Clark helps improve Castleton’s defense

Christin Martin / Castleton Spartan

Jen Clark directs players in a drill at practice Saturday morning.

With one child clinging to her leg and the other wandering down the sideline, Jen Clark still has the ability to be one of the best assistant coaches in the country.  The women’s soccer assistant is in her second year at Castleton and continues to shock her co-workers and players with her passion for the game.

Clark has made an astounding impact on the program in her first two seasons as a Spartan.  Following her first year, Clark was named NSCAA Northeast Region Assistant Coach of the Year, an award that considers assistants from Division I, II and III.

Head Coach, Chris Chapdelaine says hiring Clark was an easy decision.

“After I met Jen the first time, I knew. I was sold,” Chapdelaine said. “She’s also that positive female role model that I’ve been looking for.”

Senior forward and former NAC Player of the Year Mallory Costello says Clark has fulfilled that duty.

“She is an amazing person. With kids and living so far away she also finds time for us,” Costello said. “She treats us like her own and would do anything to help us on and off the field.”

Defined as “the mom of the team” by players, Clark has embraced that role.

“There is a family environment that you can create and give them a family away from home,” Clark said about coaching in collegiate athletics.

Clark lives in 45 minutes away from Castleton and makes every practice and game while also raising three children. Chapdelaine says that when Clark pays for gas, she is essentially doing it out of her own pocket, separating her from most college assistants.

When asked why Clark deserved the award, Chapdelaine couldn’t praise her enough.

“All the little things and her love for the players. That is wasn’t a monetary piece that it’s ‘my job’ and ‘my responsibility’ to do this but that it was more ‘my desire’.”

While excited to win the award, Clark said the best part was getting the support from her fellow coach.

“I was thrilled to win the award,” Clark said. “The nicest part was that Chappy (Chapdelaine) nominated me and appreciated my work.”

Although her players marvel at her desire to coach, Clark says coaching wasn’t always in her future.

“I am never going to be a coach,” said Clark when thinking back to her days in high school. “I thought I was going to be a teacher, but I think they’re almost the same.”

Shortly into her first coaching job Clark was “hooked” and knew she wanted to be a coach.

Clark came to Castleton from Middlebury College where she served as an assistant for their women’s soccer team. Clark was on the Middlebury sideline when they knocked off the Spartans 3-1 in the NCAA tournament in 2012.

One thing that makes Clark stand out is her knowledge of different playing styles.

“Jen knows how the best teams in the country play and she incorporates those ideals into our practices which has really benefited us. We are extremely lucky to have Jen,” said junior midfielder Eva Clark.

In a letter to the committee who chose the winner of the award, Chapdelaine wrote “The most impressive part about Jen is her interaction with our players and the relationships she has forged. I think that too often we are concerned with the result of the game or bringing in the best player.  Jen is more concerned with the person and developing positive relationships on the team than with the actual result of the game.”

Players added to the letter by giving their own input.

“The first word that comes to my mind when I think of Jen Clark is encouraging.  From the very first time I met Jen I could see her eagerness to help from a mile away,” a player wrote in the letter.

Chapdelaine described Clark as “the yin to my yang” and says Clark has taken over the defensive side of the game, allowing him to focus on the offense; both of which have flourished in the 2015 season.

The Spartans finished NAC play with a 9-0 record, allowing them to host the NAC Tournament.

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