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Men’s soccer: Like father, like son

Dan Murphy | Tuesday, September 18, 2007

They say the apple doesn’t fall from the tree, and with Notre Dame assistant coach Jamie Clark, he couldn’t get much closer.

Clark, age 30, is entering his second year as a part of the Irish coaching staff that is headed by his father, Bobby Clark. The son, though, is no stranger to coaching the game.

The younger Clark got his first taste of the whistle at his father’s clinics when he was just 12 years old.

“He’s always been around it,” Bobby Clark said. “He was always the organizer no matter what game he was playing.”

Clark was a three-sport athlete in high school and went to North Carolina to play soccer for the Tar Heels. In his sophomore season, he transferred to Stanford to play under their new head coach – his father.

Under his father’s tutelage, Jamie was a two-time All-American and led Stanford to its first-ever Final Four appearance.

He was drafted by the Colorado Rapids of MLS when he graduated in 1999.

After a nagging groin injury ended his career, Jamie Clark moved to New Mexico where he got an assistant coaching job at the University of New Mexico. Bobby Clark said he never pressured his son into coaching, but it seems that was just natural for him.

“As a player I always felt he had great field awareness and great game awareness,” Bobby Clark said. “I felt like he was a coach on the field at that time.”

His success followed him as the Lobos went 61-16-8 during his tenure and lost in the 2005 National Championship in his final game on the New Mexico sidelines.

That year, the Irish lost two long-time assistant coaches, and Bobby Clark found himself with a void to fill.

“Just out of the blue I thought, ‘Well, Jamie would be an ideal replacement,'” he said. “I just didn’t know if he would want to come back to coach with his dad.”

Jamie Clark jumped at the chance and, along with Chad Riley, another of Clark’s former players, joined the Notre Dame staff. Riley graduated from Notre Dame in 2004 in second place on the all-time assists list. He was named to the Big East all-conference team three times in his career. Riley spent two years coaching elsewhere before returning to South Bend.

“I’m very lucky because both my assistants played for me,” Bobby Clark said. “They know the game and they know our philosophy.”

The three-headed coaching monster was successful right away. Notre Dame advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals in its first year as a group, and so far in 2007, the No. 8 Irish are 3-1-1.

Bobby Clark said neither of his assistants hesitate to vocalize their ideas, and he believes their youth helps them relate to the players.

“They’ve been through it all,” he said. “I really encourage them to have their own input.”