Coach Palmer Ushers in New Era For Yeowomen

Rose Stoloff, Sports Editor

With 12 new players, a new head coach and a rediscovered excitement for the game, the Yeowomen are an entirely new team this year. Three games into their season, the Yeowomen have already scored more goals and won more games than they did throughout the entire 2012 season.

“We’re playing completely different soccer,” said junior Abby Weiss, who attributes much of the team’s newfound success to the expertise of new Head Coach Dan Palmer. “He’s giving us completely different ideas, and the entire way that we play has been changed because he’s brought in this new vision.”

With 23 years of experience in coaching collegiate soccer, Palmer comes to Oberlin after having great success with Case Western Reserve University’s men’s team.

“To be able to shape a program and help a group of players get noticeably better than before is a challenge that I’m attracted to,” said Palmer. “In many ways [the soccer program] is very similar to when I started at Case. We had a lot of success and I was able to build that program up.” Palmer said he hopes to achieve the same sort of transformation at Oberlin as well.

Senior captain Sarah Andrews emphasized that one of Palmer’s strengths is the preparation he puts into designing drills. “His practices are a lot more planned. He does a really good job explaining things,” she said. “Everything has a purpose which makes you really motivated to work really hard in practice.”

Furthermore, Palmer has instilled a restored sense of competition among the Yeowomen. “He told us from day one that he wants us to ‘compete, compete, compete with each other,’ which has been kind of atrocious, but really effective,” said Weiss. “Every practice we are competing for spots, we’re competing for playing time. He can’t favor anyone because he doesn’t know us, he doesn’t know our playing [styles].”

This is a drastic departure from last year, during which each player knew her standing on the team. “This year there’s a lot more unknown, which, for a female team, can be really challenging,” said Weiss, “but it’s making us stronger, and making us fitter, and making us fight more, which is really what we needed.

Palmer has worked to improve both the chemistry of the team as well as to foster individual skills. Prior to this season, the Yeowomen had flip-flopped between various formations on the field, limiting their ability to master any of them. This season, however, the team has consistently worked with one formation, something Andrews believes is making them much more effective.

Andrews also added that Palmer places a high premium on working with each player. “He’s very good about individual feedback,” she said. Weiss agreed, adding, “Even during the game, he has no problem taking you out and saying, ‘This is what you’re doing wrong, so go back in and do it right.’ ”

Perhaps Palmer’s greatest strength, however, is his ability to make the team more emotionally invested in the game. “He’s all about getting an emotional reaction out of us, whether it’s a good reaction or a bad reaction,” said Weiss. “He wants us to get really excited or get really pissed so that we have an emotional reaction to something and want to succeed and do better.”

“He’s all about attitude and hustle,” added Andrews. “He’s really made it so much easier to care and to be so much more excited about what’s going on.”

Despite the team’s early success, the Yeowomen have a long road ahead of them. Instead of focusing on lofty goals, however, Palmer has very realistic benchmarks he wants the team to meet.

“I’m not too concerned with wins and losses,” Palmer said. “I’m more concerned about how we play, and if we’re doing the things we’re supposed to do, then we’ll start winning games.”

Palmer’s pragmatic attitude has clearly affected the players as well. “Obviously we always have the goal of making it to the [North Coast Athletic Conference] tournament,” Weiss said. “But realistically it’s not a very smart goal. Keeping the score even, so not losing by more than five goals, being the first team to score — those are more tangible goals.”

Weiss added that she can feel the team turning around. “The end of last season was a real slap in the face, and Dan’s enthusiasm is so infectious; it’s really great. We’re all really confident that we can win games and perform well.