How the U.S. U19 Team Won with People
Every morning, when Nick Myers walks to his office at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on the campus of The Ohio State University, he passes by a wall etched with a simple quote from the building's namesake: "Win with People."
"It's so simple, yet it really resonates," said Myers. "You have to surround yourself with great people."
That's exactly what Myers focused on when he began his plan to build the 2016 United States U19 men's lacrosse team, which will be honored for its world championship during a ring ceremony on Saturday night at the new US Lacrosse headquarters and national team training facility. From the coaching staff to the support staff to the players, Myers focused on finding the right people, and feels blessed to have met many new people along the way.
It started with Skip Lichtfuss, the head coach at Hanover College, who is the US Lacrosse Men's National Team Subcommittee Chair. The National Lacrosse Hall of Famer has a long history in the sport, having played and coached for Team USA, but Myers path had never crossed with him before this journey.
"He was a part of my interview and was one of the first people I met," said Myers. "Skip is someone I will cherish moving forward for the way he allowed me to share the vision for this particular team, and then for the way he supported this particular coaching staff throughout the process."
There were many more. He got to coach with his brother, Pat, and childhood friend Peter Toner, both current Division I assistants at Penn and Penn State, respectively. The staff included John Jez, who has won a pair of national championships at LIU Post., and high school coaches Chuck Ruebling (Delbarton, N.J.) and Bill Leahy (LaSalle, Pa.), who combined have won more than 900 games in their careers.
"This was the first staff with college coaches, but this really was a blended presence," said Myers, who will be a presenter at the US Lacrosse Convention in Baltimore from Jan. 20-22, 2017.
They put together and developed a team of talented and star players, and got them to accept new roles. Two of them were featured on the cover of the Lacrosse Magazine issue that celebrated the championship.
Go inside the helmets of Team USA players to see the game from a new perspective.
"The cover of the magazine was very fitting," said Myers. "The cover of the magazine is our blue midfield line, which is two guys that were defensive midfielders for us – Terry Lindsay and Austin Sims. To me, those are guys that you love to glorify and put on a pedestal. Austin Sims was the only guy with two years of college experience on the team. He was a leader for Princeton and one of their leading scorers. For us to say, 'Hey Austin, you're going to play defensive midfield' and him to embrace that role and be captain of this team was really to me indicative of who we were as a group. It was very humbling to see people to make those sacrifices."
The sacrifices were needed as host Canada tested Team USA to the limit in the championship game. Canada scored the first six goals of the game, maintained that six-goal lead at halftime, and still led by three with under nine minutes to play. The U.S. rallied for four straight goals, taking the lead for the first time all night on Ryan Conrad's game-winner with eight seconds to play.
More than a year-and-a-half of work coming through in one defining moment is something that still sticks with the coach.
"That feeling on the field following the game," said Myers. "I've been a part of some conference championships at Ohio State and some incredible wins and moments. Through my athletic career I was never fortunate enough to win a national championship at the college level, but to win a championship and just see the sheer joy on those young men's faces and our staff and to do it in a way that we felt we could be really proud of."
Myers' plan on the field came to fruition, but so did the experience that he was hoping for off the field when he pursued the opportunity to represent his country.
"It hits you in different moments, said Myers. "The obvious is when the national anthem is being played. But hearing the Iroquois anthem, and going to practice one of the first days and having Team Mexico ask if they could stick around and get a picture with us and asking for autographs. You come home with a better sense of community and how important our role here in the United States to be great ambassadors in the growth on a global level."
Myers certainly felt pressure to bring home a gold medal for his country, but the experience also gave him the opportunity to hit pause on the daily pressure of being a Division I head coach, and take a larger look at the sport.
"That was a real takeaway. You get so focused in your Ohio State world for me and what we need to do to be better here at Buckeye lacrosse, this was a chance for me to really open my eyes on what some of the passion that US Lacrosse is focused on."
comments powered by Disqus