E.A. Sports Today

Fly Eagle fly

Jax’ Clark leaving the nest, affirms commitment to play volleyball at Snead State; will be coached by someone other than mom or dad

Jacksonville volleyball player Caitlin Clark (C) turns to her mom Connie with dad and coach David smiling proudly after affirming her commitment to play for Snead State Friday.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Anyone with children of college-playing age knows the day will come when the kids leave the nest to fly on the next level. It’s an emotional day on both sides.

Jacksonville volleyball player Caitlin Clark affirmed her commitment to continue her playing career at Snead State Friday and it was hard to tell who had the harder day.


Was it Caitlin, the daughter and player about to embark on the next stage of her life? Or David Clark, her dad and high school coach since eighth grade?

Although she got a taste of it last year in club volleyball, in signing with Snead, Caitlin will be coached for an extended period by someone not mom or dad for the first time.

Caitlin called it “a win and a loss” – a win for striking out on her own and a loss for not being able to play for her dad.

“It’s definitely a huge change for me,” she said. “I just think it’s so exciting. I was honored to play for my dad coming into this year, he’s just a great coach, always has been, he’s coached so many great players.

“It’s going to be tough not having him, because not only is he my coach, he’s always the person who pushes me the hardest and my support system. He’s always motivated me. I always wanted to be good for him; whether I was having a bad day or not, I was like, I didn’t want to disappoint my dad today.

“I think it’s a win and a loss. Not playing for him is so sad. I’ve always loved playing for my dad. Coach’s kids always get a little bit of crap, but I think I’ve proved myself over the years that I have worked to get where I am.”

David had mixed emotions as well.

“Contrary to what a lot of people feel like, it’s hard to be a coach’s kid, so I really think in some respects for her it’s going to be easier, because she understood our history and the past what’s happened here,” Clark said. “From the time she was little she was part of it and that was always her expectation and mindset and I think she spent a lot of this year trying to make those things happen and putting that on herself to do and make sure it happened.

“There were times we had to have a conversation she was like I feel so bad for you, this didn’t go the way I wanted it to, I wanted to win the county one more time for you. I’m like you have to take that out of the equation, but it was hard for her to do so, so I think in some ways it’s going to be a weight off her.

“For me, I always miss a really good player. It’s hard coaching your own and you really have to measure how you do things. You have to leave it at the gym and that’s really hard to do. She gets it 24/7. Now, with (son) Colton, I enjoy being a spectator. I just go sit in the stands. Connie and I are both looking forward to that aspect of it and seeing how she grows.”

Caitlin has been a fixture on the Lady Golden Eagles varsity for four years, but David pulled her up for the regionals as an eighth grader. She served two balls in that match, scoring the first of her 179 aces on her first attempt.

She also delivered 504 career kills and 789 digs. Although she was a full rotation player the last two seasons because that’s what the Lady Golden Eagles needed, she’s expected to be a back row player for Snead. And that’s all right with her, she said, because she enjoys playing defense.

She chose the Parsons over Gadsden State, where her mother Connie had been the long-time volleyball coach, calling it “the best fit for me” across the board.

David said the two things her daughter does “as well as anybody I’ve ever coached” – her competitiveness and her passion for the game.

“She’s a consummate coach’s kid, so she’s going to do well with coaches because she does everything the way coaches want you do things,” David said. “Personally, the greatest of everything that’s happened to me athletically here, the greatest opportunity was to coach both of mine and that coming to an end is the hard part for me.”

While Caitlin may be several miles up the road doing her own thing, she knows the family won’t be that far away.

“I know he’ll come to my games; he’s still going to coach me,” Caitlin said. “Even if he’s not on the court with me, he’s still going to coach me.

“I just think it’s good for me to not play for someone in my family. Even club. I played for my mom, I played for my dad. Last year was my first taste of playing somewhere with new people, with a new coach, so I think that exposed me to a lot, but I think it’s just going to be a really good experience for me.”

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