I have been fortunate and privileged to have been following Coach David Clark, head coach of the Lady Eagle volleyball program, for 17 years, either as a parent of a volleyball player or as a sportswriter.
Coach Clark is in his 19th season at the helm of the Lady Eagles volleyball program. He has taken them to the Elite Eight 16 of those 19 years — an incredible record.
I have known Coach Clark from the very beginnings of his program.
I have seen him as a single young man, watched him as he dated, then as he married his lovely wife Connie.
I have seen him as he became a father, twice, first to son Colton and then to daughter Caitlyn.
I have watched him coach volleyball and girls basketball as well as boys baseball.
I have seen him as a young coach struggle to learn the ins and outs of the volleyball program. I have seen him take a volleyball team to the Elite Eight only to have first his setter, then his backup setter go down with ankle injures.
I have watched him as he consoled his teams after losing in the Elite Eight, and celebrated as his teams won state championships.
What has always been a constant about the Lady Eagle volleyball program is Coach Clark, and especially the mellow, laid back way he has of coaching.
What a lot of people don’t know about Coach Clark is that he was just a thesis away from a degree in architecture, something he had gone to school a long time to obtain.
Yet there was something just not right about being an architect. Perhaps it was the long line of teachers in his background. Both his mother and her mother were teachers, and both grandparents on his father’s side; in fact, his grandfather was a superintendent for quite a while.
At any rate, Clark decided to go back and do the fifth year program at Jacksonville State University to get a teaching degree and to become a coach.
Having played at Saks, Clark contacted Randy Law, a coach he was familiar with at Saks, to see if he could help him out. Law let Clark coach his girls junior high basketball team and also help out with softball. In his first year, the girls basketball team won the junior high county championship and the next year was runner-up.
A former coach of Clark’s was John Lyons, who at this time was now at Jacksonville High School. Clark contacted Lyons and asked if he could possibly get a job at JHS.
Clark interviewed with Gary Fomby, the JHS football coach and athletic director. Clark remembers that he was “told” that he was going to do girls sports. He remembers the interview going like this: “OK,” said Fomby, “This is what you are going to do. You will coach the varsity girls volleyball and junior high volleyball; you’ll need to get a coach. You will also coach varsity girls basketball and junior high basketball; you’ll need to get a coach. You will also coach boys and girls soccer. It’s nice to meet you, goodbye.”
Clark recalled that he said “Yes sir,” and walked out the door. Clark was hired as the in-school suspension teacher.
At the time, the only thing Clark knew about volleyball was what he had seen on TV during the Olympics.
Clark has studied the game of volleyball; he has attended camps and clinics to get him to where he is today — one of the most respected volleyball coaches in the state.
While Clark’s knowledge of the game and his reputation to produce top teams is known around the state, it is the way that he coaches that both amazes and perplexes people.
Clark is known as the most laid back, mellow coach you will ever meet. You never see him raise his voice, get upset, or lose his temper.
Clark feels that he also got this trait from his father. “My father is a quiet person, a quiet man, but had very strong discipline. Silence said as much with him as anything he could say,” Clark said. “I think I was influenced by the way he handled us growing up. He was a military man, a drill sergeant, but he did it without yelling and screaming. He was very tough, not in a bad way, but we knew where he stood.”
Clark said that of all the coaches he had over the years, what didn’t work for him was someone who was constantly yelling and constantly on you about something. “It was counterproductive and you stopped listening at some point,” said Clark.
Clark says that Law and Lyons were two mentors for him. “John (Lyons) and I have different coaching methods, but he taught me the important administrative things about coaching and how to have effective practices,” said Clark.
Clark is the same off the court as he is on the court with his team. His wife Connie says “he’s pretty much the same all the time: even, mellow. He’s the calm one.”
Obviously, the coaching method has paid off, and Clark has produced winning teams year after year because of it. His teams adore him. They win for him.
Clark not only is a great example by the way he coaches, but also is a great example in other ways as well. He’s humble, he puts things in their right perspective, he has priorities and shows the girls by the way he lives what’s important.
This was all brought home after the Calhoun County championship game, which the Lady Eagles lost to Donoho. Clark, sad for his girls but realizing there would be more matches, showed what was important to him when, as he saw his daughter Caitlyn approach him, his eyes brightened and sparkled and he reached down and hugged her with a big smile across his face.
Some people just know how to get the best out of their team and how to teach them important life lessons. It is here that David Clark succeeds. He has the blueprint for success.