SPARKS, Md. — US Lacrosse, the sport’s national governing body, has announced the formation of the National Teams Development Program (NTDP), which is aimed to increase and improve the pool of players feeding the national teams that represent the country in international competition, while providing regional opportunities for high school players to receive high performance training by US Lacrosse certified coaches and National Team coaches and players.

“I think it’s awesome,” said John Danowski, a three-time national champion as the head coach at Duke University and the current head coach of the U.S. men’s national team. “It’s done in every other sport and US Lacrosse needs to be a big part of it. The process to pick the national team has often been more of an all-star selection and wasn’t about building a team.”

“There’s going to be a certain skill set that’s going to be taught, tactical IQ that’s going to be taught, and a mental and physical approach that’s going to be taught,” said Ricky Fried, who led the U.S. women’s national team to both the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Cup and the International World Games championship this summer. “Like the Futures program in field hockey and the ODP program in soccer, you’re going to attract the best players, and the players that are the most committed.”

The initial phase of the program will feature a series of player experience camps that are designed to introduce players of all ability levels to the national teams program. Three to four camps will be held around the country next summer.

Beginning in August of 2019, the program will be expanded to include invite-only camps for the NTDP. Players will be evaluated at camps and events beginning in the summer of 2018 for inclusion in NTDP camp. With an initial focus on the U.S. U19 teams, the goal will be bringing top high school aged players into the player development pool.

“The goal is to identify kids with potential and groom them for our national teams program,” said Melissa Coyne, director of the NTDP and a former U.S. U19 national team player. “It’s also a system of development that will benefit a larger audience of high school players even if they don’t end up on our national team.”

Danowkski thinks the high-level instruction will help drive elite players to an even higher level.

“Sometimes the best players on the team don’t get driven as much,” Danowski said. “Maybe they’re allowed to do what they want and don’t get disciplined. Or maybe the coach spends his time with the players that need more work. It’s like in the classroom, where if you’re not in an honors class, the best student gets ignored a little bit so the teacher can work with the other kids that need help.”

Historically, the U.S. has enjoyed tremendous success internationally, but the rest of the world is improving dramatically. Prior to 2005, the U.S. won 20 of the 23 FIL field championships. Since 2005, the U.S. has added nine more world titles, but also finished as the runner-up four times. Five of the nine recent gold medals also featured world championship games that the U.S. won by two goals or less.

The gold medal winning 2017 U.S. Women’s World Cup roster was made up almost exclusively of players with multiple years in the national teams system, including three that had previously won world championships at the U19 level.

“From a coaching perspective, that’s tremendously helpful,” said Fried. “They’ve been taught the same thing and they’re aware of the culture of the program. They feel comfortable and that helps them play better.”

The next national team selection process will be for the 2019 U.S. women’s U19 team, and due to requirements associated with fully implementating the NTDP, the U19 women’s team tryout process will mirror the selection of the 2016 U.S. men’s U19 team. For that team, head coach Nick Myers and his staff solicited feedback from coaches around the country and invited more than 100 players to the tryout pool before the roster was eventually narrowed down to the 23 players that won a gold medal in Canada.

The introduction of NTDP regional player development camps in 2019 will be used as an important part of the team building process for the 2020 U.S. men’s U19 team.

Coyne is excited about the possibilities for the program.

“This is a great opportunity to engage with the high school community,” Coyne said. “They’re going to be running our regional camps and helping to develop the curriculum with our national teams staff. When it’s all done, we’re going to be able to provide coaches the opportunity to have their teams train like our national teams.”

For more information about the National Teams Development Program at mcoyne@uslacrosse.org