It was announced yesterday that Neal Powless has been named as the Head Coach for the Netherlands in the upcoming 2014 World Championships, so we spoke with Neal about his appointment, and what the future holds for Dutch lacrosse.
Is this deal just for the 2014 World Championships? Or will you be doing more development work in the Netherlands as well?
This deal is for the 2014 Worlds & the 2016 Euros, and then we will all see how the relationship is going from there. Part of this appointment is lacrosse development in The Netherlands for sure. They have a solid base of clubs that play a pretty competitive level for a good number of months out of the year. I would like to see that not only expand to more teams, but also expand to younger players. Some of the guys playing now, played soccer for a long time and a many of them already have a solid base of footwork and timing. It’s getting them used to using something in their hands while they move… And playing year around does that very well.
I plan on working with them to help develop that support system, creating youth leagues, coaches, and officials and I feel that in a few years The Netherlands will really be on the map in regards to Lacrosse. Just in time for the Olympics we all hope!
Is there any box lacrosse in the Netherlands? Will you be implementing any box in Amsterdam or beyond?
I have already spoken to a few players from the Netherlands who traveled to France for a box lacrosse tournament. Many of them had never played box before but they said they had a lot of fun. Obviously with my involvement with the 2015 World Indoor Championships, being hosted at Onondaga (My back yard basically), I would love to see a Netherlands lacrosse team compete in that tournament if everything falls into place.
Box lacrosse creates a whole different set of thinking and playing both on and off the field. The result being a pretty shifty and confident player in some cases. Those are the kind of players I like, someone who isn’t afraid to get their nose a little dirty and fight for a loose ball, or take a big hit and keep going. That’s what gets my blood flowing and I love to see that on the lacrosse field. I think that these players who traveled to France are making the right statement by saying what I have said my whole life… “Lacrosse game? Where? When? Sure, I will be there!!!”
How did you get introduced to the Dutch National team? Where can this relationship go from here?
Well, it all began on a sunny day in Amsterdam during the Euro Lacrosse Championships. Tim Wolbrink was showing me around the city as he had worked with the FIL to host the conference for all of the member nations right before the tournament and I was playing double duty as we were showing Crooked Arrows as part of the Championships… It was a cool environment to be in and I was super excited by how passionate and devoted everyone was to the game that I had met.
Everyone I met was great. I have a “Crazy Cows Lacrosse” t-shirt (one of their club teams) that I will occasionally wear to a workout and always get comments about and I also bought a CPX Netherlands helmet to help support the U-19 team… Not knowing any of that would turn into this, I was just supporting the love of lacrosse that I saw and felt in my heart. It didn’t matter where I was at the time, I was home… I was home among others who feel the passion for the sport just like I do. And it felt really good.
I don’t know where this relationship will go from here, but I can only hope good things from it. As far as the 2014 Championships, I hope to put the best team possible on the field. So that means evaluating every player that is willing to don the ORANGE. The key is finding the right chemistry between all of the players. Lacrosse is a team sport, and like all team sports there has to be a community built from within to be strong, especially if you plan to go far in the World Championships. So we are looking at players that fit into that scheme and have the right mindset right from the start. But it all starts with recruiting the right kind of player. After that, it’s about making sure of eligibility and all that other technical stuff that every team has to deal with eventually.
I think that there is a lot of untapped potential for this team and a lot of players that want to test themselves at the highest level possible. And I am happy to take them on that journey!
What does it mean to you to be named as the Head Coach for another nation? What do you plan to bring to the Netherlands team in 2014?
It is a tremendous honor for me! Growing up, I was one of just a few Natives who was able to turn lacrosse into a full time thing. The game has taken me all over the world and it provided me with an opportunity to receive a college education. I was also able to stand alongside some of the best lacrosse players in the history of the sport, play alongside legends, and be coached by pillars of the sport. But my true pride has always come from being able to represent the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse) in world lacrosse competition. I even sing back-up on the Soundtrack used during international competition as it was recorded in Manchester in 1994 during my first World Championships.
To be able to turn the corner, and be recognized for my lacrosse knowledge and have an opportunity to be able to share that knowledge is truly monumental. It has always been our goal to spread the knowledge of the sports and the beauty of our game. It will be an interesting collaboration for sure, to combine Iroquois and American concepts of the game to the Dutch Lacrosse team.
What is your outlook for the Dutch team in Denver 2014?
Well, my first goal is always to win. Having seen what the guys were able to achieve in 2012, I would like to see the team do very well in pool play and advance to the play-in rounds. I have been very impressed at every interaction I have had with Dutch players, with their level of athletic ability and dedication to developing their game. I think once the guys begin to buy into the concepts and speed at which the teams and players move at the next level will determine how well we place in the end. But I am optimistic at the start that we will surprise a few people.
What is your coaching philosophy coming in?
Well, I grew up playing what could be considered a “Playground” style, and also grew up in an era when the “Run and gun” sort of game was part of why the game has developed so rapidly the past few decades. The game has changed, and while I do like to take advantage of specific match-ups and odd man opportunities, there also needs to be a balance of ball control and systems that will be implemented as well.
Every player has specific skills and abilities that make them quality players, it is our job as a coaching staff to make sure they are able to best utilize those skills in prime situations. I am an opportunist, and I like my teams to exploit those opportunities that the opposition is willing to give.
What are your expectations for the team?
To do the best that WE possibly can. If every player believes in the system, believes in each other, and believes in themselves… then I am sure we will improve on the current 8th Place ranking. It will not be easy with The Iroquois Nationals back in the Blue division and other teams looking very well in exhibition games as well.