Join soccerly to save and share the best soccer stories
Sign up with Facebook
By login in with Facebook you agree on the terms and conditions specified here

MATCHES
 
 
WALTHAM, Mass.—Brandeis Judges head women’s soccer coach Denise Dallamora isn’t too preoccupied with being just one win shy of 300. With her team’s season opener versus the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the horizon, she and her players are instead focused on catching the butterfly.
Dallamora next to join 300-win club
08/28/2014
 
Denise Dallamora (center) set to go for her 300th coaching win

WALTHAM, Mass.—Brandeis Judges head women’s soccer coach Denise Dallamora isn’t too preoccupied with being just one win shy of 300. With her team’s season opener versus the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the horizon, she and her players are instead focused on catching the butterfly.


That means they’re focused on achieving their full potential—an ultimate in a play well first, focus on results later mentality.


“We try to have all our little pegs in place,” said Dallamora from her office inside Brandeis’ Gosman Sports and Convocation Center. “If we do, then we have a big net to catch the butterfly. If we don’t have them all in place, we only have a little finger to catch the butterfly.“


The Judges got to campus on Aug. 15—nearly two weeks ahead of semester’s start—to get all those little pegs in place. In between two-a-day practices, Dallamora had her team attend workshops on nutrition, mental toughness, and competitive visualization. Though she’s the program’s only coach in history, taking her post in 1980, Dallamora still calls herself a student of the game. She’s read books on athleticism and sought out experts in high-performance workouts; she’s taught yoga; one of her expertise is in physical training. Now in her 34th season, she admits that this year’s preseason was probably the most intense, if not the most aggressive, in preparing Brandeis for a potential four-month long slog of Division 3 competition.


This is a team that’s tasted the allure of high-level competition, having made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Championships in 2012. The team is a perennial shoo-in for postseason tournaments, too, playing in the eight-team University Athletic Association and against a slew of northeastern teams. Dallamora has produced three All-Americans. She helped set up the women’s committee for the National Soccer Coaches Association, helping push U.S. national team player April Heinrichs pursue a career in coaching. Heinrichs, now the Technical Director of U.S. women’s soccer, coached the U.S. women at the 2003 World Cup and to a gold medal finish at the 2004 Athens Olympics.


Dallamora is currently 32nd on the all-time wins list for women’s college soccer coaches, including all divisions, while she’s 11th for Division 3. The 300th win is her next major accolade, an upcoming inevitability, but she’s instead chosen to stay the course and prepare for MIT like she would any game.


As always, the focus is on the butterfly.


“I only got a message from an alumnus who said ‘oh, I hope to be in your stands for your 300th win.’ I don’t keep track of them, to be honest,” said Dallamora.


“It’s better than 300 losses, certainly,” she said with a laugh. “I’m not looking at my stats. When I talk to my team, we don’t cater to the individual. I don’t want to be, because it’s kind of against our culture, kind of putting something for me ahead of the team.”


Dallamora’s past and present players unanimously said that she has a humble, team-first disposition. She’s been consistent in that way. In others not so much, though it’s hardly her fault.


She started soccer at 20 years old, playing in midfield so she could see a lot of the ball and use her speed, despite growing up with basketball, field hockey, and softball. She coached club soccer, then some high school, before arriving at Brandeis in 1979 as an athletic trainer at age 22. She was promoted to head soccer coach in 1980, the year the program began.


This was a dead era for American soccer in general, not only for collegiate women. The North American Soccer League, which housed famous players like Pele and Franz Beckenbauer, was drowning in debt. The U.S. didn’t qualify for a World Cup between 1950 and 1990. Soccer was played on beat up fields in remote areas. As longtime Boston Globe soccer reporter Frank Dell’Apa once put it: “I’m not sure what I covered in the 80s. I honestly can’t remember.”


When the Brandeis men’s soccer team won the national championship in 1976, head coach Mike Coven ‘s players didn’t return home to celebration. For their trouble, his players got a dinner, a paper weight, and got to parade around campus inside a yellow school bus with no one recognizing their accomplishment. Dallamora faced even more of an uphill battle. Her initial budget for the women’s soccer team?


Seventy-five bucks.


“Women’s soccer hadn’t begun,” said Dallamora. “It was a struggle in the beginning, for numbers. It was walk-ons, sometimes players hadn’t even played and were just athletic or wanted to learn. It’s how the program started.”


The NCAA didn’t have enough women’s soccer teams nationwide to split the divisions. So Brandeis played against Division 1 teams, failing to make the national tournament.


The arrival of Title IX, plus the success of the U.S. women’s soccer team at the 1991 and 1994 World Cups changed everything for Dallamora, her scouting, and soccer in general.


“Love them. There’s Michelle Akers, there’s Mia Hamm, there’s [Kristine] Lilly. I watched them all, in person,” said Dallamora while pointing at various posters of the legendary U.S. players. Above Dallamora’s desk is a poster of Michelle Akers, her autograph and the words “Good luck, Brandeis” faded from almost two decades of sunlight.


“They’re great role models. They could show women what they could do and what they were capable of. They had great work ethics. We try to emulate them.”


In the aftermath of the U.S.’ two World Cup wins, more girls learned to play soccer. Their technique improved drastically too, making Dallamora’s job easier. And as her players improved, so did her budget.


“From 75 dollars to 100 to 225 to 1,000 to even more. Now, I sometimes over-recruit,” she said.


The results of patience and letting women’s soccer take root has been success. Opposite the wall featuring former U.S. greats, Dallamora has posters and certificates that spring memories of solid, successful teams. There are signed soccer balls and countless team photos. Soccer was once much different. Today, Dallamora’s teams have been all business. 


"To us, we are her family; we are all her daughters, even once you graduate” said current captain Alec Spivack, a senior who plays both midfield and central defense. “That’s the way she is with us."
-Alec Spivack, captain-

“To us, we are her family; we are all her daughters, even once you graduate” said current captain Alec Spivack, a senior who plays both midfield and central defense. “That’s the way she is with us.”


Dallamora presents her catch the butterfly philosophy ever year at the start of preseason. This year, her players took it especially to heart.


“The team was more receptive to speech this year. It lays the foundation for the culture of our team,” added Spivack. “Winning isn’t an outcome. Catch the butterfly, enjoy it, enjoy the team,” Spivack continued. “The genius of it is: can we be aggressive, but can we also be composed? It’s about two different things that wouldn’t compliment each other on paper but work well on the field. Can we be consistent, and also spontaneous?”


“Everyone is so positive, everyone wants to enjoy every second of it, even if its fitness or practice, or water breaks, no one is ever walking. Things are starting to click, were going to be playing great.”


Though catching the butterfly requires the focus to be on playing well rather than result, Dallamora’s players want to seal up this accomplishment as soon as possible. The Judges are coming off a 10-6-3 season, having lost their main offensive talisman and some core players in midfield and defense through injuries and graduation. They have lost to MIT just once in the last five years, in addition to an overall excitement to starting a new season.


“I was on the team for her 200th win, my senior year,” says Lauren Gregor, who scored 40 goals for Brandeis and graduated in 2006. “It’s super impressive that in not even ten years she’s gotten 100 more.”


“We didn’t realize—she probably didn’t even realize—how many wins she has,” added Spivack. “It validates how great of a coach she is. She started the program here. I’m proud to have played for her, there’s just so much tradition.”


The 300th win—and success beyond it—will come. The potential will be realized. That butterfly won’t get too far.


Follow Julian on twitter @juliancardillo

 
2
   
More stories
 
6
   
 
1
   
 
0
   
 
2
   
 
2
   
 
1
   
 
1
   
 
1
   
 
0
   
 
1