Nick Myers, The Kennebunk Kid
If you attended a wedding in central Ohio 13 years ago, there is a better-than-zero chance that Nick Myers pumped the jams as the DJ. It's called making ends meet.
Fresh out of Springfield College in the fall of 2001, Myers was in his first of two years as a volunteer assistant coach at Ohio State. He wanted to be a college coach — and be on staff where his younger brother, Pat, played midfield — but Myers also had to pay off student loans.
In a one-bedroom Columbus apartment, a 21-year-old Myers stored the bulky equipment he handled for A Solid Gold Sound, then busted it out on weekends to make folks twist and shout and get low. He did about 30 weddings, $500 a gig, some middle school dances, even a Sweet 16. Sometimes, in free time at home, he'd crank up the speakers real loud.
"He's a big rap guy," said Peter Toner, a Penn State assistant coach and Myers' lifelong friend. "He would drive around with the speakers booming in the car that you could hear from a half-mile away. That was Nick."
Myers also waited tables for two years at an Outback Steakhouse restaurant. Steady money, which was more than he could say for his other odd job. After assisting then-Ohio State head coach Joe Breschi at morning practices, he sold tchotchkes door-to-door in the afternoons.
"They tell you if you knock on 150 doors, you'll sell 15 of them. But that means you get how many noes?" Myers said. "It was long days. You get a lot of self-reflection. I just kept asking myself, 'Is this what I want to do? What am I doing here?'"
Ohio State coach Nick Myers will lead the U.S. under-19 men's national team at the FIL World Championship in British Columbia this summer. (John Strohsacker)
It started with where he came from. Kennebunk, Maine, is a tourist town — the place where the Bush family has a compound, where lobster rolls and other fresh seafood are plentiful. But Nick and Pat Myers, separated by two years, didn't grow up on waterfront Ocean Avenue, where summer homes can sell for millions.
Their parents, both teachers, divorced each other when the brothers were young. Both remarried teachers. "You don't go into teaching or coaching to make millions of dollars," Pat Myers said.
Pat Myers saved $1,500 to buy his first car, a black Ford truck. It got him to and from Kennebunk High School, but he would not take it on any long trips. "We grew up with a good, modest, humble upbringing that taught us the value of hard work," he said. "Watching our parents get up at 5 and go to work every day and provide for us was important."
"Pizza night was a big deal in our house," Nick Myers said, and really there were two. The boys spent the early part of the week at with their mom, Mim, and stepfather, Charlie Burch. On Wednesday nights through Saturday, they lived with their dad, Fred, and stepmom, both middle-school teachers.
Burch happened to coach the state's public school lacrosse power, Cape Elizabeth High. He introduced Nick and Pat to the game when they were each in fifth grade. They grew Mohawks. Nick often wore a UMass Garber's Gorillas t-shirt, eliciting strange looks from others in Kennebunk, where his mom ran the club lacrosse program out of her house. The boys traveled with the high school team and served as ball boys.
Burch, the son of a former Colby College lacrosse player who also played there, won a combined nine state titles at Cape Elizabeth, and then later at Kennebunk, where for two seasons he coached Pat Myers and Toner, who grew up across the street. Burch now is the coach at the University of New England.
As a player, Nick Myers was much like he is now: a fiery competitor who would not back down from confrontations with a defensemen. It was that way at Kennebunk, where he was a three-sport captain, then at Springfield, where he posted 91 points, the second-highest total in program history, as an All-American his senior year.
Pat Myers, also a high school quarterback, is regarded as one of the top lacrosse players from Maine of his era, along with Jon Thompson (Freeport, Maine), who played at Brown and now is the coach at Amherst. A two-time All-American midfielder, Pat Myers caught the attention of recruiters at Springfield's Peak 200 camp, just like his brother did two years prior. Breschi brought him in as part of Ohio State's first scholarship class in 2000.
Meanwhile, Toner, a defenseman, followed Nick Myers to Springfield. They played two seasons together.
At around the same time — Nick Myers was a junior at Springfield; Pat Myers and Toner were college freshmen — the trio coached together for the first time. No one knew it then, of course, but the Battle of the Hotbeds camp at the University of Delaware in the summer of 2000 was a seminal event that would produce the coaching staff of the U.S. under-19 men's national team 16 years later. Nick Myers was the head coach of a Maine Select team. Pat Myers and Toner were his assistants.
"College kids coaching high school kids," Toner said.
They took vans. Got lost along the way. Argued while going over the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York. During the four-day tournament, "We coached like it was the national championship. We were those guys," Nick Myers said.
College coaches on the recruiting trail, like then-Princeton coach Bill Tierney and Maryland's Dave Cottle, took notice.
Who the heck are these guys from Maine?
Maine Select ultimately sent some players to the next level, like Chris Hitchborn to Delaware and a handful of others to New England Division III schools such as Springfield, Western New England, Keene State and Wheaton, where the coaches had connections.
"I coached D, Pat would coach O and Nick would coach everything, like he still does now," Toner said.
Two years later, Nick Myers had met his future wife, Julie, at school and graduated from Springfield with a degree in sports studies and physical education when he embarked on his college coaching career. He could have taken a teaching and coaching job in New England, but he hit it off with Breschi, who at the time coached Pat Myers, and Breschi offered a volunteer spot at Ohio State. Working with his brother and guys like faceoff man Anthony Kelly, defenseman Greg Bice, Curtis Smith, a big lefty from Victoria, B.C., and Anthony Gilardi, now Towson's offensive coordinator, at practice made him enjoy the mornings.
"When you first feel as a coach you made somebody better, I loved it and kind of craved it," Nick Myers said. "To me, it was teaching guys, but it was through lacrosse. That's how I started to build my philosophy."
It was enough to get him through those long weekday afternoons going door-to-door and weekend nights entertaining revelers.
"Nick is very driven," said Pat Myers, who followed his brother as a volunteer at Ohio State in 2004 and also worked part-time at Outback before getting hired as an assistant coach at Bucknell, Cornell, North Carolina and now Penn. "Certainly that was something that was noted as his younger brother."
After two years as a volunteer, Nick Myers planned to become a graduate assistant at Springfield under longtime coach Keith Bugbee, joining Toner on staff there, when a last-minute call from Butler coach Craig Kahoun came with the offer of a full-time job as a Division I assistant. Two years later, in 2006, Breschi hired him back as a full-time assistant at Ohio State.
"I was in love. This is what I want to do. There was no doubt," Nick Myers said. "I watched Coach Breschi, who is this incredible father and great coach. What I learned from him, as far a balancing family and coaching, is something I'm so grateful for. I love my parents, but that was not something I had seen growing up, in terms of a traditional family that operated at the same time he was coaching at this high level."
When Breschi left Ohio State to replace John Haus at North Carolina in 2008, Myers became the Buckeyes' head coach at age 29. Entering his eighth season this year, he had a 62-50 overall record and led Ohio State to the NCAA quarterfinals twice in the last three seasons, a first for the program.
The U.S. men's national under-19 men's team took on Team Canada in the inaugural Team USA Spring Premiere on Jan. 10 in Bradenton, Fla.
One Saturday morning in November in Columbus, Nick Myers represented both of his current job titles: Ohio State and U.S. U19 head coach. Wearing red, white and blue Nike Team USA gear, he sat behind the desk of in his Ohio State office. "You ready? Let's do it," he said, preparing to give Lacrosse Magazine a tour of the Buckeyes' facilities. "I have six or seven spots I'd like to hit."
In the adjacent meeting room, whiteboards covered the four walls. Players' nameplates were arranged in lineup and depth-chart groupings like a fantasy football draft board. These used to be the Ohio State football offices before the university built a multi-million dollar facility next door.
Later in the day, the 30-member U.S. U19 training team — in town for a training weekend — paced through a jam-packed two-hour practice. Half-field sets, riding, clearing, man-up, man-down. A clock ticked down on the wall inside the Buckeyes' indoor facility. A police siren blared to signal the end of each segment and start of another.
Every practice Nick Myers conducts is scripted by the minute, with scrupulous attention to detail.
"Intense," said goalie Phil Goss, a senior at Deerfield Academy (Mass.) headed to Brown.
Team USA veterans Ryan Boyle, Greg Gurenlian and Rob Pannell were in Columbus to help out with the youngsters. In a sort of fan-boy moment that took him back to Tuesdays spent watching a syndicated lacrosse news and highlights show at his mom and stepfather's house, Myers rushed over to the sideline in the middle of the practice. He started pointing around the field like a kid in a lacrosse candy store.
"You got Ryan Boyle coaching O with my brother, the MLL MVP working on faceoffs."
Then he gestured toward U.S. assistant coach Chuck Ruebling, who has won a New Jersey-record 13 state championships at Delbarton School, general manager John Jez, who has led LIU Post to two NCAA Division II titles and assistant manager Bill Leahy, the all-time winningest high school coach in Pennsylvania.
"Isn't this awesome?"
At a fundraising event later that night, Myers introduced Boyle to speak to the U19 players and their families. He has scoured film of Boyle and often sends YouTube clips of the three-time Team USA attackman to his Ohio State players. "Do you see him command a huddle?" Myers said.
Myers, at the core, is a lax rat. Coaches are known for watching film, yes, but Myers — and his brother Pat — are addicted.
They watched old playoff games on New Year's Eve this year. Their wives, who battle over DVR space with every televised college and pro game, left the brothers their own devices in Nick Myers' basement, as they usually do. They still watch VHS tapes of games, sometimes with their kids. Nick and his wife are parents to 5- and 3-year-old boys. Pat and his wife, Lauren, also have two young children.
"I know there is a machine that converts those to DVDs, but there is something to be said..." Nick Myers said, before getting distracted by the footage he was watching of a mid-2000s Duke team. "It's interesting to see how things trend. They had Matt Danowski, Matt Zash, working on the low wing, exchanging Zack Greer and popping him off the backside. ... I usually fall asleep to it. It keeps your mind around the game."
From left to right: Peter Toner; the Myers brothers when Pat was in high school; and Pat Myers. (John Strohsacker and courtesy of Pat Myers)
The mission in July with the U.S. U19 team will be capturing a gold medal in British Columbia. Last time the championship was contested in 2012 in Finland, the U.S. lost in internationally sanctioned U19 play for the first time, falling to Canada and the Iroquois Nationals in pool play, before avenging both losses in the medal round to win Team USA's seventh U19 world title.
Sixteen years after Myers, Myers and Toner first stood on a sideline together, the trio and the rest of the the U.S. staff will be tasked with reversing a two-year silver-medal slide for Team USA. The 2014 U.S. senior men's and 2015 U.S. U19 women's teams both lost to Canada in gold-medal games.
"For the three of us, three kids from a club program in southern Maine, to be united wearing the red, white and blue is such a blessing," Nick Myers said.
What song will DJ Nick and the Kennebunk Kids play when it's all over this time?
Support the U.S. under-19 men's national team at uslacrosse.org/SupportU19Men.
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