20 Nov. 2019
The American Samoa Handball Association are working hard to promote handball in schools and for young people, with tailored programmes per age group and a long-term focus on developing national team athletes.
While American Samoa are working hard to continue developing their national teams for both beach and indoor handball, the Oceania nation are also focused on promoting the sport in schools and reaching more young players. Presently, the American Samoa Handball Association are strategically concentrating their efforts on one school, which feeds into three different high schools.
“We do not qualify for the IHF Handball at School Program for various reasons, however we like and believe in the concept so we modified and created our own version,” explains ASHA President Carl J Sagopolutele Floor Sr. “This marks our third year providing physical education classes for this school. It has been very successful, as we see an increase in handball activities and players who now attend various high schools.”
The programme began following the 2014 IHF Trophy – Oceania, one year after ASHA became a full member of the IHF. “With handball being a new sport, I thought it would be smart to bring one of the directors from the Department of Education’s physical education department to witness the game. After witnessing the game, he informed me that he would like to partner up with American Samoa handball to help combat the obesity problem we have on our Island. He agreed with me that the skills and fundamentals of handball would be perfect. Of course, I also found it a great way to recruit new players.”
Some members of the men’s national squad are involved in physical education in schools, which helps the ASHA to identify students who might be interested in pursuing handball further. However, one of the key challenges for ASHA is the fact that there are not dedicated PE teachers in all schools on the island. Therefore, Sagopolutele Floor Sr joins forces with the teachers to run school sessions.
“The biggest thing we take from the IHF handball at school program is the motto ‘Fun, passion and health’. These three things help me recruit more players for our handball program. We also translated the handball at school book into the Samoan Language, which really helps the teachers and students,” says Sagopolutele Floor Sr.
“We feel that we are about two years away from being able to have a full-blown high school programme. We still need referee and coaching seminars and classes, and most of all, interested personnel.”
Each week, ASHA also runs a handball for fun programme, where there is a mix between indoor and beach handball, depending on attendance.
“Any age, any gender – who wants to play semi-organised handball games can show up and enjoy the great sport of handball.”
A key focus is on boys and men, as the women’s America Samoa teams are developing rapidly and there is a need for the situation in men’s handball to follow. “American-style football is hard to compete with. This is evident in our boys programme not being a strong as our girls programme. We have found recently that more and more boys are attending our after school trainings and our handball for fun programme. To help combat American football, we charge no registration fee for any athlete who wants to be part of our handball programme.”
The ASHA generally mixes the rules of beach handball and indoor handball, depending on the age group. For younger players, beach handball rules are favoured. With children currently in grades four and five as well as those in grades eight and nine, beach handball is the clear focus, as these are the age groups that will aim to reach the 2022 and 2026 Youth Olympic Games.
In total, there has been a 200% rise in young player registrations in American Samoa. Those figures include the formation of an U12 girls team, comprised of girls from three different school years, who are now training and fundraising with the goal of participating in the 2020 Partille Cup.
PHOTO: American Samoa Handball Association