USA Team Handball IHF Pan Am Handball

In May of 2015, USA Team Handball officially decided to start an international beach handball program under the direction of former Olympic USA Team Handball player and coach Dennis Berkholtz. On the day the program was announced, former USA National Team player for indoor handball Mike Hinson, approached Dennis about starting a program and coaching a team based out of Southern California. Coach Hinson, having played beach handball for 14 years, knew about beach handball and believed the United States could put together a team that could compete at the highest level pretty quickly. In September of 2015, USA Team Handball announced Mike Hinson as the first coach of the USA Men Beach Handball Team. Based out of Hermosa Beach California, Coach Hinson began recruiting athletes from all different athletic backgrounds. He brought in a former 2012 Olympic goalie from USA Water Polo. He brought in a Dodgeball World Champion, several current and former USA Team Handball players, a former Division 1 Quarterback, a former division 1 Basketball Center and a current collegiate Lacrosse player, among others. Most had never played the sport before but he chose them all for a specific reason. In January of 2016 training for the Pan American Championships began. Coach Hinson and the players had three months to learn the game and come together as a team. In March of 2016 the USA Men went down to Venezuela in their first ever competition of any kind. Top 2 teams from the tournament would advance to the World Championships. The tournament featured several high-level programs with years of experienced players. Starting the tournament off 1-3 they were in a must win against Ecuador to advance to the medal round. This is where the US team was truly born. The defense held Ecuador scoreless for the first 6 minutes of the match and defeated them in two sets. Next they faced the undefeated #1 seed and host country Venezuela who was ranked #7 in the world in the semi-finals. Splitting the sets 1-1, the US won on the last shot in shootout to advance to the gold medal game. Facing defending Pan American Championship Silver medalists Uruguay, they once again split sets 1-1 and again won on the last shot in shootout to claim the Gold Medal.

By winning the Pan American Championships, the USA team qualified into the 12-team field of the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Being their first World Championships, the international expectations were not high for any success. In the first game of the tournament, the USA Team shocked the international handball world by defeating the #5 team in the world, Ukraine in straight sets. Needing one more win in the next 4 games to qualify into the top 6, USA fell just short against defending World Champion Brazil, lost a close game against defending bronze medalist Qatar, then lost 2 extremely tight shootouts against Egypt and Bahrain. Finishing out of the medal rounds, USA then lost a close shootout to Oman and finished the tournament with an emotional win against Australia in the rain.

In 2017, with no official international competitions scheduled, the USA team flew to Brazil, the Czech Republic and France and competed in tournaments against the Norwegian, French and German National teams along with some other local club teams. In 2018, The United States hosted the 2018 Pan American Championships in Oceanside, CA where our men recorded a 5-1 record en route to a Bronze Medal and qualification for the 2018 World Championships in Kazan, Russia where the men finished in 12th place. 

After earning the attention and respect of the international handball community, the instantaneous success of USA Beach Handball has changed the outlook of the sport throughout the world. Countries from Asia, South America, Africa and Central America now believe that countries can compete and win against the historically strongest teams in the world. The International Handball Federation (IHF) has now made it a priority to develop the sport. The IHF replaced the indoor sport of team handball with beach handball in the 2018 Youth Olympic Games hosted in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Olympic Committees from across the world have seen the success of beach sports and beach handball in particular and have made beach handball a priority sport in the first ever World Beach Games which was awarded to and will take place in Doha, Qatar in October of 2019, an event our men qualified for after winning every set in an undefeated championship run at the 2019 North American and Caribbean (NORCA) Beach Handball Championships in Chaguanas, Trinidad & Tobago. Winning that inaugural NORCA Championship also qualified our men for the 2020 World Championships in Pescara, Italy.

With a new found energy given the growth of the sport in the United States, Birmingham, Alabama was awarded the largest Olympic style event outside of the Olympic Games - the World Games which will once again feature beach handball in 2021. Countries from around the world are supporting the sport in the United States with top programs from Qatar, Brazil, and Spain participating in joint training camps with the USA team; the Asian, South American, and European Champions respectively. The success of the USA Beach Handball Team has ignited a worldwide movement for the growth of the sport with a concentration of world class events the United States will participate in over the next 3 years. The potential for the USA Beach Handball team is enormous and only continues to grow as the sport explodes worldwide!