Maiah Bartlett is in her first season as an assistant for Denison men's lacrosse.

Trailblazing Maiah Bartlett Climbing the Men's Coaching Ranks

Never underestimate the power of small town connections.

Maiah Bartlett is in her first season as an assistant coach for the men’s lacrosse program at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, in part because two neighbors in Lexington, Va. — over 300 miles away from Granville — enjoyed chatting about lacrosse.

And yes, you read that correctly. Bartlett is an assistant for the Big Red men’s team, a traditional top 20 program and consistent championship contender in the NCAA Division III tournament.

Last July, Denison tabbed Eric Koch as its new men’s head coach, replacing the venerable Mike Caravana, who retired after 28 seasons at the helm and 320 victories.

Koch had spent the previous seven years as an assistant at Washington & Lee, helping the Generals to three Old Dominion Athletic Conference titles. Among his first priorities after arriving in Granville was hiring two assistant coaches to complete his staff.

“In Lexington, I was neighbors with Doug Bartlett, the longtime head coach at VMI, and we often chatted while he was out walking his dog,” Koch said. “Doug would keep me informed about his daughter’s journey through the coaching ranks.”

“If you love a sport and you are passionate about it, don’t let anything hold you back. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain.”

— Maiah Bartlett

That daughter, Maiah, developed a passion for men’s lacrosse during her youth by ceaselessly shadowing her dad during his days at VMI. Bartlett piloted the Keydets’ program from 1986 until 2006, when he accepted a position as vice president of the Keydet Club, VMI’s fundraising arm.

The youngest of three sisters, Maiah hadn’t even started middle school yet when she became a fixture on the college team’s sidelines, in the huddles and even in the postgame handshake lines.

“I would get so excited for the final whistle so that I could jump into the postgame line,” Bartlett said. “It was always my favorite moment. There was always so much energy and I would get the feeling of having been part of the game. My passion for men’s lacrosse has always lingered.”

It was during her junior year at Division III University of Mary Washington, where she carved out an impressive career on the women’s team as a three-time All-Capital Athletic Conference defender and three-time IWLCA All-Chesapeake Region team selectee, that Bartlett decided to feed her passion.

“I knew that I wanted to pursue a career where I could make a personal impact in other people’s lives,” she said. “I realized that was coaching.”

Soon after graduating in 2017, she took the first step of following in her father’s coaching footprints by landing a job with SC 1880 Frankfurt, a club program in Germany. Initially, she was a candidate to coach the women’s team, until she dropped a surprise during the interview.

“I told the club president that I would be interested in also coaching their men’s team,” Bartlett said. “Since they couldn’t afford to hire two coaches from America, they agreed.”

What started as a commitment to coach Frankfurt’s men’s and women’s 1st League teams soon expanded into coaching six different teams, including youth squads. She found herself managing players with a wide range of experience and ages. The 1st League men’s and women’s teams included players as young as 14 and as old as 35.

“It was a mix of everything, but the support of the players in Germany really gave me the confidence I needed,” Bartlett said.

She specifically credits two of the men’s team captains, David Beckmann and Gustav Weber, as having a significant impact in her development as a coach.

“They held me to a level of accountability that shaped me into being the best coach I could be,” Bartlett said. “They consistently provided me with very constructive feedback.”

Less than a year after arriving in Germany, her coaching roles with the Frankfurt club led to an additional position as an assistant with the German women’s national development team. The contacts she made in that position also opened opportunities to serve as an unofficial contributor to the German men’s national team.

In the meantime, Bartlett led the Frankfurt men to a best-ever third-place finish in the 2019 German championships, with her dad on the sidelines as her assistant coach and providing counsel from his 21 years of collegiate coaching experience.

On the heels of that success and after getting her feet wet with the German national teams, in the summer of 2019, Bartlett applied for an opening to serve as the head coach of the Luxembourg men’s national team.

She didn’t get the job, but the man who did, veteran NCAA Division I coach Bruce Casagrande, offered her a role as an assistant coach. She accepted the position, and when Casagrande stepped down in 2020, Bartlett was elevated to head coach. Her rise through the coaching ranks had led her to the head coaching position of a men’s national team.

“If you love a sport and you are passionate about it, don’t let anything hold you back,” Bartlett said. “Don’t be afraid to go against the grain or to explore a different path.”

After four years in Europe, Bartlett once again forged a new path this past summer. While she remains the head coach for Luxembourg, she resigned from her position with Frankfurt and returned to the United States to explore new options.

“I didn’t have a job when I first came back, so I started working summer camps and making new connections,” she said. “I was also applying for jobs, but not too many people were taking me seriously as an applicant for men’s coaching positions.”

That’s when Koch, having just arrived at Denison, reached out to her. Their initial conversation was far from a formal job interview.

“It was very informal,” Bartlett said. “He just wanted to talk and gauge my interest in the position.”


Denison completed its Fall Ball last weekend, and Bartlett has been "a really good fit."

That first conversation left a strong enough impression on Koch that he decided to explore the matter further. Several conversations later, he was confident that Bartlett was ready for the challenge in Granville.

“I was super impressed with her energy, knowledge, experience, and her drive,” Koch said. “Her knowledge of the men’s game was very apparent, and she also had an honest understanding of the hurdle that she might need to overcome in breaking the gender barrier.”

Little did Koch know, at the time, that Bartlett also had great familiarity with Denison. For many years, Doug Bartlett teamed with Caravana for lacrosse summer camps in Granville with Maiah, naturally, along for the ride.

“I would work in the camp store but always wanted to be out on the field,” Maiah said. “Now I was finally getting my chance.”

By the time Denison concluded its Fall Ball practices last week, the new staff, which also includes assistant coach Ryan Rohde, felt like the cohesive group Koch envisioned.

“It’s been a really good fit, very organic,” Koch said. “When the players see how well connected we are as a staff, they view her as ‘just a coach.’ And she is great with the guys. She’s got the skill set to earn the trust of the players.”

Bartlett admits that the first practice in the fall did have a unique feeling but acknowledges that it was a new experience for all involved.

“I was incredibly nervous, in part because I was used to being the lone wolf when I was overseas, and now I was part of a collaborative process,” Bartlett said. “But I started finding my voice and rhythm after that first week.”

She feels no added pressure of being a pioneer for female coaches, or in breaking down barriers. After all, both the NFL and NBA have introduced female coaches in recent years. Why not men’s lacrosse?

“I like the appeal of being a trailblazer, if that’s how others see me,” Bartlett said, “but it blows my mind if I’m the only one doing this. I’m just trying to continue growing as a coach. Hopefully, this is just another step in what I hope will be a long journey.”