July 30, 2014

Eight Questions with U.S. U19 Coach Kim Simons

by Lane Errington | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

We caught up with U.S. Women's National Under-19 head coach Kim Simons after today's 25-player training team announcement at Stevenson University [photos] to get her perspective on the tryouts and building a team identity as the red, white and blue embarks on the road to Edinburgh, Scotland for the 2015 FIL World Championship next July.

Stay tuned to LaxMagazine.com on Thursday for a by-the-numbers look at the newly named
training squad.

What are your impressions of this tryout and the overall selection process?

"I've been unbelievably impressed by the selection process, and especially impressed by the effort of the girls. It's already been a long process. These kids have gone through a number of tryouts to get here [including sub-regional tryouts and being evaluated at the US Lacrosse National Tournament on Memorial Day Weekend]. I feel great about the group we brought here to Stevenson. They've been so talented and have worked incredibly hard. Our selection staff has done a really incredible job selecting who we believe are the best 25 players for the training squad."

How has this tryout process developed continuity between the U.S. senior team and the U19 team?

Note: Former senior team assistants Michele DeJuliis and Bowen Holden are now U19
assistants, senior team head coach Ricky Fried and assistant coach Liz Robertshaw were on
the player selection committee, and past and present U.S. team players including Devon Wills, Erin McMunn, Alyssa Leonard and Lindsay Lewis served as field coaches.

"It's been incredibly helpful for the program to bring in individuals who have a better and bigger sense of what the U.S. program is all about and what the goals and philosophy are. For example, today, we taught the same offense that the senior team runs. This should be a feeder program and that's what the expectation is that some of these young women will continue on in the U.S. program. 

Particularly the field coaches and some of the selectors who have been in the U.S. program, the young girls really look up to them. They bring an incredible value to those of us who are selecting because they can give us perspective on what it's like to go through these tryouts. It's a grueling three-day tryout, both mentally and physically. They've been helpful in giving us some feedback on the mindset of these kids and their attitudes and what the positives and negatives are. It adds to the whole experience of this being very special, and that if you make the team, it's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

What will the training process be like on the road to Scotland next summer?

"We'll have multiple opportunities where we bring the girls together to train and compete. We started on Monday with 110 players, cut it down to 37 early this morning and are leaving today with 25 players on the training roster. We have to, at some point during the next year, get that number down to the 18 that will be the U.S. team we take to Scotland next July. So, we'll start with a training weekend in October [Oct. 10-12 in Washington, D.C.]. That will be a three-day weekend, mostly practicing and team bonding, getting to know one another and building a comfort level together. We'll have another training and competition weekend in January, we'll play in the National Tournament next May, then we'll have two more training weekends prior to leaving for Scotland in July."

When do you plan on making the final 18-player roster selections?

"Right now, on the tentative schedule, we're planning to make the 18-player roster decision after the January training and competition event."

What type of playing style do you envision for this team?

"The first thing I said to the staff and selection committee was that I've always been a coach that really believes in a team concept. Even when I've been lucky enough to coach superstars or players who can score at will, it has always been about the team and involving others. I'm so impressed with the unselfishness of this group of young women. I've been shocked by how few times we've felt that kids have just decided to go one-on-one to goal, when they could go one-on-one all day long. They've really been a team-oriented group.

We expect to play a very aggressive style. That's been a U.S. mantra at both levels, especially defensively. I think we've selected some young players who are comfortable with being aggressive. I talked to the team about being comfortable with being uncomfortable at times. That's not an easy thing for high school girls. The girls we picked have shown throughout the last three days that they're willing to do what we ask of them, even if it's not something they're used to doing."

What themes have you seen in players that separated themselves over the course of the week?

"First and foremost, there's a level of athleticism that separates the girls that were here at this last cut today. Our selection staff is made up of U.S. coaches, college coaches, U.S. players and very successful high school coaches, and I can't tell you the number of times where we were completely wowed by what we saw out here. The athleticism sets them apart. The number of dropped balls, even this morning when they're exhausted...I could probably count them on one hand.

The other piece is mental toughness. We talked about the difference between trying out to get cut and trying out to make the team. The kids who are on our list of 25 were able to make that shift at some point throughout the tryouts. Some of it is being able to adapt to what we're asking them to do, being we did ask them to do some very specific things, but it's also being able excel in very difficult situations when you know 10 or 12 coaches are watching you. Toward the end, there were some kids who knew we were watching them specifically, and they were still able to perform and be aggressive and take some risks while playing within their role. That's not an easy thing for any player to do, let alone a high school girl who is 15, 16, 17 years old. 

There are a number of kids in this group of 25 that were on our cut list multiple times. We had two kids who were on the 'they're going home' list and somehow someone kept them around or brought them back up, and next thing you know they're on this group of 25. That's a huge credit to those kids, they just gritted it out."

Do you anticipate implementing the full-field ride showcased by the U.S. senior team last summer in Canada?

"I would be very surprised if we don't run the ride. As a coach who's coached at multiple levels, to be able to basically feel like I can put in whatever our staff wants is really exciting for me. I'm a coach that I looked at our strategy a little more loosely...Let's see how we can get the best players we think will be able to play together, we'll watch them play and we'll see what is going to be the most effective and most aggressive style that we can play. I can say pretty definitively that we'll be putting in some kind of ride, which will be a lot of fun to watch with this group."

Any final thoughts on your first week at the helm of the U.S. U19 team?

"I'm surprised by how much fun we've had and I've had with the selection process. I was expecting there to be--and there has been--a lot of good, spirited debate. We've been up late and up again early. Liz Kittleman [head coach at Columbia University] has done a phenomenal job of leading the committee, keeping people loose and not getting stressed. I've been so pleased with how well this group has gotten along and done a professional job while still enjoying each others' company and having fun with it."

Notes

The 11-person U.S. U19 selection committee was comprised of the following members:

● Selection Chair: Liz Kittleman, Columbia University
● U.S. U19 Team Head Coach: Kim Simons, Bryn Mawr (Md.) School
● U.S. U19 Team Assistant Coaches: Michele DeJuliis, Ultimate (N.J.) Lacrosse Club; Bowen Holden, Lincoln-Sudbury High School (Mass.); Wendy Kridel, Bryn Mawr (Md.) School
● U.S. Senior Team Head Coach: Ricky Fried, Georgetown University
● U.S. Senior Team Assistant Coach: Liz Robertshaw, Boston University
● Selectors: Shannon Dean, Vero Beach (Fla.) High School; George Dick, Harriton (Pa.) High School; Meredith Frank, Notre Dame (Mass.) Academy; Morgan Molinari, Sacred Heart (N.Y.) Academy


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