Working in both the Athletic and Admissions Departments for a combined 25 years, Lisa Joel, Girls Varsity Soccer Head Coach and Director of Enrollment Management, will become Andover’s next Athletic Director, following the retirement of Coach Leon Modeste in 2019. Coach Joel embodies a lifelong experience with athletics, including playing on three varsity collegiate teams at Amherst College and receiving the Friends of Amherst Athletics award twice.
Coach Joel said, “I grew up playing every single sport that was possible, including my dad had me playing football [and] baseball. Sports were just a sort of integral part of my upbringing. Through college, I played competitively soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, and my senior year I captained all of those teams.”
Coach Joel started at Andover in 1993 as a teaching fellow in the Athletic Department. She later took on more roles including Sports Information Director and Dean of Abbot Cluster. Additionally, she coached as an assistant at the varsity level for Soccer, Basketball, and Lacrosse, before becoming the head coach of the Girls Varsity Soccer team. According to Coach Joel, she will stay as Girls Soccer’s Head Coach after taking on the Athletic Director position as well.
“I couldn’t see myself doing this job if I couldn’t stay engaged as Head Coach of Andover Girls Soccer. It is certainly something I have loved for twenty years. It seems to me if I’m supporting teacher-coaches, it makes sense that I’m doing the same work,” said Coach Joel.
The process to becoming Athletic Director took place after Modeste announced his retirement in the fall and involved a nationwide search, interviews, and reviews from a committee formed by Dean of Faculty, Patrick Farrell.
Coach Joel said, “They started inviting candidates earlier this fall knowing that they would be announcing an Athletic Director by Thanksgiving time. The great thing was, and I think it was really important, is that this was a national search. I think the importance of a strong applicant pool from even outside our community is an incredible job and incredible opportunity.”
Andover’s Athletic Director works with other schools in improving the interscholastic competitions in the area, manages the different athletic programs and aspects at Andover, and, according to Coach Joel, helps support the faculty and coaches involved in the Athletic Department.
“I will be overseeing every aspect of athletic programming for our students. I’ll also be working with the faculty community to figure out how best to support them, whether that be supporting interscholastic coaches in administering a competitive program for our students or supporting, which is unbelievable, our dance program, and I think our dance program is an essential part in our athletic programming at Andover,” said Coach Joel.
Coach Joel continued, “Outdoor pursuits, all of our Life Sports, there is no one priority for me in terms of where my focus will be. I think it’s important that I support all aspects of the athletic programming equally.”
Andover’s Athletic Program has always been strong because of past Athletic Directors, according to Coach Joel, and she hopes to emphasize a focus on each individual student’s unique athletics experiences during their time at Andover.
Coach Joel said, “[The Athletic Department is] really incredibly healthy and vibrant because of all the work that has been done by many of the Athletic Directors who were working and who still work here like Coach [Leon] Modeste, Coach [Martha] Fenton, Coach [Mike] Kuta. I think like anything else, there’s always opportunity for more growth. As Andover changes, so too will an athletic program.”
“My vision is that I want the Athletic Program to serve all of our students in a way that enhances their Andover experience and is part of their educational experience, no matter how it is they choose to engage in it. There will be competitive athletes through our athletic programming, and there will be students who never engaged in our athletic programming, but I think the important thing is that every aspect of what we do really maximizes the student experience and it makes them feel like they can do all aspects of their life at Andover,” continued Coach Joel.
Coach Joel attributes the strength of the Athletic Department to the new state-of-the-art facilities that are and will be a part of the program.
Coach Joel said, “It’s also an exciting time of facility growth for the Athletic Department with the Snyder Center which gives us an opportunity to enhance our Athletic Program also with the announcement of the Pan Athletic Center. All resources and facilities will be second-to-none in not just this region but really anywhere.”
Coach Joel’s experience and character will greatly benefit the Athletic Department, according to Coach Modeste and Andover Girls Soccer Co-Captain Elise MacDonald ’19.
“Ms. Joel’s terrific. First of all, she’s a great athlete herself. She knows our sports program. She’s worked with this office many many times. She started working in this office when she first got here. She knows this program. I think she will be a terrific Athletic Director, and I’m delighted that she’ll be my successor,” said Coach Modeste.
MacDonald wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “She genuinely cares about every person she meets and will go to the world’s end to help. She is compassionate, strong-willed, and she knows how to take care of business. I’m jealous of all the future students that will interact with her through Andover Athletics and am sad to be leaving just as she’s taking on this roll. I know the culmination of her experience and extraordinary personality will benefit each person in the Athletic Department.”
According to Coach Joel, she looks forward to making Andover’s athletics a positive experience for students and something that helps develop each individual.
Coach Joel said, “I’m so excited, and I’m so grateful for what I see as an enormous opportunity. What I want the athletic programming to be is a space for [students] where they are feeling positive, where they’re feeling affirmed, where they’re feeling challenged [and] that they might look to their athletic experience and see it as a highlight of their Andover education and a space where they grew as much in their personal learning as any other venue that they’ll engage in at Andover.”