By MARINA WATERS
During David Crockett High School’s volleyball tryouts, the Lady Pioneers walked away with more than just a few new setters and middle blockers—this year they gained a new head volleyball coach as well.
“I got the job the day of tryouts,” Crockett volleyball coach Marquis Clark said just a few days after his team’s first practice. “So I showed up, found out I got the job at 11:30 and started tryouts at 1. I was kind of prepared for it. I figured if (Crockett Athletic Director Josh Kite) wasn’t going to give it to me, he would have told me.”
Clark, who’s originally from Dodge City, Kansas, has been an assistant volleyball coach at Brevard College, East Tennessee State University and Wichita State University. He’s also spent time as a head coach at Cloud County Community College and as an assistant at Manhattan High School. But for Clark, one of the major perks of his new position is the location in the place he now calls home.
“You can’t kick me out of here. Even after I left ETSU, there was no way. This is home now — I just had to figure some sort of way to hang around. Then the high school job opened up and I had been coaching club so I know some of the kids. And it was right around the corner from the house,” Clark said.
“It lets me be a head coach again. I’ve been an assistant for the past four or five years so I thought, ‘Hey, we’ll see what happens—this will be fun.’”
Fun is exactly what the new head coach is looking for after working in college volleyball; Clark told the Herald & Tribune after years of being an assistant coach, he’s ready to trade in the behind the scenes work for those head coach duties once again.
“The no. 1 reason I wanted to be here is because I’m tired of the grind of college volleyball. I’ve got a 5 year old and she starts kindergarten and this last spring I kinda got used to picking her up and taking her to school and kind of being at home. It just hit me I don’t want to do another college volleyball season. I don’t want to be on the road constantly,” Clark said.
“(As an assistant college volleyball coach) you’re driving all over the country every weekend, you’re constantly on your phone recruiting and most of the job is the part of volleyball I don’t like which is administration, recruiting and travel. I just want to coach. So I’ve been able to focus on the volleyball part—I haven’t had this much fun in a very long time.”
Apart from the fun, Clark is also ready to get to work with the Lady Pioneers on their skills and mindsets on the court.
“We’ve got solid volleyball players. It’s nice to walk in and we’ve got some skill, we’ve got some decent size, we’ve got some good athletes,” Clark said. “So we’ll be able to compete. We’ll scout well, we’ll train well and I think we’ll be pretty tough to beat. The hope is that no matter what we maintain that attitude of wanting to enjoy this and not letting ourselves and our identities get too wrapped up in whether or not we won or lost a volleyball match.”
He’s also looking forward to instructing his players on technique; One of the differences Clark said he’s seen in high school players as opposed to college players is the amount of instruction he now gets to implement in his program.
“You have to teach more of the things. That’s kind of my favorite part of coaching is teaching the game and putting those things in there to help players grow,” Clark explained. “I’ve always enjoyed that process and with college kids, the growth is smaller. They come in very, very good and where they end up four years later is a very small difference. But in a high school player, if you can get a freshman and really coach them well, they can really blow up and explode.”
Now he’s ready to plant his roots, build a program, and finally stay put long enough to see growth and maturity from the players he hopes to form into bettered athletes.
“We’re even seeing that with our freshman, just the things they can do from day one to day two as they’re learning how to move and be on the volleyball court. They’re better now,” Clark said. “And it’s going to be fun three years from now to see them as juniors. And that’s kind of the process I haven’t been able to be around for. I’ve recruited a lot of classes and then you move on to the next job and you do the next thing. You see them for a little bit and then you move on.”
Clark is also ready to encourage his girls off the court; the new head volleyball coach said he will encourage his players to do multiple sports. And Clark, who was a high jumper at Kansas State and was a two-time regional championship qualifier, will even get back to his roots this spring and assist the Pioneer track program.
Though he’s spent countless hours driving across the country and recruiting volleyball players throughout the years, the Crockett volleyball coach was mostly filled with hope when he attended the school’s volleyball camp for upcoming Lady Pioneer volleyballers—and the potential of these upcoming classes only added to Clark’s excitement for the future.
“There’s talent in the area and that’s the beautiful thing about it. The kids that are just coming here already are pretty good,” Clark said. “And we saw some seventh and eighth graders that were really good. We have a kind of big athletic group of freshmen. There are a handful of freshmen that are going to play multiple sports that are pretty high level from the moment they walk in the gym and through the rest of their careers.”