Ten years ago, the Burlington Pioneers volleyball team needed a coach. With prior experience as a volleyball player and her involvement with the Burlington County Special Services School District as a cosmetology teacher, Lisa Caplan decided to step into the role.

Since Lisa became coach, the Pioneers have seen notable success, bringing home a gold medal from state competition almost every year. Due to the team’s success and connection to the community, the Pioneers have seen a steady growth in numbers at tryouts.

While an influx of new players is a benefit to the team, it also serves as a challenge when teammates are unfamiliar with each other’s playing style and personalities. Lisa knew it would be essential this season to focus on creating a strong team dynamic to continue to compete at the level the Burlington Pioneers are known for. Her coaching style not only required a focus on skill development, but emphasized creating a cohesive unit. With an understanding of the dispositions and athletic abilities of each player, Lisa illuminated the value each member brought to the team.

After recognizing the growth in leadership on her team, Lisa started to enlist the help of the team captains during practices. Their responsibilities included leading warm ups, assisting new athletes with skill development and being involved with some of the management aspects of the team. With these opportunities available, Lisa has seen a significant increase in confidence and self-esteem in her players. The chance to serve in such a role motivates many of her team members to strive for the title of captain. Many have become more focused during practices and games to exemplify their readiness to lead and support the team.

Each season, Lisa continues to value the coaching principles that have led to the team’s development and success in the past. She and her assistant coach reiterate that the goal is to always have fun and demonstrate good sportsmanship. As Lisa states, “Encouragement is a far stronger tool than discouragement.” Building on the emphasis she puts into teamwork, Lisa expresses that the team will be more successful working together rather than as individuals on the court.

In her ten years as a coach, Lisa’s favorite part is watching her players grow into skilled and competitive athletes. Seeing how proud they are of their accomplishments motivates Lisa to return each year and help her athletes continue to improve. She is thankful for all the positive experiences Special Olympics New Jersey has brought into her life and we are thankful to have such a strong coach leader. For her drive for success, player development and dedication, we are honored to name Lisa Caplan the 2018 Winter Sports Coach of the Season.


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