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Scott Lawrence Has a Plan

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Scott Lawrence Has a Plan

Scott Lawrence. Photo USA Rugby.

There is a lot on Scott Lawrence’s plate as he takes on the positions of Interim Men’s 15s Eagles Head Coach and Interim GM of High Performance.

First on the list is to not worry about the “Interim” part of that job description.

Lawrence wants the job long-term, there’s no denying that, but, in discussing the task ahead with Goff Rugby Report, Lawrence said it is a fool’s game to operate in job-preservation mode.

“For me I’m going to treat it as the first eight months of a five-year deal,” said the former Eagle. “The big thing is that I’m not coming in for job preservation because that’d be a waste of eight months. The stuff I am looking to do may not bear fruit for a year or two years, so I can’t operate in the short-term; it’s not good for the game.”

Detail-oriented, sometimes harsh but not overly so, intelligent, and having achieved success in playing internationally and in coaching international age-grades, professional rugby, and on the Eagles staff, Lawrence is dead-eye focused on the task ahead.

“People are good at certain things,” said Lawrence, “and what I’m good at is running big programs.”

And the USA National Teams are one big program.

Perhaps thinking of it all as one program is the start. And while Lawrence knows what he wants to do in many respects, and has completed a detailed report to that end, he knows he doesn’t know everything.

What to Learn

“I need to learn a little bit about what’s been happening in the pathways in particular,” he told GRR. “I know there’s been a lot of work with the talent ID and the US Academy, but what are we doing there and are we aligning our activities to a reasonable player acquisition cost? I am not making any judgments; just the first couple of days are going to be digging into what’s happening to every team that feeds the Eagles.”

What to Shake Up

What is a GM of High Performance? Ask 10 people and you’ll get seven different answers. But it’s clear part of the job is tracking talent and making sure the talented players who are committed to being an Eagle—a great Eagle—are in a good development environment.

That requires a lot of data and tracking.

“This is one of the things I will treat a little bit differently,” said Lawrence. “I will be hiring a data person. There’s data accumulated throughout all of USA Rugby, but not a lot has been done with it.”

American rugby is a network, an entrepreneurial network, explain Lawrence.“We like pathways because they’re easy to comprehend, but they’re very Anglo-Saxon, small-country oriented. And a pathway that requires pay-to-play will always be limited in scale by how much money your pour into it. I want to look at it this way: how can I work with American coaches to create four more Sean Davies or Shawn Pittmans to coach. With players I want to see which people are involved along the way—not just who’s available.”

Lawrence spoke with others who have been successful in running development systems. He points to Italy, which has been very successful at the U20 level and now 80% of the country’s senior national team is under 24.

But all of that comes with tracking players, even if they don’t follow the pathway.

“The pathway teams … you need them,” Lawrence said. “But it’s not the be-all end-all.”

USA Rugby’s HP development cannot afford to turn its back on a player because he was overlooked by the U18s or U20s, or didn’t go to a major rugby university. They still have to keep an eye on that player and find a way to keep the player in the development circle.”

Talking to the Right People

Lawrence has addressed the USA Rugby Board of Directors, which is overseeing the HP Review and to whom he will, ultimately, answer.

He present three key elements of his approach in High Performance. The third is the development network we outlined above. The second is Raising Standards.

“We will have a High Performance director who will drive standards,” said Lawrence. 

This is partly about setting high expectations on fitness and skills acquisition and behavior, but it is also just about being consistent through the levels about training and rest and preparation so that the U18s don’t change when they’re U20s, and then up to the senior national team.

And the first thing? Being an Eagle.

“I want to reestablish our Eagles Story and our identity,” said Lawrence. “I know when it was special. I was there. I want to bring that back. I want to bring in former Eagles to mentor the team and guide us and provide leadership.”

He also wants former Eagles on a selection advisory council. It’s about involving the past and tying that in to the future—something from which everyone will benefit.

Lawrence has to pick a coaching staff and support staff in HP. He needs to sit down with the players and and share the plan with all of those people. But as an American rugby player, coach, and fan, he knows there’s more to do.

“I want the Rugby Community to feel connected to their Eagles,” he said.

And all of that is definitely not an eight-month zip-in and zip-out job.