Clint Clark spent three years rebuilding the North Harrison boys soccer program from the ground up, making it his second home. On Sept. 24, less than 48 hours after one of the biggest victories of his career, Clark and his family watched their home burn down toward the ground.
The house was a total loss. The event has been a victory for the human spirit and the community that has rallied to Clark’s support.
While the electrical fire was still smoldering, Clark was turning a potential tragedy into a teaching moment for his Cougars. While the first responders were still on site, the North Harrison soccer family was assembled to take care of the crisis.
The Cougars have won on the field, going 11-1-2, winning the Mid-Southern Conference for the first time while scoring the most goals and posting the most shutouts in school history. They clinched a share of the league title with a win over Silver Creek on Sept. 22. Clark was on top of the world.
Two days later, his world crashed. He got the dreaded phone call from his wife Kelly, who was in tears and could barely tell her husband the news.
“It was a week full of ups and downs,” Clark said. “There were tears of happiness and tears of sadness, there’s no doubt about it.”
During his drive toward the scene, Clark called Patrick Robertson, a long-time friend and father of Andrew, one of the Cougar senior captains. Robertson casually asked how things were going, and Clark had to be honest. “His words exactly: ‘Well, not so good,’” Robertson said. “He said ‘I need to call on my soccer family. My house is burning right now.’”
By the time Clark arrived, the wheels of recovery were in motion. Clark, an automotive engineer who coaches soccer with the remainder of his spare time, moved to Southern Indiana from Michigan. His only support system was soccer, and those he had touched were coming to his rescue.
Within 45 minutes, three families had volunteered to house Clark’s bustling family (four sons). Robertson had set up a drive-thru donation collection center in his barn, and a Facebook fund account was online. As word spread, help poured in.
The Clarks stayed with the Robertsons for a week – no small feat considering the Robertsons have five children. Friends furnished meals. The kids got transported to school. That was followed by a stint in a local hotel, and now the Clarks are transitioning to a rental home furnished by the team bus driver.
“We got lucky and got to keep them,” Robertson said with a laugh. “It’s just Small Town USA. It’s a small community. One of our own found themselves in need, and everybody just came through.”
In the midst of the chaos, soccer was Clark’s refuge. The afternoon of the fire, Clark called a team meeting, to tell the Cougars everyone was OK, and to leach a life lesson. Two days after the blaze, the Cougars visited Charlestown to play again.
” I’ll be honest, it was a special day,” Clark said. “It was hard to keep the emotions in check.”
When North Harrison sophomore Hunter Ganote, the team scoring leader, recorded the first goal, Clark choked up. He called Ganote to the sideline, patted him on the shoulder, and thanked him. “I needed that,” Clark said.
North Harrison needed Clark. When he agreed to take over the program in 2013, it was in turmoil. North Harrison had played the entire 2011 season with only 10 players (a man down). He admitted the players were mouthy and out of control, held to a low standard that they met. His first priority was instilling respect and reining in behavior. The Cougars went 5-5-2 that year, followed by 4-6-4 with a freshman-dominated team.
This season, with Quinn Kaiser in goal, with Ganote leading the offense, with the leadership of captains Robertson, Noah Yost and James Medina, the Cougars are a threat in the Class A sectional at Providence. North Harrison will face Christian Academy in the first round on Wednesday.
“The kids bought into the unselfish play I’ve asked for,” Clark said. “We’re not the greatest skill wise, there are teams better than us. But we work hard to overachieve. I think this is a special group. We hope this launches us, where people have to pay attention to who we are. Our program is only going to get better. The future is extremely bright.”
The Clark family has a bright future as well. Donations have flooded in from across Southern Indiana, from the junior leagues Clark helped form, from high school programs like Silver Creek, Salem, Lanesville, Corydon and others.
“We realized we have a whole lot of soccer family, church family,” Clark said. “God says things can happen. I have seen a reward from this, and we’ll get through. We’re probably better than we were.”
“He’s a soccer guy,” North Harrison athletic director Hal Pearson said. “He’s given so much time. A lot of people have jumped in and really helped out.”
Clark will rebuild his home. He knows how.
“He’s a selfless person,” Robertson said. “He’s a soccer coach who wants to teach soccer, but he wants to develop a good person. And I’ve seen that by his example.”
Justin Sokeland can be contacted at [email protected]