In 2015, Auburn University became the home
Auburn receives students from all over the country and internationally who are interested in playing for the handball team. In addition to students, the team receives players who live and work in the Auburn community.
Handball is a growing sport played indoor or outdoor. The Olympic team primarily focuses on indoor handball.
Each year in handball is an alternating year for the official men’s or women’s team, with this year being the women’s competition year.
When Auburn became the handball residency program home, many new faces joined the community. Among these were students and players from across the country.
Sarah Gascon was an Olympic athlete long before discovering handball. Having grown up playing many sports, Gascon was always athletic, though handball was not on her radar.
“I played multiple sports, basketball, volleyball, softball, baseball,” Gascon said.
As a college student, Gascon continued her love of sports by playing collegiate level volleyball,
“Back in 2004, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” Gascon said. “I tried out for USA Volleyball and ended up making the USA Volleyball, one of their collegiate teams. We went to
Gascon was an Olympian before finishing her senior year of college.
After this, Gascon was contacted to join the USA Women’s Baseball team. After making the team, they were able to win a gold medal at World Championships.
“I was first introduced to team handball back in ’03 when I was at USA Volleyball tryouts and that sparked my interest,” Gascon said.
After the baseball World Championship win, Gascon tried out for USA Team Handball in 2005. This led to moving to Portland, New York.
The team did not qualify for Beijing in 2008 and Gascon was located in New York for a couple of years.
“I knew that I still wanted to play, and I was still playing for USA baseball. So I was training for USA Baseball and USA team handball at the same time…I never really stopped training,” Gascon said.
While home for her was in California, she’s lived in New York, Pennsylvania, Poland and now Auburn in order to compete in the sport.
Time off was needed for rehab due to injuries, though Gascon still wanted to train for USA handball.
The call to move the team to Auburn came in 2013 and Gascon was more than willing.
“To me, nothing could beat my dreams and goals which is representing my country and being an Olympic athlete,” Gascon said.
Gascon trains in Auburn and acts as the USA team handball’s captain.
Ian Pinson joined the Junior Nationals Team in 2011 and after playing with them for a couple of years joined the men’s team in 2014.
Pinson has been playing for the team for three years and will have the opportunity to compete again in the men’s season in 2018.
Being able to wear Team USA gear or claim a spot on the team is very rewarding, Pinson said.
“I would love to be able to stay around until 2028 and play in the LA Olympics,” Pinson said. “I’m from LA, and so being able to play in front of my home state and home city, I think that would be a lot of fun.”
Despite a fear of being pushed out by younger athletes, Pinson hopes to attend the
Pinson and Gascon both remarked on how difficult it can be to find new players for handball since it is a lesser known sport.
“We’re always looking for players and there are opportunities to then try out for the national team,” Roberts said.
Roberts said that the women had their Nor.Ca., ‘North American and Caribbean Championships’, in March and placed second. They then qualified for the Pan-American Championships in June which were held in Argentina. The women’s team placed fifth, leaving them unable to advance to World’s in December for this year.
The men’s team will compete this upcoming year in 2018 and their goal is to place top three or win Pan-American Championships in June so they can advance to Worlds.
The last time the handball team competed in the Olympics was in 1996 when held in Atlanta.
“The reward at the end is that I get to stand up, listening to my national anthem and I get to play a sport that I love,” Gascon said.