December 20, 2011

Q&A: Meade Excited for Coaching Return with Team USA

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Related: Meade Named USA Coach

Former Navy and new Team USA head coach Richie Meade said "Lacrosse isn't war, but I think there's a lot of things that can be learned from the military."
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

With the end of the fall semester approaching, Richie Meade spent a few minutes Tuesday morning entering grades into his office computer at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Meade, who was the Navy men's lacrosse coach from 1994 until the end of last season when he was forced to resign, still works at Navy as a full-time professor in the physical education department.

He said he enjoys the job, which includes overseeing the combatives curriculum that every Midshipmen learns before leaving the academy. But, still, it's not lacrosse, a game that Meade had spent the last 35 years of his life coaching at the collegiate level.

When the head coach job for the U.S. men's national team opened, Meade decided to apply. He was excited about the opportunity of coaching the country's best. "I'm probably never going to get a chance to coach a team as talented as this team is going to be," he said.

US Lacrosse last week named Meade coach of the U.S. team that will compete in the 2014 FIL World Championship, hosted by USL and held in Denver.

In an interview Tuesday, Meade explained why he applied for the job, what he's doing now, his approach in leading the U.S. team, and the current climate for coaches in college lacrosse.

Why did you apply for the USA job?
"Well, I'm not coaching lacrosse right now. I felt like I had the time to do it. I felt like it would be a good, worthwhile thing to do. A couple people encouraged me to look into doing it, so once I thought about it, I got pretty excited to tell you the truth. It's something I had considered about 10 years ago, and never had the opportunity to do, so when the opportunity presented itself, I was enthusiastic."

What excites you about it?
"It's a big challenge. Over the last 12-16 years, it has gotten more competitive. It's not something anymore where you can just show up and think you have the opportunity to win. We're going to have to work very, very hard at it. That was the appealing part."

Do you still want to get back into college coaching?
"You can't really predict the future. This is what I'm doing right now. If something else comes up, I'd obviously consider that, but as of right now, this is what I'm doing and I'm excited about it. I enjoy my job at the Naval Academy, and until I have the opportunity to look at something else, if that ever happens, the situation is what it is. I can devote a lot of my time to the U.S. team because I'm not coaching here."

Describe to those who may not know what you do at Navy now.
"I'm a full professor in the physical education department. Specifically, I'm kind of the guy in charge of the combatives program. We have a lot of great instructors here in martial arts, in wrestling and in boxing. My expertise has been in boxing. I've done that for over 20 years. I had a little bit of experience helping develop our martial arts curriculum. We teach a form of Marine Corps martial arts. It's not karate or Taekwondo. It's its own entity. It's taught down at Quantico to basically teach Marines how to use their mind and body. Whatever drill we're doing, there's a character tie in with it. That's interesting. Every Midshipmen learns our entire combatives curriculum before they leave here. I'm also a Senior Fellow at the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership. I have some responsibilities there. It all keeps me pretty busy."

The parallels between representing Navy, Army [where Meade was an assistant from 1990-94] and Team USA are obvious. Will that background influence this team?
"Lacrosse isn't war, but I think there's a lot of things that can be learned from the military in terms of training and commitment, courage, maintaining standards, those types of things. I do think there are a lot of good lessons to be learned from the military. All of those things lead to being successful on the field. The guys that are going to play on the U.S. national team are not in the military but they have a responsibility to represent our country in an appropriate way. We're looking to maintain some standards so guys that represent our country, in any endeavor, meet certain requirements. That's my job, to create those standards and have everybody be on board, enthusiastic and excited about being part of the team."

What's your early outlook on the style of team that you want?
"We're basically going to pick the best players in our country. Our country has some pretty good players. It's a daunting task to try to figure out who the best guys are.

"Offensively, you don't want to over coach them. There's going to be a lot of talented guys that can play offense. We're going to try to play at a furious pace, create unsettled opportunities, and be very aggressive. Defensively is where you win games. We're going to have to create a very up-tempo, fast style that we can slow down and grind it out if the situation creates that. But defensively, you have to be solid. My anticipation is we're going to have a lot of really athletic, big, strong guys that can guard the ball aggressively but also have a feeling for the team concept. That's exciting. I'm probably never going to get a chance to coach a team as talented as this team going to be, whoever it is. We want to make sure offensively we don't over coach them, but we can do some pretty creative things. Defensively, we want to have a great goaltender and be solid, not give anybody anything. Make them earn everything they have to.

Talking about the college game, what can you say about the state of the game for coaches? Your supporters were up in arms about what happened to you at the end of last season.
"To be honest with you, it's what we always wanted. I've been involved in college coaching for 35 years. The expectations are very high on everybody. It's a tough balance to have. Administrators want success and that's what their job is. They have to make decisions about what direction a program is in and whether or not it needs change. I put myself in that situation. Everybody wants to win. That's the direction it's going in. It's going to be very competitive.

"If you had been in on our meetings 15-20 years ago, we wanted television, we wanted exposure. These are the types of things that come with exposure. I'm hopeful that we're going to be able to maintain our integrity, dignity and character as we move forward. That relates to recruiting. When you start to inject tremendous success, people feel pressure to sometimes act in a way they might not act if they didn't feel that type of pressure. That's the great balance of college athletics right now. Everybody is competitive. Because of the exposure, there's a lot of visibility and institutions are seeing lacrosse as a visible sport. Whenever there's visibility there's going to be pressure."

You're a scheduled speaker at the US Lacrosse National Convention in Philadelphia. What will you talk about?
"They've asked me to talk on leadership. We've developed this attitude pendulum called the Five Pillars of Leadership. I'm going to be anxious to talk about that. Basically talk about my experience at the Naval Academy and West Point and how all those things have influenced me, and how we hope that the coaching profession doesn't lose sight of the great value of ethics of mentorship and of leadership. As we enter this competitive environment, you remember that you're actually developing and mentoring kids."

And you'll be at USL's Champion Challenge observing Team USA in Florida.
"I never turn down a chance to go to Disney World. I'm not coaching the team, but everybody in America is trying out right now."

What's up on your plate right now with Team USA?
"We're in the planning, evaluation and education phase. We're going to have to start thinking about putting our staff together, planning the tryouts and evaluation process. The MLL players are going to be critical to the success of our team. We're going to have to reach out to the MLL folks and work with them. Everybody that is going to be involved in this has something else that's important to them. The majority of the coaches that we're going to talk to have something else that's important to them. The players that we're asking to try out are going to be conflicted a little bit with their other responsibilities either in college or the MLL. My goal is make all of this stuff the least invasive as we can, without sacrificing the effort and the time that we need to do this correctly.

"First, we want to attract quality coaches and put together a good staff that has a lot of continuity and can work together. Second, we want to create a plan where the tryouts are thought out and can be executed without too much pull on the participants in different directions. That's the where we are right now, thinking about those things."


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