Analysis of Selected Physical and Performance Attributes of the United States Olympic Team Handball Players: Preliminary Study

During the Spring of 1995, prior to the Olympic Games in Atlanta, the United States Team Handball team and coaches came to the United States Sports Academy in Daphne, AL for testing. Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich, president of the U.S. Team Handball Federation, and the president of the United States Sports Academy hosted the testing at the Alabama campus. Testing of the athletes consisted of laboratory tests of maximum oxygen uptake, computerized strength measures, blood tests, etc., and a battery of field tests that included assessments of physical characteristics, and physical performance components. This paper reports the results of the field test battery.
Skills test batteries have been used in physical education and in sport to assess various components of the skills of players. These assessments served the teacher and coach to determine a player’s level of ability, or their progress, weaknesses and strengths. These test batteries for sports performance usually dealt with the physical fitness components like strength and endurance, or the motor skills components, like speed, agility, power, or accuracy.

Batteries of tests for team handball have not been developed in the United States. The purpose of this investigation was to construct a team handball test battery that would be reflective of the skills, abilities, physical fitness components and anthropometric factors that contribute to high levels of performance, and to establish a database of performances by the National Team Handball players. Additional purposes for developing the test included using the test to screen potential players at the National level, to provide teachers in the schools and colleges with tests that are inexpensive and easy to administer, and to provide self-administered tests that would train the athletes to improve their performance in team handball.

The United States National Handball team came to the United States Sports Academy in Daphne, Alabama for testing in June of 1995 prior to the Atlanta Olympic Games. There were 20 players in attendance. Their ages ranged from 22.01 to 31.73 years with an average age of 26.69 years (sd = 2.94).

Test Selection and Procedures
The coaches and this investigator discussed the test items and agreed that they were relevant to the sport. The test items included:

  1. Anthropometric measurements: height, weight, hand breadth, arm length, and arm span
  2. Hand grip strength
  3. Running speed: 20 m dash
  4. Vertical jump: take-off of dominant leg with one step, non-dominant leg with one step, and both legs
  5. Accuracy throw: a 7 m throw at a automobile tire hanging vertically from the goal. 2 points for shots through the center, 1 point for hitting the tire but not passing through the center. The player had 10 throws.
  6. 50 m dribble test: Five cones are placed in a straight line with 5m between each cone. Player runs 25m, passing each cone alternately on the right and left sides, then goes completely around the last cone and returns to the start line alternating as before. The ball is dribbled once per cone.
  7. Jump and throw test: A volleyball net 2.44 m high placed 7 m from the goal with a tire hanging vertically from the top of the goal. The bottom of the tire rested on the floor. The player had 10 throws. Two points were awarded for hitting the tire or passing through the center and 1 point for passing through the goal mouth.
  8. Endurance test: Four tires are placed on the corners of a basketball court that has the dimensions of 15.24 m by 25.61 m. The player runs diagonally on the first leg, then along the short side, then diagonally again, and then returns to the start. This constitutes one lap. The runner runs 10 laps for a total of 900m; 90 m per lap.

The results of the anthropometric testing are shown in table 1. The data for the skills tests are shown in tables 2 and 3. The mean vertical jump for the dominant leg was 54.03 cm (21.27 in), the non-dominant leg was 46.72 cm (18.39 in), and for both legs was 62.15 cm (24.47 in). This is higher than vertical jumps of 52.8 cm (20.8 in) for professional soccer players (Raven, Gettman, Pollock, & Cooper, 1976), 53.3 cm (21 in) for college basketball players (Noble & Maresh, 1979), but less than 67.0 cm (26.4) for elite men volleyball players (Gladden & Colaccino, 1978). Olympic men’s volleyball players were tested doing the vertical jump with a 4-step approach, as in a spike approach and averaged 94.2 cm (37.1 in). This approach run was estimated to add 10.2 to 15.4 cm (4 to 6 in) higher than the standing position vertical jump off of both legs (McGown et al., 1990). The maximum height reached when the player took off from the dominant leg was 3 m (9 feet, 10.1 in), the non-dominant leg was 2.92 m (9 feet, 7 in), and both legs was 3.08 m (10 feet, 1.26 in).

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