Clark looks to succeed at the head coaching level

On August 12, 2012, the UNC Wilmington women’s tennis program hired former University of Maryland men’s tennis assistant Evan Clark to become the program’s 11th head coach. While leading the Seahawks will be Clark’s first head coaching gig, he brings a wealth of experience to the squad that he’ll use to help the team continue its winning ways.

Although only 28 years of age, Clark has already coached as an assistant at three different universities before coming to UNCW in Missouri-Kansas City, Penn State and Maryland. Throughout his career, Coach Clark has helped both men and women’s tennis, but according to him, there’s no big difference between coaching the two.

“Everybody thinks there’s a big difference and there’s really not,” Clark said. “You’re working with 18 to 21-year-old student athletes and everybody has the same stress that comes with it. I approach coaching both men and women the same way. I try to develop them how I normally do, but there really is nothing major between the two.”

Like many tennis coaches, Clark was a former tennis player himself. Born in Liberty, Missouri, Clark was an accomplished high school tennis player, evidenced by him winning the Missouri 4A state championship in 2002 when he had a perfect 31-0 record. Additionally, he was named the Tennis Male Athlete-of-the-Year by The Kansas City star. He then went on to become a First-Team All Mid-Continent Conference performer during his time at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, winning the honor twice, in 2003 and 2004. Despite all of this success early in his years, though, Clark felt like his calling was not playing the game of tennis, but coaching it for a career.

“I wasn’t the most talented player, so I really didn’t have a chance to go pro,” he said. “I thought my best ability that I could put to use is coaching and I really enjoy it.”

Clark started out his coaching career at the university he played for in UMKC, but then got a great opportunity to become an assistant at Penn State. After coaching there for two years, both his wife and he received the opportunity to go to the University of Maryland, where Clark continued his coaching. By the time he turned 28, he already had a lot of coaching experience at multiple universities in a short amount of time.

“It’s part of the business with coaching,” Clark said. “I got lucky with my first assistant job at Penn State and I spent two years there. Then my wife and I had a great opportunity to move to the Maryland area and I spent two successful years there as an assistant head coach. Then the tennis program there got cut, so that’s one reason why I’m here now. Long story short, being an assistant coach for five years got me excited to become a head coach, so I’m really happy to be here.”

Before coming to UNCW, Clark helped lead the Maryland Terrapins men’s tennis team to their first NCAA tournament berth in school history in 2011 when they beat Michigan, a then-top 20 program, in the first round. Nevertheless, the Terrapins’ men’s tennis program was cut, something that taught Clark the importance of embracing every opportunity.

“It was stuff that was out of our control, no one really has an answer for it,” Clark said. “We beat Michigan in the first round of the tournament and they were a top 20 team. So it was really disappointing for the student athletes and me especially. It made me really appreciate the student athletes you have and it has taught me to spend every minute you can with them.”

While the situation may have not been ideal, the ending of the Maryland men’s tennis program was one reason why Clark came to UNCW, his first head coaching position. Out of all the universities he has coached at, he has been really impressed with what he’s seen out of the Seahawks’ women’s team so far.

“I’ve never had a group that works so hard,” Clark said. “The stuff I ask them to do, they do it whole-heartedly. We’ve spent a lot of time conditioning in the fall and just the other night I had them running up and down the stairs at Trask (Coliseum). They work hard both on and off the court as well, even in the classroom. I’m really fortunate to have such a good group here at UNCW.”

Last spring, the Seahawks’ women’s tennis team went 15-7, posting their ninth straight winning season. So expectations for the program this season remain high. The first home match for women’s tennis will be on February 16th against Campbell University. It will be Coach Clark’s head coaching debut, and he’ll look to prove that he has what it takes to succeed as a head coach.