SPARTANBURG, S.C. – In an effort to bring a shining light to those who help transform the Converse College student-athletes into competitors on and off the playing surface, the Valkyries Athletic Department has started a series of articles that will take a deeper look into what made these coaches who they are. This week's addition will feature Valerie Clarke, head coach of field hockey.
Coach Clarke, a product of Hinsdale, Ill., grew up playing ice hockey and soccer. During her time at a boarding school in neighboring North Carolina, Clarke picked up the game of field hockey. "I was a goalie in ice hockey", said Clarke. "The coach at the boarding school showed me that being a goalie in field hockey was basically the same as ice hockey, so I agreed to try it."
As it turned out, Clarke proved to be quite the field hockey player, helping guide the Asheville School (Asheville, N.C.) to multiple conference championships, while earning state awards.
Clarke, who served as the club administrator, elite head coach, and goalkeeping coach for the Milwaukee Field Hockey Club, will bring close to a decade of coaching experience to a young Converse team that will be entering its second year of competition in 2018.
Following her prep career, Clarke went on to attend Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. During her four years she played as the goalkeeper for the Lynx, where she led the conference in goals against average during her senior campaign. Clarke also helped guide her team to conference championships during her freshman and senior years.
Upon receiving her Masters of Science in Sport Management from Cardinal Stritch University, Clarke accepted a high school head coaching job at the University of Milwaukee in 2010. In her first season she led her team to an undefeated season en route to the Wisconsin State Championship. Following her successful stint at U of M, Clarke went on to coach Divine Savior Holy Angels High School from 2011-15.
Clarke spent four seasons as the head coach of the elite level travel teams of the Milwaukee Field Hockey Club in Mequon, Wisc., focusing on the U16 level and the newer athletes' development. She also coached the goalkeepers for the U14 team, who finished 6that the National Club Championship in 2017. On the recruiting front she helped to recruit players who wanted to continue at the next level post-graduation and currently has three players headed to Division I schools, one to Division II, and three to Division III.
Prior to joining the Converse Valkyries, Clarke was an assistant coach for Concordia Wisconsin for two seasons, focusing on the goalkeeper development. Under her direction, C-W's goalie was named to SAA Conference All-Tournament team in 2017. Clarke also coached a 2nd team All-Region player and rookie of the year for conference, while also helping with travel planning and recruiting.
Clarke became the second coach in Converse College Field Hockey history, joining the program in just its second year of competition. "To be able to not only be a head coach of a college program, but to also be given full control to build the team from the ground up, is a dream come true", she exclaimed. "It is the most rewarding thing I have been able to do in my life, and has truly shown me that this is what I am meant to do. It is lots of work, but I have never been more proud of the work I have put in. I am just so grateful to be able to have been given this opportunity, and I cannot wait to make the school proud of this program."