Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Praise Of Scott Lawrence

Yesterday it was confirmed that Scott Lawrence is stepping down as head coach of the Junior All-Americans in order to spend more time on his career and family. He will be replaced by former Las Vegas Blackjacks and Denver Barbarians coach Jason Kelly. Lawrence leaves the team at a critical time as the team is preparing for two assemblies, one on the West Coast and one on the East, ahead of next summer’s Junior World Championship. Kelly will have a short time to get the team ready, but thanks to Lawrence’s hard work over the last several years, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Whenever you take on an on-going project, like the Junior All-Americans, the rule of them is to leave it better than you found it. Applying that rule, Lawrence has done an absolutely outstanding job with the program. He not only delivered the only major trophy ever picked up by a U.S. men’s team, but he meticulously laid down the foundation for future success.

Take the jump to read more.

Lawrence took over the team prior to the 2011 Junior World Rugby Trophy in Georgia. The U.S. had sat out the tournament in 2010 and was in a bit of a rebuilding mode when Lawrence took over. He immediately went to work through scouting various college’s and sending out feelers to foreign players. He also changed the way the team approached preparing for a match by focusing on nutrition and sleep. Still, even with all of that preparation the team went winless in its pool and only picked up a win in its final match.

On the plane ride home Lawrence made a list of all the things the team did well and all the things that needed to improve. As the next year unfolded he made changes to the program according to the list. One of the first things that he did well was make smart use of a small budget. He found ways to scout players, he relied on coaches opinions, and when he did have an assembly, he made sure it was productive.

Lawrence also spread his recruiting net extremely wide. Not only did he scout college players, but he also included several club players that were age-grade eligible. The biggest example of this was Mike Te’o, who didn’t go to college but had been playing for Belmont Shore. By doing so Lawrence ruffled some feathers but it resulted in a better team. He also did a great job of retaining overseas players like Madison Hughes (originally overseas) and Will Magie, while introducing players like Pierce Dargan and Henry Hall.

Lawrence also built up an experienced coaching staff that was enthusiastic about growing the game. Hiring Gavin Hickie as the forwards coach made huge dividends, especially at hooker where the U.S. seemed to have unlimited options. Vaha Esikia was an excellent instructor for the backs. With such great support staff it’s no wonder that Kelly has decided to retain the assistant coaches.

Still, the most important thing Lawrence did for the team was establish a culture and mentality that these players were there to get results and to get better. The Junior All-Americans are the breeding ground for future Eagles. By establishing a pride in playing for your country at an early age, as well as an ethos that hard work brings results, Lawrence not only improved the performance of the team on the pitch, but directly helped improve the fortunes of the Eagles in future generations. Players who played under Lawrence knew what was expected of them. By and large they responded.

All of these factors, combined with excellent tactics, was the reason that the Junior All-Americans swept their way to the JWRT title this year and why they will be in the Junior World Championship this upcoming season. Lawrence deserves our gratitude for the excellent work he put into the position and for getting the program where it is today. So, good luck to him in the future and good luck to Jason Kelly.


  1. Lawrence is no fool. He knows that USA doesn't have the rugby athletes, or the academies to generate them, to compete at this next level tournament. He's handing Kelly a lame duck.

    1. Way to keep it positive, American rugby community. If you ever wonder what's wrong with rugby in the States, it's jerks like you.

    2. You should probably stick in instructing skiers

  2. That's a pretty unfair assessment of Lawrence, Ski Instructor. Everyone knows we don't have that so no one expects us to stay up. We have an outside shot at beating one of the bottom teams like Fiji to stay up, but it's unlikely. People aren't exactly going to be calling for Kelly's head if we lose every match. And if he manages to win a match, he will look great.