November 18, 2011

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U.S. U19 Men's Team Heads to Texas to Build Chemistry, Toughness

Will scrimmage a group of Dallas all-stars and hold youth clinic

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com


Harvard sophomore attackman Daniel Eipp was one of 23 players named to the U.S. U19 men's team in July. The group gathers this weekend in Texas for the first time since tryouts.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

When the U.S. Men's National Under-19 Team gathers this weekend for the first time since tryouts in July, Team USA will have a chance to establish its identity, or — maybe more appropriately — take on the identity that's expected of them by coach Tim Flynn.

To that effect, Flynn will continue sending a consistent message: Team USA's defining characteristic will be its hard-nosed, grinding toughness.

"The standard is that there's not going to be flash without substance," said US Lacrosse director of national teams Nathaniel Badder. "(Flynn) said that when he was being interviewed to be the coach. He said that when he was interviewing his assistant coaches. He said that when we were inviting kids to come to tryouts. He said that when we were at tryouts and we were picking kids. He said that after we picked kids. And now, he's saying that as we're in the process of building the team."

Said Flynn: "All-out hustle, and doing the little things that make a team successful was a huge factor in these 23 individuals being picked at tryouts. We're going to let them know that's going to be an expectation going forward. We don't want that good stuff to go away in any way, shape or form. In fact, we're going to highlight it. That's going to be the character of this team."

Though the groundwork has already been laid, Flynn and his staff will stress that message about toughness throughout this weekend when the U-19 team participates in the Texas Clinic and Exhibition in conjunction with the Dick's Lone Star Shootout.

Team members will fly to Dallas on Thursday following their high school or college classes, and Flynn, who's planning to camp out in the hotel lobby with pizzas, will individually greet them as they arrive throughout the evening.

"We are really champing at the bit to get to know these guys better," Flynn said. "It's a great opportunity for the players to learn about the coaches and the coaches to learn about the kids."

Friday's schedule includes practices and drills, followed by a trip to Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, where Team USA will witness "Friday Night Lights" of the Texas state high-school football playoff variety.

After additional drills and a walk-through Saturday morning, Team USA will scrimmage a group of Dallas-area all-stars at 8:30 p.m. at Five Star Park in The Colony, Texas. The nucleus of a local summer team that competed in tournaments, along with the best high-schoolers, collegians and post-collegians in the region comprise Team USA's competition.

The U-19 team will also conduct an instructional clinic from 9-11 a.m. Sunday at McCullough Middle School for local youths to give hands-on coaching and expand the game's reach.

"A big part of our organizational mission of our national teams is to be able to bring them to the local kids, so they get a chance to feel, touch and see the national teams, because it's a different experience. There's nothing like it," Badder said. "And that's the favorite part of my job: seeing the eyes light up of the little kids who see national team players play, and to get to compete and work with them. It's really exciting."

With Badder's and Flynn's foresight, along with the assistance of former US Lacrosse North Dallas chapter president Tom Fitzsimmons, Team USA assembled this groundbreaking and possibly trailblazing weekend. The Texas Clinic and Exhibition marks the first time a U-19 team has gotten together the year before its championship, and the first time a national team has played in the state. Badder said he would like this weekend's model to become the blueprint for future years and suggested the possibility of the U-19 teams participating in USL's annual Stars & Stripes event.

"It was one of those ideas that was sort of conceived on the back of a dirty napkin over dinner one night. It started with a, 'Wouldn't it be cool if...' conversation," Badder said. "That conversation started before tryouts, probably in March or April, and then everything really sort of crystallized during tryouts."

So after four months of looking at names on paper, drawing up plays, seeing which players will fit in what spots and anticipating the team's potential, Flynn will finally get to see his roster in action. He doesn't have to sit on his hands any more.

"We have a pretty good framework for what we think each kid can bring to the table, but this weekend will be the first chance to confirm that, and it would be very natural for some things to change.

"To hear their enthusiasm, and to know the enthusiasm I have in my heart and the other coaches have, and then to have to sit on that — that's a little maddening, but we're going to take care of some of that this weekend." Flynn said.

Bonding as a team, building chemistry and learning the systems should help ease some of that throbbing energy. It'll also help cement the team's personality.


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