Women's Soccer Head Coach Dave Clarke Experiences Soccer on the National Stage

Quinnipiac University women's soccer head coach Dave Clarke enjoyed several national and international soccer expeditions this past year and took some time to discuss his experiences. Clarke answered several questions about his travel and how his involvement with US Soccer has impacted the Bobcats' women's soccer program moving forward.

1) You just completed your 15th season at Quinnipiac University. Describe your time here at QU, and what you enjoy most about coaching Quinnipiac women's soccer?

I have enjoyed my time at Quinnipiac immensely and honestly speaking I have not felt the years go by. I have been here since the school transitioned from Division II to Division I, from a college to a university, and from the NEC to the MAAC. It has been an exciting period for everyone involved in athletics and I look forward to the next 15 years and the challenges they will bring. 

I love what the school has become as an academic institution. I enjoy working with the type of student-athlete we attract to Quinnipiac. I love the setting, the atmosphere in the athletic department and I love the fact that my four kids have grown up being a part of the Quinnipiac community and I hope they get the chance to attend school here.

2) Last season was your first taste of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). How would you rate your inaugural season and the level of your new competition?

We have played the majority of MAAC schools in my time at Quinnipiac, so I was familiar with the conference. I was ready for the change and mentally the move recharged me as a coach.  The program now gets to establish new rivalries while maintaining the one with former NEC foe, Monmouth. 

The season did not end as I had hoped, but I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot of lessons along the way especially how to approach the conference tournament when it is held at Disney.  The fact that we drew 0-0 with both Fairfield and Monmouth, the two finalists, demonstrates the potential we have in the team. I feel we can compete as a program in the MAAC and look forward to establishing Quinnipiac in the conference in the coming years.

3) Over Winter Break, you took a trip down to Florida to take part in the US National Soccer Coaches Workshop and witness two first-class 'Nike Friendly' soccer matches. Describe the experience and what your involvement means for Quinnipiac soccer.

 My involvement with US Soccer is a great source of professional development for me as a coach, but also establishes the school's name on a national level. I get to watch and work with the top coaches in the country as they conduct field sessions and lectures. The information and ideas I pick up can only benefit the program. It was great to be in Florida representing US Soccer when the U17's beat Brazil and England in the Nike friendlies. The best part of the weekend was men's national team coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, speaking to us as a staff in an exclusive meeting. He outlined his plans for US Soccer for the next four years, his vision for the Coaching Education program and he discussed his goals for his team at the World Cup in Brazil. I was impressed by the fact that he was convinced the USA would qualify for the last 16 out of their group which includes Germany, Portugal and Ghana.

4) You recently attended the B Course National Training Center, a program that unveils U.S. Soccer's guide to improving the development of players through effective training sessions and coaching practices. Describe your experience and what you were able to take away from the workshop.

The last two courses I have taught and attended, I have worked with three of the preeminent female coaches in the country, Lesle Gallimore, Amy Griffin and  Heather Dyche.  Lesle is the head coach at the University of Washington in the PAC 12 and has been an assistant with various US women's teams and is currently with the U23's. Amy works with Lesle at UW, is an assistant with the youth national teams and won the World Cup as a player. Heather played at Florida State and Nebraska and has been involved with the U15 national team. They have experienced three of the best women's programs in the country, so how could I fail to pick up ideas to help me here at Quinnipiac?

At the January course I was also fortunate to get to work with former UCLA coach Jill Ellis, who was recently appointed head coach of the US Women's National  Team. She allowed me to observe her working with the Under 17's and asked me if I would help her scout for the U14 National Team. It was an honor to be asked and I accepted without hesitation. I also got to spend two days watching her work with the National Team as she prepared it for the game against France at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. It was a great experience to watch her work with the best players in the country and to see the likes of Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and Heather O'Reilly training in preparation for a game.

The bonus for me in January was being allowed by Jurgen Klinsmann to watch a couple of behind closed door training sessions for the US Men ahead of their game with South Korea in preparation for the World Cup. To see Klinsmann work in such a pressurized environment, the competiveness of the practices, the attitude of the players and the level of preparation was very educational.   

5) Several Quinnipiac men's and women's soccer players enjoyed a trip to South Africa and mentored children in the area. Can you briefly explain the initiative and the international impact that it had on Quinnipiac and the soccer program?

The school has had a long-standing number of programs operating in South Africa one of which is the alternative winter break program run by Peter Gallay. For a number of years the men's and women's soccer programs have donated old equipment to support the program. The natural progression was for Eric and I to make the trip, something we had both longed to do. 

 We traveled to Cape Town via London and spent a week working, teaching and coaching with Peter and his group of Quinnipiac student volunteers. It is very difficult to articulate what the week meant, but safe to say it was attitude changing, if not life changing for all involved. 

Quinnipiac has an education philosophy that places an emphasis on global education. There is no more global a sport than soccer, so the trip to Cape Town provided vertical integration of Quinnipiac University, the two soccer programs, the players and the coaching staffs. I hope that we can continue the program in the years ahead and that we can expand and improve on the great work achieved to date by Peter.

6) What are the expectations for the 2014 season, and what needs to happen for the Quinnipiac women's soccer program to be successful?

The expectations for the 2014 season are the same as they have been every season in my time at Quinnipiac; qualify for the conference tournament and win a conference championship. To accomplish the second goal we need to accomplish the first, which means winning games. Last year we were unbeaten against the top four teams, so we need to replicate those results and improve our performances against the other six teams.

The MAAC tournament expands to six teams in the fall and I will be very disappointed if we are not one of the top six teams in the conference come the end of October. While I will settle for being one of the teams, which qualify, I would like to be one of the higher seeds and avoid having to play the extra game.