Handball Star Henning Fritz Asks: Can the Sport Make it in the USA?

Jun 15, 2017

Henning Fritz (center) with members of the DC Diplomats handball team Enlarge image Henning Fritz (center) with members of the DC Diplomats handball team (© Germany.info / Tanya Jones) Tens of thousands of screaming fans hang on every point of the lighting-fast, high-scoring, physically demanding sport of handball—in Europe, South America, and other parts of the world.

In America, meanwhile? Not so much.

Could handball ever make it big in America?

World-class German handball star Henning Fritz—the 2004 European and 2007 world champion, and the first goalie ever to win the IHF World Player of the Year title—is here to find out.

On a recent visit to the German Embassy Washington, Fritz debated the question with representatives of the Washington area’s premiere handball club: the DC Diplomats.

The team’s name is fitting—not because the players are diplomats, but because they hail from around the world. What brings them together is a palpable passion for the sport—the intensity, the physicality, the athletic challenge combined with mental strategy.

Give Kids Perspective

“It’s very difficult to win new spectators” in the U.S., says Fritz. An exhibition game in New York brought together some top Yugoslav players, but the fans were mainly family members.

To make handball grow in America, It’s clear—Henning Fritz and the DC Diplomats agreed—young kids need to be given a perspective.

“Today there’s not a lot of summer camps [offering handball]—it’s not as represented in schools either,” says Mila Manevska, president of the DC Diplomats. “So it really has to come from adults who enjoy the sport, who play the sport and invest that time to teach and develop the youth.”

There is, however, a higher-level competition, especially on the East Coast, where a league includes teams from Boston to the University of Virginia to West Point. This U.S. handball community, if perhaps receiving support from European sponsors, clubs and fans, might be able to grow the sport in the States.

“Americans say handball is cool, but the rules are too hard,” says Fritz. “Maybe we need simpler rules, like in soccer. I think it’s a chance.”

By Jacob Comenetz, Cultural Affairs Officer, German Embassy Washington

© Germany.info