John Mitchell appointed as USA Eagles head coach – Get to know him

Jan 5 • General News, International • 1683 Views • Comments Off on John Mitchell appointed as USA Eagles head coach – Get to know him

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If you know rugby, you know the name John Mitchell. The former All Black captain and youngest-ever head coach for New Zealand has had his hand in rugby at all levels, for decades. You probably know that he led the All Blacks to back-to-back Tri Nations championships or that he was part of the 2003 England coaching staff that won the Rugby World Cup.

And now, you know John Mitchell as the new Head Coach of the Men’s Eagles.

But there is more to John Mitchell than a resume. With the hire comes a leader with a knack for development, a focus on togetherness and a goal of taking the Eagles to the next level in time for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. We sat down with Mitchell to dig into what fans can expect from their new head coach:

USA Rugby: Coach, congratulations on the recent hire! Needless to say, we’re incredibly excited and ready to get to action! But before we dig into your goals for the Eagles moving forward, we have to ask – why the U.S.A? Why take the job as the Head Coach of the Eagles?

John Mitchell: I am excited about putting my strengths into play and building on the solid work laid down in the last World Cup cycle by Mike Tolkin and his staff. I see this as a wonderful opportunity to play a key part in inspiring, mentoring, creating confidence and stability in transforming USA Rugby into a strong, globally-competitive unit by the end of 2019. For me personally, the USA is a very powerful nation that has a huge amount of athletic talent and an audience for this dynamic sport that can be strategically attractive to World Rugby. Americans like to win, too, which I enjoy!

USA Rugby: You have a wife and two older children, and a step daughter of 14 at home, are they as excited about your new move? Will they be making the move to the U.S. with you?

JM: My family is very supportive in what I do and understand my passion for coaching. Its too early to be thinking about moving at this point but the family will be with me for periods of time enjoying new cultures and experiences.

USA Rugby: As a coach, what are your main areas of emphasis for team culture? Besides winning, of course.

JM: It is my responsibility to cultivate a team culture and climate that improves individual performance and connectedness. The pillars will require a vision, cumulative good decisions in the execution of the vision, effective communication and trust, discipline that is fair and consistent, and competency in our people.

USA Rugby: It has been said of your style that you are a “thinking coach.” What does that mean and how will you put that into play with the Eagles?

JM: I would like to think I keep myself up to date on evolving methods and trends but also come from a belief built over the years where the game is won and lost. I am very big on playing a winning style with an approach that gives you a higher probability of scoring.

USA Rugby: What do you see as the current strengths of the Eagles? And what area(s) do you see as our biggest need for improvement?

JM: I was fortunate to watch the Eagles during my RWC 2015 commitments with Super Sport commentating games. I saw a team that was strong in carry in first phase and loved to shoot in defense. Lineout accuracy affected exit plays at vital times and the ability to play far end. Controlling the momentum of games for the first half was evident, but they struggled to get back on structure and get into shape from chaos. They often denied themselves opportunities to put pressure on the opposition as a result of this. Plenty of good stuff though that will become even better when the players understand their structures and own it!

USA Rugby: How do you see yourself fitting in with the development of rugby in the U.S.? We have top-tier college and club competitions, as well as the new Pro League. How do you plan to support these varying levels of rugby?

JM: I really enjoy mentoring coaches and management. I know I have a leadership role to play and generate long term sustainability and competitiveness throughout the USA. I have spent much time in the last three years mentoring school, club, university, Currie cup, and super coaches through consultancy and workshops. I will support and work with the establishment of the Pro League and Americas Rugby Championship.

USA Rugby: Finally, and probably the question most of our fans want to know – what is the goal for the Eagles over the next four years? Can we lift the Webb Ellis?

JM: The speed of development towards getting USA to win the Webb Ellis will be dependent on the amount of money put behind marketing the game to the USA and player recruitment and development. Everyone involved will need to understand that winning is directly proportional to the talent pool and investment in that pool.

My thinking immediately for the next four years is more about building a platform for USA Rugby to launch from in the following areas:

To cultivate a team culture and climate that is improving individual performance and connectedness
To be recognized as authentic competition to Tier-One playing nations by the end of 2019
To establish a winning playing style and approach to the game that will attract in audiences and new talent locally and globally
To mentor coaches and management to generate long-term sustainability and competitiveness throughout the USA
To support the establishment of the PRO League and Americas Rugby Championship

Courtesy of USA Rugby / Nick Sero

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