On Saturday, college lacrosse eyes will be on Columbus, Ohio, for the Big Ten quarterfinal meeting between rivals Ohio State and Michigan.
Nick Myers, who grew up in Kennebunkport, Maine, and played at Springfield College, has been the head coach since 2009 at Ohio State, where his honors include a Big Ten Coach of the Year award and a spot in the NCAA championship game in 2017, and with US Lacrosse.
Myers joined Jack Piatelli on “New England Lacrosse Journal’s Chasing The Goal” podcast to discuss growing up in Maine, the pressure to win and what kind of player turns him off, among other topics.
The full podcast can be accessed below.
Jack Piatelli: Young kid from Kennebunkport, Maine. Did you ever expect growing up you’d be the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes?
Nick Myers: I’m not sure that was ever necessarily the big dream, but I was fortunate growing up in Maine, not necessarily a lacrosse hotbed but a great town. I was blessed with parents who were teachers, who were educators, who really valued a hard day’s work. My parents divorced at a young age and actually remarried teachers. My stepfather and stepmother both had major influences on me. I was raised by four teachers, so I think at a young age I really looked up to them. I knew I wanted to teach, I wanted to coach, I wanted to be around sports.
JP: What did you learn from Coach (Keith) Bugbee at Springfield College and your experiences at Springfield that you’ve brought along to Ohio State as a coach?
NM: Springfield College was a home run. What a perfect fit for me. I really kind of fell into a perfect situation there. … When I arrived on campus, the way Coach Bugbee welcomed us all — it was a good group and everybody had a story. That’s always been impactful for me, even now at Ohio State when I recruit. I love guys that come with a story, that come with a chip, a little bit of something. It felt like everybody at Springfield had that. You just kind of embrace it and we had a great time together.
I didn’t play a lick my freshman year. That sophomore year I knew there was going to have to be some changes made. That was the pivoting point for me as a player. I went at it. I was at the wall every single day. Weight room. I trained in a way I’d never trained in my life. My younger brother (Pat), who was a senior in high school, I was just dragging him with me everywhere I went. And I got a chance to play as a sophomore and it kind of went off from there.
The beauty of Coach Bugbee is that he’s not an in-your-face guy. He’s not a micro-manager. He allows players to go through that growth process and lets them fail. And he’s really good at pushing the right buttons when the time comes.
JP: What do you look for in a player you’re recruiting?
NM: To me it has to start with effort and toughness. It’s a personal discipline, from the way they handle themselves in the process to the family they’re coming from to where their shortcomings are, and are they mature enough at a young age to identify that there’s still a lot of growth for them?
Certainly I was a very unfinished product. I don’t have the expectation that a kid 18 or 19 has it all figured out. But you want a kid who knows he doesn’t have it all figured out. I don’t want a guy who looks you in the eye and says, ‘Yeah, Coach, I’m your answer.’ That’s not how it works here. You earn your stripes through reps and repeated behavior. That’s getting the job done in the classroom, showing up to work on time, being a great teammate, and coming out with a joy and a grace and a humility.
JP: As a coach, how did you handle that pressure early on at Ohio State? There must have been pressure to win, to land recruits.
NM: Initially, there were a couple things. We were coming off a great year (in 2008 under Joe Breschi), the quarterfinals, the best year in the program’s history. Coach goes down to (North) Carolina. There was a feeling of accomplishment, but there was also a feeling of, ‘Wow. We have got to maintain the standard that we’ve worked so hard to create,’ and I’d just lost my partner. It felt like a partnership more than a head coach and an assistant. When he was gone, I had to create my own identity as a head coach; I can’t be Joe, I gotta be Nick.
At the same time, there were some bumps. You’re hiring a staff. At that point we were going through league changes, from the GWLL to the ECAC and then eventually into the Big Ten. There were a few bumpy years there in the beginning and for me, as a coach, it was just developing that identity of who I wanted to be as a leader and staying true to that. I will always credit those players in 2009, 2010, 2011, ‘12, those players that got the early version of me as a head coach, their patience and their grace. I like to think I’m a very different leader today than I was then and their ability to accept me for who I was and to grow together, those guys will always have a special place in my heart.