Mongomery County, eyeing a federal golden egg, has come up with the area's first plan to spur interest in some minor Olympic sports.
The county Recreation Department has drawn up a 47-page proposal to get residents involved in games like archery, water polo and team handball.
The hope is that federal funds can be tapped to help implement the plan, which has the backing of County Executive James Gleason and the County Council. The President's Commission on Olympic Sports last year decided the nation should expand facilities for minor Olympic sports. If Congress approves, $215 million initially could be available for plans like Montgomery's.
The Montgomery study calls for a grass-roots approach with cooperation from the county school system.
The goal of producing Olympic athletes in the minor sports is secondary, the report said. The Montgomery proposal emphasized using the appeal of Olympic sports to promote a general health and recreation program.
The report names 19 Olympic sports and proposes immediate implementation of 12 - archery, boxing, distance running, fencing, gymnastics, judo, swimming, team handball, track and field, volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.
It calls for later implementation of canoeing and rowing, cycling, diving, equestrain sports, field hockey, water polo and winter Olympic sports.
County Recreation Director Neil Ofsthun said success of the plan will depend on other area jurisdictions implementing similar programs. But he said the Montgomery program will begin regardless of whether federal funds are available.
The Montgomery program has expectations of basic self-sufficiency through participant fees for classes, clubs and competition.
The National Recreation and Park Association is expected to use the Montgomery setup as a prototype for implementation of similar plans elsewhere in the nation.
Ofsthun assigned staff members to study each sport and report on equipment and facilities needed, qualifications for national and international competition, current status of each sport in the county and implementation plans.
In many cases, the study found that potential facilities exist but that the public is largely unaware of them or of the sport itself.
Team handball is an example. It is one of the fastest team sports, according to the study, and is played with seven-member teams in a format like water polo, but on a basketball court.
It is called team handball because the offensive players pass or dribble the ball with their hands until there is a shooting opportunity. The game is played in two 30-minute halves; a normal game usually results in 10 to 20 goals. The ball is slightly smaller than a volleyball.
At its highest level of play the sport was described by one participant as "organized mayhem."
The Montgomery report notes:
"There are 50 junior/senior high schools in Montgomery County that have indoor space suitable for instructional team handball. There are more than 50 outdoor fields that could facilitate a team handball program. The indoor facility would be the basketball courts and the court design would be overlapped to play team handball."
The Montgomery County proposal suggests a pilot program for team handball with promotion and demonstration of the sport and creation of youth and adult leagues, with participation in the 1978 Youth Handball Federation championships.
The proposal also calls for cooperation of the schools, recreation departments and clubs in promoting and improving activities already offered, such as archery. Archery currently is offered in a haphazard, low-key program in which participation is minimal.
The recreation department reported that it has offered five classes in archery but in only one were there enough participants to start the class. The others were canceled. When the county scheduled an archery tournament it was canceled because there were no entires.