Sponsor: Irish Rugby Tours

Sponsor: Nike Rugby Camps

Friday, January 15, 2016

John Mitchell's To-Do List

John Mitchell hasn't been head coach of the Eagles for very long but already he's got a big list of things to do. First and foremost, he has to coach the team during their Americas Rugby Championship campaign that kicks off less than a month away in Houston against Argentina. Beyond that, World Cup qualifying is only a couple of years away and Mitchell is going to have to build the squad to be able to beat Canada despite some players moving on.

We thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of things that we think Mitchell should prioritize as coach:

Work with Clubs and Colleges: One of the biggest areas in which some coaches without much experience in the U.S. (like Mitchell) is working with top clubs and colleges. Yes, the U.S. has their top players overseas but at least half the team is domestic based. Even with the emergence of PRO Rugby Mitchell is going to have to navigate a complex world.

Take the jump to read more.
For better or worse clubs and colleges have agendas of their own and many of them feel they aren't there to serve the Eagles. Especially at the college level that means it can be sometimes difficult to get players for long stretches or even get video on players. One of the Mike Tolkin's biggest tasks as coach was actually taking the time to watch players around the country. He knew who was playing well and who might fit with the Eagles. That takes work, often that needs to be done in the United States, which brings us to our next point.

Live in America: We're not sure if Mitchell is going to live in the United States full time or not. It is worth noting that it's rare for an overseas-based coach to effectively manage his team and relationships in the country. Because Tolkin had been a long-time coach in the U.S. he had relationships. That's something that Mitchell doesn't have and he'll need to cultivate. That takes time in person. If Mitchell isn't at the Vegas 7s that would be disappointing. (Okay, he has a match that day but the principle remains.)

It's possible to live overseas and be effective. All you have to do is look at Mike Friday. He lives in England most of the time and comes to the U.S. for camps and other events. It only works because he has Chris Brown on the ground and his core group of players train and play together everyday. There is no centralized squad for the Eagles and an assistant coach can't replicate the leg work that needs to be done by a 15s head coach.

Can't rely too heavily on us-eligible players: Scott Johnson did that and it worked against team culture. There were a couple of players that came in, were instantly handed starting spots, and then complained when things were difficult. Most of them quit (although there were a few good ones). Mitchell has a lot of good connections and it could sway the likes of Dave Ryan or Paddy Ryan to switch to the Eagles.

Mike Tolkin certainly wasn't afraid to bring in U.S.-eligible players. Every time we talked to him he was always in communication with the likes of Marcel Brache. However, it was made clear that if you wanted to play for the Eagles you had to earn it. That helped maintain team culture, especially for domestic players who felt that if they worked hard they would be given the same shot as someone from overseas.

Become American: This isn't talking about citizenship. That doesn't matter. However, Mitchell has to become American in attitude. He can keep the rugby culture from New Zealand but he must learn what makes American players tick and adapt his style to that. The Eagles aren't about playing like someone else, they are about playing with their own particular style. If Mitchell tries to force another style on the Eagles it's going to backfire.


  1. He needs above all self control. What the media has uncovered about him overseas leaves many red flags. If he pulls the same crap here he will not only loose players, but find himself on the wrong side of a legal battle. Without self control he will be a disaster. Let's hope he learnt it since his last gig as head coach.

  2. IF John Mitchell IS at Vegas 7s, we will all be disappointed.

    USA Eagles XVs plays Uruguay in Montevideo on March 5th. Coach Mitchell better have his butt in Montevideo, Uruguay coaching XVs that weekend.

  3. Become American? The eagles better start being about playing like someone else and getting wins because playing their 'own particular style' is not working. To me, if a nation is having success on the field year after year then they are clearly doing something right and it wouldn't hurt our chances to go after some of the philosophies that they use.