of Michael Phelps. Or perhaps you rival Phelps’ height, but that made it hard for you to master your back handspring during gymnastics or to precariously balance on a balance beam.
So, dreams crushed, most people settle for eating ice cream and watching the opening ceremonies, secretly nursing their “what ifs” as they gaze upon the athletes taking selfies in Sochi and London.
But the opportunity is alive for Auburn students. You can still be an Olympian – if you can manage learning a new sport.
“It’s the most American sport you've never heard of,” added Thomas Barrett, member of the club team.
Maurice created the club handball team when the United States Olympic Committee announced that it would create a residency and training program for the men and women’s national handball teams at Auburn University.
“I thought it was really important that we rally around these Olympic athletes in Auburn,” said Maurice. “We wanted to show them that the community supported them, so Campus Recreation approved us as a club sport and the School of Kinesiology supported us as a club."
To start on your journey of becoming an Olympian, follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Join the Club Handball team
“No one has known how to play before joining,” said Maurice, “so don’t let that stop you.” The Club Handball team is a fun club sport, even for those that don’t want to be Olympians.
Club handball practices are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 3-5 p.m. in the Wellness Center, with an extra practice or a scrimmage on Sunday from 2–3 p.m. in the Coliseum.
As a member of the club handball team, you will have plenty of time to learn the game in practices and playing against other club teams. “We’re hosting College Nationals this year,” said Maurice. “Almost 20 teams will be here in Auburn – it’s a great opportunity for us to showcase our team and Auburn University.”
To join the club team, contact Maurice Godwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The national team has tryouts every two months,” said Maurice. “Anyone can try out – they mostly look for overall fitness, arm strength and ball skills. We are so basketball, baseball and football focused, but when we learn the sport, we could dominate it internationally.”
Thomas Barnett, a junior in radio, television and film, attended one of the open tryouts on a whim and was invited to join the club team after a callback. “Last summer my friend sends me an email saying Team USA (handball) is having tryouts to judge new talents, so I went and got a callback from Coach Cuesta,” said Thomas. “And from there, Coach Reita Clanton contacted me to join the Auburn club team.”
John Evans actually transferred to Auburn University when he was invited to the residency program after an open tryout. “They said I had to come to Auburn, so here I am,” said John. “I’m working on joining the men’s national team, which should happen soon hopefully, and then focus on qualifying for the 2016 Olympics.”
The next open tryout is March 15, 2014, in Auburn, Ala. For more information, contact USA Team Handball coaches Christian Latulippe (women’s) at Christian@usateamhandball.org or men’s national team coach Javier Garcia at email@example.com.
Step 3: Be Invited to the Residency Program
After practicing with the Club Handball team and doing well at open tryouts, the USA Team Handball Team may invite you to join the residency program at Auburn University.
“The residency program is a way for the teams to practice every night year-round,” said Maurice. “It helps to build team chemistry before going to play as a team. It’s helpful to be around Olympic-level athletes and coaches.”
Step 4: Make the National Team
If you make the residency program and dedicate time to improving your handball skills, USA Team Handball may ask you to join either the men’s or women’s national team for handball. You will continue to practice with the team, and work as a team to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Step 5: Go to the Olympics
The USA Team Handball hopes to qualify and attend the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. If chosen as part of the national team that qualifies for the games, you will represent the United States as an Olympian!
But even if you don’t see yourself being an Olympian, club handball could be the place for you. “It’s just really fun,” said Maurice. “The fact that we even have USA Team Handball here is incredible – we just want to be sure Auburn knows about it.”
For more information about club handball, contact Maurice Godwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.