Pete Steinberg and Richard Ashfield will join USA Rugby’s lineup of coaches at the Women’s National Team program’s development camp, which will take place in Tampa next month. The two coaches are being considered for the role of head coach, a decision that has been delayed beyond its original deadline.
“The coaching aspect of the selection process was not what was originally arranged,” Steinberg said, “however, I think it is a good thing in general to see coaches coach before you select them.”
The rugby community has had ample time to see Steinberg at work, whether it was during his former role as director and assistant coach of the women Eagles, 15 years as coach of reigning DI college champion Penn State women, seven years as Keystone coach, or stints as USA U23 and USA Women 7s B coach. Steinberg estimated that he’s coached at 20 international events
But experience isn’t the only thing that Steinberg would bring to the table. “I’m driven to do things differently,” Steinberg asserted. “There is a lot to learn from what England and New Zealand are doing; however, we have unique challenges and need to come up with American solutions. This is particularly true on player development, where we cannot expect players to improve their individual skills during assemblies that give the National Team coaches about 20 days a year of contact. I am open to new ideas and using a virtual approach.”
Steinberg’s solution to the lack of coach/player contact is a player-centered approach, which places the burden of development on the players. “I am very good at building positive cultures within my teams that will drive players to work on their skills between assemblies,” Steinberg said.
It’s something that Ashfield has experienced first hand, having assisted Steinberg during the 2009 developmental 7s season. “He is an excellent coach with a lot of potential,” Steinberg said of his coaching partner, “and it is scary to be the older, more experienced coach! Makes me feel old.”
As a member of the Beantown coaching staff, Ashfield has worked his way up the Northeast territorial ladder, coaching the U19s, U23s and senior teams.
“Coaching the Women's National Team is the next logical step for me,” Ashfield said. “I am getting my Advanced Coaching Certification, and this is the next step.”
Should Ashfield assume the head coaching role, his goal is plain and simple: In four years, we want to be in the World Cup Final. Anything less as a goal would be unacceptable.
“There's a process to how this is done,” Ashfield continued, “and I think you have to be clear about your process.”
Steinberg agreed: We have the athletes who can compete with England and New Zealand, but they have better rugby players. We have to focus on individual skills - better at catch/pass, better at tackling, better at contact skills - before we can think about how we want to play. Then we need to develop our game understanding. We can be competitive with England and New Zealand in 2014 and that would be my goal.
Both coaches are excited to participate in the camp, interacting with the country’s top players and USA Rugby’s national coaches. For many athletes, the assembly will be the first opportunity for players to weigh whether should embark on this four-year path building toward the next Women’s Rugby World Cup. For Steinberg and Ashfield, it’s old hat. Head coach of the Women’s National Team means a new top priority, and both are prepared for the sacrifices that ultimately demanded of their players.
Ashfield is fortunate to be employed by Rugby Imports, which have supported his coaching endeavors and continue to do as he vies for the Eagle head coach spot. Steinberg, however, will have to put the growth of his consulting practice on hold.
“To be on a team that beats England or New Zealand will be a HUGE task,” Steinberg said, “and will require sacrifices from the players and the staff.”