The Harvard athletic department announced the hiring of Elizabeth (Lou) O'Brien Berl as the head coach of Radcliffe lightweight crew on Oct. 11, 2013.
In her first season as the head lightweight coach at Radcliffe, Berl was selected by her peers as the IRA Lightweight Coach of the Year after she led the Black and White to its first IRA National Championship title since 1997 and seventh overall in program history. She was also named the CRCA Lightweight Coach of the Year.
The varsity eight, down seven seats with just 500 meters to race at the IRA National Championships, produced an incredible sprint that led Radcliffe to the title, finishing under one second ahead of Stanford and third-place finisher Bucknell. The Black and White opened the season ranked third in the nation before taking over the top position on April 23 and sustaining it through the remainder of the season. Radcliffe finished the year with an unblemished 9-0 record and won the Eastern Sprints for the second-straight year with a course-record time.
A successful rowing coach at multiple levels, Berl comes to the Charles River from Davidson, N.C., where she started Lou's Garage Crew (LGC), an intense training program for competitive youth rowers.
Formerly the head coach at her alma mater Trinity College, Berl led the Bantams to their first-ever NCAA championship regatta and won the New England Rowing Championship with both the varsity and second varsity eights.
Berl arrived at Trinity in 2001 after spending three years at the University of Virginia. Starting as the freshmen/novice coach, Berl was promoted to assistant varsity coach and consistently led her teams to medal finishes in championship events. Always a top-four team at the NCAA championships, the 1999 UVA squad tied Brown for most points as Berl's boats won gold and silver at the regatta.
Berl earned her collegiate coaching start at Ohio State University, where she led an undefeated novice squad to a first-place finish at the Mid-West Championships and Central Regional Sprints.
Berl also has six years of experience in the classroom, teaching at Woodlawn School (Davidson, N.C.) and Noble and Greenough School (Dedham, Mass.). While at Noble and Greenough, Berl coached the two-time undefeated varsity team to national championships in 1996 and 1997.
A captain and MVP varsity rower at Trinity, Berl graduated with a bachelor's degree in history in 1988. Berl was a member of the US Junior National team in 1984. The former Lou O'Brien married Chris Berl, a three-time US lightweight team member and former heavyweight rower at Penn, and the two have three daughters, Charlotte (14), Wilder (12) and Allaire (10).