David hasn’t always been a top-notch volleyball coach, far from it. By his own admission “I faked it for a little while,” said David of his knowledge of the game.
David came to Jacksonville from way of Saks High School. He made the switch originally to be the boys “B” team basketball coach with then head coach John Lyons. At least that ‘s what David thought.
There was a big transition at the time and David was told that he would coach girl sports, volleyball, basketball and softball.
Having no previous experience in volleyball, David learned what he could by mainly asking questions. At the time there were a lot of good teams in the county and David got what information he could out of Pleasant Valley’s Sandy Hunter and Saks’ Randy Law. He also went to clinics and he watched and observed.
“We used to play in the county tournament and get beat in the first or second round so I would stay and watch teams like Donoho and Pleasant Valley and just try to learn what was going on and what worked and what didn’t work. I wanted to be good at it but I didn’t know anything at the time. I used to watch the finals and think that someday I wanted to play in the finals.”
David admits though that he never anticipated staying in volleyball for very long.
Now in his 20th year, David has built one of the most reputable programs in the state.
What some people don’t know is that there is another Coach Clark, Connie, David’s wife.
Now Connie did grow up with a background in volleyball, a very big background in volleyball.
Living in Walnut Grove, Connie started playing volleyball in the eighth grade at West End High School. In the ninth grade she played on the “B” team, but “wasn’t very good, but I wanted to be good.”
Connie’s experience playing volleyball created a lasting impression. “That year we played for the state championship in Mobile. We played Pleasant Valley in the finals. It was double elimination and Pleasant Valley put us in the losers bracket and we had to beat them twice and we did to win the state championship. That was when I was hooked.”
Connie, playing outside hitter, won the state championship with her team the next three years. She was named All-State and went and played at Gadsden State for two years after that.
After Gadsden State Connie chose to attend JSU but not to play volleyball. However, she did officiate the sport for two years.
In 1994 Connie started teaching at Alexandria High School and that was the only year she wasn’t involved with volleyball.
Connie taught for three years at Alexandria and then went on to teach and coach at West End and then in 2007 was hired as the assistant volleyball coach at Gadsden State and has been there for seven years.
While David’s team won the State Championship, Connie’s team is in Casper, Wyoming this week playing for the National Championship.
The Clarks met each other at, yes, a volleyball game. They talked briefly and then that was that, until friends got involved and convinced the two that they needed to go out with each other. After they finally were able to talk to each other on the phone, for two and a half hours, they began dating in May and married in March and will celebrate their 16th anniversary next year.
What makes David and Connie unique is one, that they are both coaches and two, that they have two children, Colton 14 and Caitlin, almost nine, who are also involved in sports which means that a lot of planning has to be done to keep the household running.
“It’s creative scheduling,” said David. “We share-this house wouldn’t function if we didn’t. You have to work together. Connie keeps things running. It doesn’t matter what it is, we share” to which Connie added, “I can’t imagine David not helping. He does as much laundry as I do, and bathrooms…I couldn’t do it all.”
David and Connie also have the children involved with housework, “We are trying to get the kids to understand if we aren’t here and their laundry baskets are full to wash them,” said Connie.
“We sit down on Sundays and Connie is the scheduler,” said David. “We talk about the whole week, planning until the next Sunday. We make calls we need to make and get people lined up. It’s hectic!”
Most of those calls go to Connie’s parents, Larry and Juanita Payne who live in West End and David’s parents, Richard and Shirley Clark, to help coordinate rides for Colton, who plays football and baseball, and Caitlin, who is in level two competitive gymnastics.
David and Connie try to schedule their games and practices so that one of them can try to be at Colton’s games on Monday and to Caitlin’s gymnastics meets. Not always an easy thing to do when both your parents are volleyball coaches.
David knows that as Colton gets older and will be playing games on Friday nights, when volleyball tournaments are held, those decisions will have to be made.
David and Connie share a love of volleyball and talk to each other about coaching and their teams. While they share that interest, their first priority is their family.
“Our kids have grown up with this way of life, they don’t know any difference. Sometimes you feel like run, run, run but I don’t know that we would know anything different,” admitted David.
Both children have grown up in the gym, especially Colton since David was coaching girl’s volleyball, basketball ad softball and now is coaching volleyball and baseball.
For David and Connie, the times they spend with the children are the best, and they always want to be with the children. “We take a lot of pride in the times we get together and we try to make the most of those times,” said David. The Clarks like to ski, go to the beach, and just be together when the time permits. A lot of their vacations are managed around Colton’s baseball tournaments.
David’s love for his family was apparent when after winning the state championship and coming out of the interview room he was asking people, “Where is my family? Have you seen my family?” They were the ones he wanted to share the moment with the most.
David and Connie are great volleyball coaches, that is a given. They are also wonderful examples of parents trying to raise a close-knit family.