In just one month, the U.S. women’s national team embarks on a journey to capture its third straight gold medal in the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup in England. A majority of players and staff then continue on to debut in the World Games in Poland, an opportunity that they hope will usher lacrosse into the Olympics in the near future.

The heart and hustle of these players are unquestionable, and coach Ricky Fried’s passion and determination to lead these women into a new era for the sport are evident, but behind the scenes, the three U.S. assistants Amy Bokker (Stanford head coach), Liz Robertshaw (Boston University head coach) and Jess Wilk (three-time U.S. gold medalist) know firsthand the time it takes to reach the highest level of excellence, the long-term values and benefits of the U.S. program and the meaning of representing something bigger than yourself, wearing the American flag.

Bokker, Robertshaw and Wilk reflect on their experiences with Team USA in a three-part Q&A blog series, highlighting time, value and meaning.

What value do you see in the U.S. program, whether you’re a player or a coach? 

Bokker:

"The U.S. program is the standard for lacrosse around the world. US Lacrosse has worked so hard to put a developmental program in place and now has a state of the art training facility in place as well. The U.S. program also creates something for these elite athletes to strive for. Our players have been amazing ambassadors for our sport. 

The intangible values that I have gained as a coach are commitment, hard work, communication and respect. For all of us to come in from different programs and be able to bring our ideas together is so fun!"

Robertshaw:

"From a playing perspective, this group of people will expand your game past anything you thought possible. You will be pushed to think and play faster, smarter and with far less ego than you’ve ever been asked to do. I encourage every player to just participate in a tryout and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

From a coaching perspective, this is an amazing opportunity that will challenge you mentally and emotionally beyond many things you’ve done in the past.

  • How do you take the best players in the world and make them individually better?
  • How do you make them a team in such a limited amount of time and with all of the outside pressures and distractions?
  • How do you foster an environment of trust when at the end of most weekends players will be cut?
  • How do you handle telling someone who has poured their heart and soul into the team and done everything you’ve asked, that they won’t be representing the USA at a World Cup?

It’s a roller coaster of emotions as a coach working with this team, but like everyone knows, you go to the park for the roller coasters, not the merry-go-round."

Wilk:

"It is hard not to sound cliché here, but it teaches you the true meaning of team and being a part of something bigger than yourself, with sacrifice, discipline and resilience, pushing yourself and your teammates beyond what you thought you were capable of and being able to apply those things in any facet of your life. 

The U.S. program stresses the concept of giving back to the sport in some capacity and the importance of helping to grow the game of lacrosse. 

I also think that most people that have been involved with the program would tell you that at the end of the day it is all about the relationships that are formed."

What benefits do you see in establishing a pipeline within the U.S. program?

Bokker:

"My current assistant, Cookie Carr, who is a USA defender, is reading “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. If you have read that book, you know what I’m talking about when I say I’m a connector. We haven’t pin-pointed what Cookie is yet, but I’m glad I have the connection with her as a player and a coach. 

I think connections and relationships are some of the greatest things in life. The U.S. program has been a great way to establish new connections and develop amazing relationships. I hope I have mentored players within the program to give back and coach in some capacity or officiate.

We’ve had many of the players come to work camps out West and then they want to move here, which helps expand and grow the game. We constantly talk about how great the U.S. program is to our current Stanford team, again blending, hoping they will try out and see for themselves." 

Robertshaw:

"I think pipelines are important because they show trust and appreciation for what the U.S. team is doing and wanting to have a continued experience. In that regard, I think alumni players who coach absolutely should encourage their players to tryout as well as seek to be coaches for the under-19 and senior teams.

I think establishing a way for all former players and coaches to stay connected could also be one of the best ways to foster this continuity of the U.S. program – be it newsletters, a yearly women’s national team event for current and former players at the final four or National Tournament, and/or holding a yearly alumni game to keep the feeling of a lifelong bond present. There are some great ways to really build the pipeline.

Now, I will also say I am very thankful that US Lacrosse is also willing to look past former national team experience if they feel coaches can help the program. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be on staff to have that gold medal sitting in my office from 2013!"

Wilk:

"The continuity of some of the core values, tactics and concept of team are so important within the program.

Sue Heether and Wendy Kridel really worked to create an invaluable pipeline between the U.S. U19 team and the senior team, and Ricky Fried has continued to foster that with the past two U19 teams. There are currently three players on the World Cup team that played on the U19 team and countless others who went from the U19 team to the senior team." 

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