Serving as the Andover Girls Soccer Head Coach since 1998 and now in her first year as Athletic Director, Lisa Joel has brought the aspects of family and love to the soccer program. She’s played soccer since the age of five and has over twenty seasons of coaching experience. According to Co-Captain Rachel Chang ’20, Joel’s coaching style has helped her focus on her priorities and become a more present player on the field.
Chang said, “I feel like one of the most valuable aspects of Coach Lisa [and her leadership] is that she truly understands the needs of each player on the team and she’s super willing to compromise or help whenever something comes up. She always emphasizes that family and school should come before soccer. I’ve had her as a coach for three years now, and she has been such a huge help for me during the season physically and emotionally, and I feel like she has helped the team a lot and shaped our [Girls Soccer] culture.”
What sports were you involved with growing up?
I played soccer on a coed team because that’s what it was when I was a little kid, and I always say that I was the person who made it coed. It was mostly a boys team because there weren’t any girls teams. I played basketball; I played softball, and I was just always outside, so I was pretty active growing up. I played football with my dad, and I played golf. I just loved being involved with sports.
What makes the Andover soccer program special?
The culture of the team is built on family and that’s the type of college program I grew up in. It’s the same culture that my college coach instilled in me… so I brought that to Andover. It’s what resonates with me. My best friends to this day are my teammates from college. I think a family goes through ups and downs, but you stick together and you’re driven by love. We love the game, we love each other, and we love to compete.
What do you want your players to learn from you?
Well over a decade ago, we said the motto would be ‘whatever it takes’ and that’s our mentality. Different teams are going to have different mottos. [Andover Field Hockey] has ‘don’t settle,’ and ‘whatever it takes’ is our foundation. By that, I mean that no one person is more important than another. All twenty-one of the girls and our four managers and [Assistant Coach Noureddine El Alam] and myself, as well as Amy Wiggins, who’s our trainer… everyone is essential and we all do, collectively together, whatever we need to do to bring success to the team.
What is your favorite Girls Soccer tradition?
Team Prep is amazing. The kids go every summer to Maine and it’s an incredible bonding experience for all players who play in the soccer program. It’s as much about the soccer as it is about the coming together and really establishing who we are as teammates and as the Andover soccer program. We’ve had many girls over two decades go through Team Prep and they say it’s the highlight of their soccer season. We love doing things like going up to Holt Hill once a season. We all run, jog, bike up there all together and enjoy that experience as a team. We have some traditions such as team dinners. The team eats most dinners together anyways, as lots of teams do. We’ve had pumpkin carving. The girls all get together the night of Abbot Ball. I think the girls love being together, so we definitely have things that have stood the test of time like picture-taking before the Abbot Ball.
How do you deal with challenges as a coach?
I think a part of being a team is experiencing challenges, so I don’t ever anticipate that there won’t be any challenges. I actually find them to be problem solving experiences for the collective team. Noureddine and I talk about [the] team all the time and we’re constantly trying to problem-solve. In games, when we think about training, even now during midterm week when people are really tired, we have some injuries, we continue to think about how we can be creative so that we can keep moving forward and keep loving coming to Graves [Field] every afternoon. I don’t see challenges as problems, I see them more as inevitable pieces of the season. There are always going to be ups and downs, but we have many more ups than downs. The thing we always say to the team is, ‘we don’t get derailed.’
Did your experience with the soccer program help make the transition to Athletic Director easier?
I just love everything about what athletic opportunities awards for young people and adults. It gives them the chance to learn about themselves and learn about the power of a team, working together, and overcoming disappointments and challenges. Athletics has always been a central part of my life, so this is an opportunity to work with so many of my colleagues who are unbelievable teacher-coaches in a formal way. I get the chance to hear what they’re doing and think about how that could impact what I might do and how we can think about a larger institutional change. I just get this opportunity to oversee a really awesome component of Andover’s program, but I really don’t do anything alone. I just see every coach around me and I see all these student athletes. We’re all striving to do what we do and bring joy to it and do it better and now I get to do that all the time so it’s super fun for me. I love what I do.
Editor’s Note: Rachel Chang is a News Editor for The Phillipian.