Although the women’s soccer team’s record this season (6-9-1, 2-4-1 Ivy) was less than attention-grabbing, one statistic was not.
After losing last season’s starting goalkeeper, Lillian Klein, to graduation, the Lions were forced to rely on a group of talented but inexperienced goalkeepers for this year. The goalkeeping unit, composed entirely of underclassmen, not only filled the void left by Klein’s departure, but also improved on the team’s 2011 performance, increasing its save percentage from 0.787 to 0.827.
This improvement coincided with the arrival of goalkeeper coach Nathan Kipp, a former Duke goalkeeper coach and a coach in the Women’s Professional Soccer League. Kipp met women’s soccer head coach Kevin McCarthy when he was just starting his coaching career at Iona College back in 2003. Kipp went on to work for a number of collegiate programs before advancing into the professional coaching game, where he most recently worked with New Jersey team Sky Blue FC.
But when the WPSL suspended play earlier this year, Kipp was eager to get back into the college game. Since he was living close to New York City, he reached out to McCarthy to inquire about joining the staff as a goalkeeper coach.
“I approached him saying, look, I want to get back in the college game and I’m anxious to do some coaching with some younger players who are not quite as far along in their development cycle,” Kipp said.
The academic rigor at Columbia is what attracted Kipp to the Lions’ soccer program. Ivy League athletes bring their academic prowess to the game of soccer, Kipp said—they are students of the game.
“I always enjoyed coaching soccer players who are also intellects,” Kipp said.
Kipp brought his own coaching philosophy with him to Columbia. He believes that goalkeepers must be taught individually because they each have a different approach to playing the game. The relationship between a goalkeeper coach and his players could be equated to that of a baseball pitching coach and his pitchers—Kipp has to find ways to maximize the unique personal abilities of each individual goalkeeper.
The three goalkeepers, Jourdan Sayers, Grace Redmon, and Gabby Dubick, said that Kipp has been successful, especially by introducing new techniques such as filming their practices.
Kipp’s players all spoke highly of his training techniques and the individual attention he provides.
Despite breaking her foot in the preseason, sophomore Jourdan Sayers cited Kipp’s individual help and attention as major factors in quickening her return to the game.
“When I did come back, I had a lot of difficulty diving to the side that I broke, and so there were a few times that he stayed late at practice with me just to break that down, and to really focus at regaining the basic technique,” Sayers said.
This year’s women’s soccer team offered Kipp the unique opportunity to coach young, developing keepers eager to improve their respective games. The lack of an established upperclassman keeper has lead to a healthy competitiveness within the goalkeeping unit, and the goalkeepers being so close in age adds to the competitiveness. They also said they spur each other on.
“I don’t think it would matter if they were seniors or juniors or we were all freshmen. We would all come in everyday with an attitude that wants to train, wants to work hard, wants to win and do what’s best for the team,” freshman goalkeeper Gabby Dubick said.
Although sophomore Grace Redmon started the most games in the net this season, all three keepers have good shots at the starting job for next season.
“Every season is an open book, and even though we had a situation this year with one goalkeeper playing the majority of minutes, we’re not locked into that. We’re not locked into Grace.
She will have to earn that starting spot next year,” Kipp said.
Next season’s starter may be up in the air, but one thing is for sure: If this season was any indication, things will only continue to improve for coach Kipp and the trio of young goalkeepers.
There is a lot of work to be done in the offseason, but 2013 looks promising.