Coach Feature Fall Sports Girls Soccer Sports

‘Fearless Mama Bear’ Lisa Joel Creates Close-Knit Family With 25 Years of Coaching Experience

D.Zhu/The Phillipian

Coach Lisa Joel manages to bond with each player, depite having a new roster every year.

Head Coach Lisa Joel developed a love for soccer early on, playing on co-ed town teams as a child. She went on to play collegiate soccer, basketball, and lacrosse at Amherst College and then continued her passion for sports at Andover, where she began as a Teaching Fellow in Athletics and as the Andover Girls Soccer Assistant Coach in 1993. Five years later, she took over the program as Head Coach.

Joel said, “Coming out of college, sports was a big part of my life there, I played sports for four years year-round, and that experience was as informative as my education at Amherst. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but a teammate at Amherst kind of pointed me in the direction of coming to work at Andover. It seemed like a great transition because I was a Teaching Fellow in Athletics, I was able to coach the three sports that I played in college, which I loved, and it made me stay in the game. What I realized was now that I couldn’t play, coaching was a great way to do something that I loved.”

According to Joel, her favorite part about coaching the Andover team is having the chance to work with a new group of players each year.

Joel said, “I think what I enjoy most is the opportunity every year to have a new group of girls and create that unique team, and that unique chemistry. [To] figure out all the pieces together and sort of help every player reach their potential as a team… so we can be the best possible Girls Varsity Soccer in the year it is. I love that challenge, because every year is different and it’s just a new group of girls so it’s fun.”

Joel motivates the team to work hard and grow both physically and mentally, according to Emma Fogg ’21 and Anna Hurley ’21.

Fogg said, “She always asks us how we’re feeling mentally and physically, to make sure we’re not pushing ourselves too much where it’s not good, but in the areas where she knows we can do better. She pushes us because she knows that’ll make us a better person or a better athlete, and it helps improve our game technique or just help us with things in general.”

Hurley added, “As a coach, she gives our team helpful advice on the field. She doesn’t just focus on the physical aspect of things, either. She has helped me improve the mental side of my game. She has taught me a lot about mindfulness, and she also has our team take two deep breaths just before the start of every game. Because of her, I am a lot stronger mentally on the field.”

According to Myra Bhathena ’22 and Co-Captain Elise MacDonald ’19, one of Joel’s best qualities is her ability to create a close and inclusive team environment through her care for each player.

In an email to The Phillipian, MacDonald wrote, “My favorite thing about Lisa is how she treats every single player on the team like a daughter. She really fosters the tight-knit family spirit that [Girls Varsity Soccer] is known for. She’s our fearless mama bear.”

Bhathena said, “From the first moment on the team, it is clear that she is more than just a coach to her players. She encourages us to support each other, and always says that we’re not just a team, we’re a family. We have done many team bonding activities like eating breakfast with our hands tied to our teammate’s hands. Lisa does an amazing job making everyone feel welcome and included.”

Along with being an encouraging coach, Joel is also a role model, supportive friend, and mentor, according to Co-Captain Allison Zhu ’19 and Hurley.

“Lisa is our coach and our role model, because she will do ‘Whatever It Takes’ for others. For example, at Team Prep Camp in Maine, a teammate forgot her toothbrush, so Lisa drove over to a nearby convenience store to get her one,” Zhu wrote in an email to The Phillipian.

Hurley said, “Lisa is not only a great coach, but she is a great person and friend. As a friend, Lisa is always there if you need to talk. She wants to help you in any way she can. If I’m ever having a problem, Lisa is my go-to person.”

Joel says she hopes that over the remainder of the season the team will continue to improve and enjoy playing together.

Joel said, “Our hopes all the time is that we define the success of our season not just in wins and losses. Certainly I am very competitive so I like to win, but I think I increasingly understand how we experience the season, and how we feel about coming to Graves [Hall] every day, and feel competing together, and work hard towards a common goal, those measures of success are actually more important to me than wins and losses.”

Joel continued, “So, would I like to win the rest of our games all season long? I absolutely would. But what I’m certain of is we’re just going to take it day by day, and we’ll see how the season goes along. Each day we’re going to be a better team, and we’re going to grow as people, and I feel I’m doing that alongside of the girls so I have a blast every day.”

Editor’s Note: Allison Zhu is a Commentary Editor for The Phillipian.