COVID-19 Can’t Stop Our Smart Soccer Players


Courtesy of Go Yeo

The varsity women’s soccer team.

Last Thursday, both the women’s and men’s soccer teams were awarded the prestigious United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award. This award recognizes teams who have acquired at least a 3.0 grade point average throughout the academic year. With over 800 college soccer teams receiving the award, Oberlin College was one of only 172 schools to have both men’s and women’s teams receive the award. 

This award comes as no surprise, as the Yeomen have received this award for 11 straight years, and it has been nine consecutive years for the Yeowomen.

“To consistently win this award means a lot to me and our program,” Blake New, head men’s soccer coach, wrote in an email to the Review. “One of our team tenets is that we will strive to achieve a 3.2 team GPA every semester, and we have built a culture that values that accomplishment.”

With this past academic year and the challenges of COVID-19, New is proud of his team’s work ethic and feels that this year’s award resonates with him a little differently. It shows how his players have continued to commit themselves to their studies through unusual and trying times.

“Without the release of training and playing the game that they love, they were still able to stay focused on the task at hand,” New wrote. “Our leaders [kept] everyone accountable.”

Assistant Men’s Soccer Coach David Wilson credits the team’s academic success to student leadership. 

“They’re accountable to one another,” Wilson said. “Their shared curiosity and support for one another drives them to do well. We help them set up a plan and give them support where and as they need it, but it’s down to them to take care of their work.”

Head Women’s Soccer Coach Dan Palmer, now in his eighth year with the team, has never had to pester his team about focusing on academics — they do it on their own. 

“Our players all know their academic success is the priority,” Palmer said.“They are a pretty focused group … I simply try to provide an environment that allows them to prioritize their academic pursuits over soccer if there is ever a conflict.”  

Palmer believes that one of the many reasons his team has had such great academic success is due to the opportunities the college provides for student athletes. And even with the cancelation of the fall season, he knows team members are appreciative of what they have. 

“They are excited to have the opportunity to be on campus and have in person learning, as well as have a team experience,” Palmer said. “It is not what anyone hoped for, but it is still a privilege they appreciate and value.”

Both head coaches of the men’s and women’s soccer teams credited the Oberlin Athletics department for helping their teams achieve this award. 

“I think the entire department understands that the number one goal for our players is to get a great education,” New said. “It all happens with the student coming first in our minds. We all want to win and improve, but we also know that almost 100 percent of our athletes will not be professionals. Our job is to use athletics as a way to get them ready for life after college.”

While both teams have had their 2020 seasons suspended due to COVID-19, they are currently practicing with masks and social distancing rules in place. Even though this has been a challenging year, New is confident that his team will be able to continue its streak of academic accomplishment while giving their all to their sport.

“Athletics always comes second [at Oberlin],” New said. “Sometimes a very close second, but always second.”