For many new coaches, the first few years are meant for imposing new order and making sure players don’t feel too secure in their spots. When Jamie Clark took over the already successful Harvard men’s soccer program, he took the opposite approach, showing confidence in his players’ abilities.
“He makes you feel really comfortable,” freshman Brian Rogers said. “He’s not one of those coaches who thinks it’s all about him. He puts the players first.”
Clark’s inclusiveness has helped new freshmen mesh well with their upperclassman teammates.
“I don’t think any player goes a day without talking to him,” co-captain Brian Grimm said. “He incorporates everyone, whether it’s a No. 1 player or a reserve.”
“It’s the personal effort that makes him a great coach,” senior Desmond Mitchell added. “He’s making it a whole true Harvard soccer family.”
According to Mitchell, that personal effort has extended beyond the team to include alumni. Clark’s personality has also helped attract top recruits, such as Rogers, who can fit in with the team and make an immediate impact.
“He recruits good people as well as good players,” Grimm said.
At the heart of Clark’s chemistry-building abilities is his genuine love of the game. The 21st pick in the 1999 MLS Draft has been known to join in and play with his athletes, demonstrating what to do in a given situation.
“I think it’s always easier for players to see a clear picture of what I want, so when I can provide this, I do,” Clark wrote in an email.
That kind of atmosphere helped the Crimson stay loose in a tight race for the Ivy title. When Harvard’s six-game winning streak was snapped by Wake Forest, the Crimson didn’t miss a beat in its following games, when the team tied Cornell and rallied to knock off then-No. 15 Brown. And when an upset loss to Princeton threatened to dismantle the team’s Ivy title hopes, Harvard responded by going undefeated for the rest of the regular season to capture the crown. Throughout the year, the Crimson athletes played with confidence, speed, and teamwork, demonstrating on the field the kind of chemistry Clark had helped to build in practice.
“He doesn’t put a lot of pressure on you,” Rogers said. “He doesn’t yell at you or embarrass you. He’s just a ton of fun to play for.”
“The goal is to allow the players to express themselves, show their talent, and overall not detract from what they have the ability to do,” Clark wrote. “Understanding this, my goal was to add a little structure and keep confidence high.”
Had a positive attitude and emphasis on fun been Clark’s only attributes as a coach, the team would not have done nearly as well. But Clark’s spirited style was accompanied by a thorough knowledge of the game and a knack for in-game management.
“He has the eye to be able to make small changes to ensure we have success at the end of the day,” Mitchell said.
“The players did their part in building confidence by winning games,” Clark wrote. “This let me just make an occasional tactical adjustment and keep motivation/standard high.”
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