"If you stage it - they will come" - Mike Cavanaugh

Mike Cavanaugh Coaching his Air Force Team

Mike Cavanaugh Coaching his Air Force Team

Anyone who has ever been involved with US handball knows Mike Cavanaugh, not only for his gentle demeanor, and ability to be a connector of people, but also for his extensive experience in sports management and administration, particularly with team handball.

Mike was born in a small town in Iowa but grew up in Los Angeles. He served two years with the US Army, got his Master’s degree in Kinesiology from UCLA, has been a player & coach of USATH National Team, and served as Competition Director for Team Handball for the LA Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games.

His resume is impressive, and we are happy to chat with him briefly before the first Super Globe qualifier in Lake Placid. 

Share with us that one moment that absolutely made you fall in love with handball? What are your best handball memories as a player, coach, and executive?

Mike Cavanaugh: I was introduced to handball while serving in the Army.  The experience was unforgettable, and in 1971 I was chosen as All-Army, which led to a stint on the Men’s National Team.

I had an honor to represent USA on the 1974 World Championships in East Germany. It was the year Romania won the Gold Medal, beating the host team, while Yugoslavia took 3rd place.

In 1980 I was named Coach of the 1980 Olympic team, but we didn’t participate at Moscow Olympics because USA and many other countries boycotted the games. 

In 1984 I was selected as Competition Director for the Los Angeles Olympic Games and continued serving in this position during '87 Pan Am Games, and '90 Goodwill Games.  At the Beijing Olympic Games and Rio Pan Am Games I also served as Technical Official. 

Another ‘little’ pleasure and honor I cherish is winning the US Elite National Championships as a player in four different decades.

USA Team Handball was the only USA Team to win gold medals for men and women at the '87 Pan Am Games and thus both qualified directly for the Seoul OG.  

USATH in collaboration with the IHF, USOC Lake Placid Center, and The Worlds Handball Club have partnered to organize the NorCa qualifier to the Super Globe 2019 in Saudi Arabia. Due to the separation of Pan Am and NorCa regions this is possible for the first time. How do you see this unfolding in the future? And what does it mean for our USA clubs?

Mike Cavanaugh: The continental split, I think, will allow a lot more opportunities for all regional National Teams and clubs, and thus allow the NorCa athletes to qualify for larger global events like Super Globe. 

In 2015 we did send New York City Team Handball Club to participate at Pan Am Club Championships where they competed against clubs from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile. They represented US well, competed hard and were able to to finish 5th out of 8 clubs. With NorCa region being a separate entity US clubs now they have a better chance to qualify to Super Globe, and this way provide our athletes another opportunity to compete against the best in the world.

You‘ve always supported NYC HC activities domestically and internationally. Do you believe Gotham Boys have what it takes to qualify to the Super Globe 2019? What makes them unique?

Mike Cavanaugh: Yes, I truly believe New York City HC has a chance to qualify to the 2019 Super Globe in Saudi Arabia. They are well organized, well coached, conduct serious preparations, have a vision beyond expectations, and as championship caliber club they are disciplined and conduct themselves with true sportsmanship.

As organizers of the event we want to provide the best conditions for athletes and allow them to compete at the highest level. I am sure that we will see some great quality games in Lake Placid.

Club handball is not that developed in the NorCa region. What do you think respective NGB’s should be doing to help improving the quality, and growing club participation in their regions? Is there any specific plan to help in this direction?

Mike Cavanaugh: If you stage it - they will come. The idea is to establish regular quality events due to the fact there are legitimate clubs in many NorCa nations and continue to build a stronger awareness for the sport.

9-years from now USA will be playing at the 2028 Olympic games in LA. That’s about 8 ½ years to prepare for that guaranteed spot. Can you tell us what exactly do you envision needs to be done in these 8 ½ years for our National Teams to be able to compete at a high level and perform at that high level?

Mike Cavanaugh: As it is with almost all sports in USA, regular appearances on TV will certainly help in reaching talent across the country. We know we have some of the greatest athletes in the world, we just need for these athletes to see our sports on regular basis.

Our goal is to increase the number of clubs at colleges/universities, and provide more playing opportunities for clubs in leagues around the country.

With a better and more focused recruiting I believe we will identify a large pool of athletes who could potentially help represent USA successfully in 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.