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Meet the coach: Chris Neal

by Pam Richter,
  • Photo courtesy of Elon University Media Relations.

This summer, every night before he went to bed, Elon women's soccer coach Chris Neal took out his notebook and drew out soccer strategies for the upcoming season. During the summer months, Neal spent some of his time working on schedules for preseason workouts and logistical work for the team. He focused on preparing his team for the upcoming season on the field as well.

The balance Neal displays between logistical planning and planning on the field is something senior forward Brittany Hallberg said she recognizes most in her coach.

"One thing about him is that he knows when to be serious and knows when to make you laugh. He knows when to push you to your limits and make you work hard," Hallberg said. "But at the same time he makes soccer enjoyable. It's tough being a student athlete, but he finds that right balance between the two."

Hallberg wasn't recruited by Neal, who joined Elon as the head coach in January 2008, but said it wasn't a hard transition to his coaching style.

"He came in and knew what he wanted to do and was really confident in what he needed to get done with the team," Hallberg said.

In his first season, Neal led the team to an 8-8-3 record, the team's first .500 or better record since 1999. Last season, he coached the team to a 12-5-2 overall mark, setting a school record for the most wins since moving to Division I.

Junior defender Andrea Keller was one of the first players Neal recruited to come to Elon. During this time, she said their relationship has evolved and he helped her adjust to playing soccer on the collegiate level.

Both Keller and Hallberg agreed that Neal's ultimate goals are to help the players become better as individuals and also as a team.

"He's very constructive. He gives a lot of advice and pointers," Keller said. "In practice he'll give a lot of examples of how this will help in the game even when we are doing simple drills. He always tries to apply it to the game and make us better."

One thing Hallberg has taken away most from her coach is his inspirational pregame talks.

"You can just see his excitement and he gets you pumped up to play and ready to go," she said.

Beyond the excitement and passion, it comes back to Neal's balance for Hallberg and the rest of the Phoenix squad.

"Everyone sees him as a role model," Hallberg said. "You can go to him for advice about soccer or anything else. I think that the fact that he can be there for both is good."