by Max Carter
As Bryan Olson descended Snoqualmie Pass on Feb. 26, 2016, he was completely unaware of the invisible, life-changing data pouring into his cellphone. Pulling into North Bend to take a break from the rainy drive, the former Whitworth men’s soccer assistant coach opened his phone to see a voicemail from Whitworth University director of athletics Tim Demant. Demant let Olson know he had just been hired as the new head coach of the women’s soccer team at Whitworth.
When Jael Hagerott announced that she was stepping down as head coach of the Whitworth women’s soccer team on Nov. 9, 2015, it shocked many, including Olson.
“I was surprised. Just knowing Jael and her ties to this community and this place—I know it’s a place that she’s loved her experience at,” Olson said. “She grew up with her dad coaching the women’s program and he taught here, so it’s been a huge part of her life.”
After hearing the news of Hagerott’s decision back in November, junior defender Hannah Langbehn had to find a way to help herself and her teammates maintain the progress and camaraderie they have worked to establish over the last year.
“It was a tough time for sure, not knowing. As upperclassmen we just got everybody together, and Jael was very helpful in setting up weightlifting and indoor times,” Langbehn said. “We tried to be very intentional with our time together and tried to really strive to just get better for ourselves.”
Even with strong leadership from upperclassmen like Langbehn and junior forward Dallas Nelson, the transition to a new head coach is not always easy. That being said, sophomore midfielder Katie Bischoff said Coach Olson has already taken the steps necessary to make the transition a positive experience.
“Before Spring Break, each of us is having a 30-minute meeting with him so that he can get to know us—what our dreams are, what our goals are, who we are as people,” Bischoff said. “It’s pretty exciting that he has reached out to really get to know us all individually.”
A hometown product of Spokane, Bischoff has memories of playing for coach Olson when she was 12 years old. The sophomore midfielder used to play for the same soccer club that Olson coached, though Olson was never the head coach of Bischoff’s club team. However, coach Olson would occasionally fill in when the coach for Bischoff’s team was gone.
“My desire is to set a standard for our culture and communication right from the start,” Olson said. “I want to find out who these players are as people, what drives them, where they’ve been, where they are now and where they would like to go.“
As far as the on-field performance goes, coach Olson will encourage his players to move the ball all over the pitch with conviction and confidence. Langbehn said the women will play a much more independent kind of soccer in 2016 and beyond.
“Bo has really emphasized that he wants us to be doing the decision making on the field,” Langbehn said. “When we are out on the field, he wants us to be prepared to make the decisions. He can’t call a timeout, so it really comes down to us making our own decisions in the game.”
With his style of soccer now effectively communicated, coach Olson is expressed optimism about his first season as the head coach of the women’s soccer team, and has his eyes fixed on immediate success.
“I think we are going to play the best soccer in the country,” Olson said. “We are going to be a team that is very intelligent, a team that solves problems, a team that can think and a team that can be selfless.”
With the coaching situation sorted out and the 2015-2016 school year quickly nearing its end, the Whitworth women’s soccer program finds itself at the beginning of a new era. Coach Olson’s first contest is six months away, which means he has half a year to turn a team that went 6-11-3 last season into the best team in the nation.