In just two months, 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.

All of you have been Team USA assistants since 2009. What originally drew you to take part in the U.S. program and why have you continued to come back?

Bokker: 
"Our staff is amazing, and even with the trips being long and some times during busy times with family or my own season, I come back from U.S. weekends with a newfound energy and passion thanks to the staff and team.

[Head coach] Ricky [Fried] has assembled a group over the past eight years that has so much respect for one another, knows how to have a great time yet get work done and really values each others’ input. 

Initially, I would have said the draw was coaching at the highest level, certainly some notoriety, but this staff from managers to doctors, to all of our coaches makes it super special and has made me a way better coach and person." 

Robertshaw: 
"Being a part of the U.S. national team is something I have wanted since my time as a player. I tried out three times and got cut three times, so I thought, “OK, I get the hint. No U.S. team for me.”

Then Ricky approached Amy and I about the possibility of becoming assistants and the excitement for being a part of it lit up again. I mean, this is the U.S. national team. How could you not want to be a part of it?

Eight years later, I am as passionate and thankful for this opportunity as I was on day one and that’s been due to the people involved in the program and what they stand for. The players are unbelievably humble in allowing us to coach them and help improve an already impressive game, so it’s fun to be around them and it’s a great challenge.

The staff at US Lacrosse has become a second family in how they want us to find success and take pride in what the team is doing.

Lastly, the hours upon hours of time our coaching staff spends together talking through all of the details of this program, our goals and how to get there ranks among the most mentally challenging times I’ve ever had, and at the same time they have been some of the most fun because of our personalities and genuine caring for each other."

Wilk:
"The concept of giving back, whether it be serving on a committee, coaching and officiating, or giving back financially, was always stressed by Sue Stahl, Heather Dow and all of the coaches in the U.S program. 

There were so many women who were former players that were giving back when I was a player in the program that it inspired me to try and do the same when I finished playing."

Why do you give up so much of your time each year to coach Team USA?

Bokker:
"It never feels like I’m giving up time because I get to go do this!

The opportunity to work with the best athletes in our game at this level is amazing. To come to training, knowing that everyone’s goals are aligned and that so much work is being put in away from what we do is completely inspiring. 

I try to teach my own two children that putting in work is important, that giving back to something that has given so much to you is important and that continuing to learn, grow and get better even when you are at a high level is crucial – at least that’s what I tell my husband and two kids when I’m boarding another flight to the east coast or a foreign country!"

Robertshaw:
"I devote so much time to Team USA because it is an incredible honor to have this opportunity. I do not take my position lightly and I feel it deserves my energy and time."

Wilk:
"I’m trying to pay it forward for the players and team. I had the extraordinary honor and privilege of representing Team USA and I hope in some small way to be able to help the current players as they compete at the highest level."

How do you balance your time between Team USA and your other responsibilities at your respective colleges?

Bokker:
"I’ve recently started to tell my Stanford team a little bit more that I am a blender. I think compartmentalizing was the way I approached things earlier in my career. But now I prefer everything spill together – my family, Team USA, Stanford and my community and neighborhood.

I share each responsibility with each other and connect it all. I just let it all flow together all the time and that’s my balance. I wear all my hats all the time and I think it looks great.

If I manage it this way, Team USA doesn’t mind when I yell out a “Go CARD!” and my Stanford team understands when I’m yelling out our USA defenses during a practice.

I always blame the jet lag and time changes and pretend I know exactly where I am. Then, I always enjoy the moment I’m in and whom I’m with!

Robertshaw:
"It’s a challenge, I won’t lie.

For a few years, I was juggling being the head coach at Boston University, the assistant coach for Team USA and the president of the IWLCA.

It was amazing to be a part of these three entities at the same time, but also exhausting and often I get stretched a little thin. I think my BU players and my personal life suffered the most when juggling all of that, so I took it down a notch to just BU and U.S.

Since then, I think it’s been a good balance.

When I am with Team USA for a weekend, a tour or the World Cup, I am all in and make sure to have the best staff handling things back at BU. I check in, but I trust the staff to do their job and keep things rolling so I can focus my attention to U.S.

In the same regard, when I am coaching BU, those players are my focus. Of course, there are sometimes I am asked to do both – but I’m honest with both parties and make the decision that takes into account my U.S. obligations.

I wouldn’t be able to do this without 100 percent support of my family, the BU administration, my staff and my players."

Support Team USA

US Lacrosse oversees all aspects of the national teams program. Please consider making a tax-deductible gift to support these great ambassadors as they represent our country and the sport.

DONATE TODAY