“To win. Not to tie. Not to not lose. GVS plays to win, and we do whatever it takes for the team and each other.”
This is Girls Soccer Head Coach Lisa Joel’s mantra and all of her players know it by heart. In her 23 years of coaching Andover Girls Soccer, Joel has worked tirelessly to nurture a supportive and empowering team culture. She firmly believes the lessons learned and relationships created from playing soccer translate to life off the field.
“My hope is that a player’s experience on GVS becomes one of their most defining experiences while they’re at Andover, no matter what period of time they spend on the field with us… and helps them to understand their personal power and ability to do more than they think is possible. The achievement of that is largely based on the support of their teammates… Quite frankly, my hope is that GVS impacts who they are once they leave here,” said Joel.
According to Co-Captain Myra Bhathena ’22, Joel prioritizes both the physical and mental health of her athletes.
Bhathena said, “Lisa is one of the greatest people on this planet, in my opinion. I think she has such a great balance of care for her players while being really competitive and wanting to win. She really cares for our mental and physical well-being and so that balance of love and discipline works very well for us. That compassion just makes a difference.”
Joel clearly conveys her expectations for the team, staying in constant communication and building trust with each individual player, according to Sofia Traversari ’23.
“Her leadership and her eloquence as she speaks emanate a sense of confidence and encouragement to every single player on this team… she is aware that for each one of us to perform our best, thus lead the pathway of success for GVS, we must first start with taking care of our bodies, our sleep, our nutrition and most importantly our mental and emotional health. Us, the players, truly absorb and appreciate this idea and we make sure to execute the plan accordingly,” wrote Traversari in an email to The Phillipian.
While Andover Girls Soccer is known for being a tough competitor, Joel believes that the learning opportunities players experience during matches are equally as important as winning.
“We love to compete, everyone loves to win, but if winning is strictly defined by a score [or an] outcome, then I think we miss all the lessons along the way. As I’ve always said to the girls, there are wins that don’t feel that great in terms of how we play or how we feel at the end, and there are losses we really feel good about when we walk away because we gave our all. That’s what I really feel is important to focus on for the team is sort of the process as much as the outcome,” said Joel.
For both Traversari and Bhathena, Joel has been an instrumental figure in their growth as teammates and people outside of the sport.
“We both share a deep passion for the sport of soccer and we both truly see it for more than a sport, and I think that is what makes me so close to Lisa and what I truly respect from her: She is truly driven by the love of the sport and what makes her different from any other coach is her ability to form deep connections with her players to effectively [form] a healthy, well-rounded and united group of girls that ultimately play for each other,” wrote Traversari.
Bhathena added, “Lisa is my second mom on campus and in my life. I think she’s seen me grow not only as a player but as a leader, as a person. I was a really, really timid [Junior] on her team three years ago. I think she’s just been there throughout it all, building my confidence and my skills to make me the captain I am today. I could not be here without her.”
Throughout her years of coaching, the team has participated in a wide variety of traditions, such as the annual Holt Hill run and the pre-game tradition of holding hands in a large circle. However, there’s one tradition that stands out from the rest, according to Joel.
“I think a big tradition that we actually haven’t been able to get back to is Team Prep camp, which happens in August before the season, and that experience of understanding the culture and the friendships of what it means to be a part of the soccer program. We’ve had a two-year pause on Team Prep, but what I do know is [for] alums from this program, when asked about the program, almost without exception Team Prep is the first thing they mention. We’re excited to head back to Maine next August,” said Coach Joel.