Clark Leaving CCV with Legacy of Winning, Teaching
By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer
Since he arrived in Richmond to become the head pro at the Country Club of Virginia, Carl Clark has been known as one of the toughest competitors on the court, winning a number of city and state singles and doubles championships.
That includes two city, two state (hard court), two state (clay court) and three State Indoor crowns. The doubles championships are too numerous to mention but no matter who his partner was, the duo nearly always took home the largest piece of silverware.
As he got older, Clark could still hold his own with the younger generation but he turned his attention to the USTA’s age groups, where he picked up more trophies, and even the ITF world circuit, finishing second in the 45s singles division last year.
But as he leaves CCV to take a job in the Midwest, Clark wants to be remembered for more than just winning titles.
“I always said when I came in here, I didn’t want people to think I was just a good player,” Clark said.
“I wanted to be known more for my teaching, so I’ve tried to pay a lot of attention to that. In my teaching, I think I bring a lot of energy, enthusiasm and fun to the courts, my clinics and my lessons.
“My goal is to help people enjoy tennis, to get better, but also along the way, hopefully be a difference-maker in their lives, as far as sharing experiences and relationships. It’s not just about hitting balls. That part has been very rewarding.
“I wanted people to say ‘Hey, he’s not just a good player, he’s one of the best coaches, too.’”
Consider it done. Clark has certainly accomplished that goal — and much more — during his 16 years at the largest country club in the state and one of the best-known regionally for its junior and adult tennis programs, as well as promotion of the sport.
Clark, 46, is leaving to become the director of tennis at Hallbrook Country Club in Kansas City, Mo. Though much smaller than CCV, Hallbrook is recognized as one of the top private clubs in the Midwest, with seven tennis courts (four of which are covered by a bubble in the winter).
His boss at CCV, Tom Wallace (director of tennis) made this observation about Clark’s contributions at CCV:
“Instilling competitive excellence in others. Obvious growth of league involvement with CCV adults, and school teams populated with CCV juniors. Tournament training groups working during mid-day heat to prepare for competition. Old-school approach to discipline and etiquette.”
Clark not only taught that approach to the CCV juniors, but that’s how he conducted himself on the court at all times. He never complained about his opponent’s line calls and rarely said anything to the chair umpires.
“It’s been an evolution,” he said. “I started out with a chip on my shoulder. Most people told me what I couldn’t do. You can’t play college tennis. You can’t play pro tennis. Can’t do this. Can’t do that. Probably in my early 20s, on the court, I wasn’t too pleasant.
“But you mature over time, and figure out that mental toughness is a big part of [winning]. Playing every point like it’s your last point and not showing your opponent any emotion. Just taking things in stride. And you tend to perform a little better.”
Clark said he enjoyed all of the fierce competition when he first arrived on the local scene in the late 1990s.
“Over the years, when all the state tournaments were [in Richmond], at Raintree, here at CCV and over at Salisbury, and going through that run for about seven or eight years when I was a contender in all of them,” he said. “That was a fun ride.”
Clark also recalled the rivalry with Sean Steinour, who was the director of tennis at the Westwood Club before leaving last year to take a similar position in Charlotte, N.C. Those two had some memorable matches in the city and state tournaments.
“Sean and I had a fun rivalry,” said Clark. “We kind of upped the ante on each other. Helped each other get to the next level by winning, and the other person would work [on their game] and try a little harder the next time. We kept pushing each other.”
Clark’s most memorable tournament involved a match with Steinour in the State Indoor at CCV.
“I played Sean in the semis and beat him, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 in 31/2 hours,” he recalled. “Turned around the next afternoon and played Trevor [Spracklin]. Beat him 7-6 in the third. I just remember that as being amazing, exhausting, but fantastic, exciting tennis.
“Not being sure if you’re going to be able to walk the next day, but just coming back and beating two guys of that caliber. I’ll always remember those times. Richmond is a great tennis town. It’s a shame there aren’t as many tournaments now.”
Clark has gone on to bigger and more prestigious tournaments, however, playing for the U.S. in the past three Potter Cups, a worldwide competition for the men’s 45 division. The past two years, he helped his teammates to a runner-up finish.
A native of Alexandria, Clark traveled around the country growing up. He attended the University of Virginia, where he played No. 1 singles for the Cavaliers most of the time before graduating in 1989. Clark spent a few years playing in Europe before accepting a job at the Country Club of Fairfax.
But the past 16 years have been some of the most enjoyable for Clark and his family: wife, Lyn, and children, Kelsey, Hunter and Harper.
“It’s a great membership [at CCV],” he said. “Everybody has always been very supportive of my exploits in the tournament area. Not all clubs are like that. I’ve always appreciated the support I’ve gotten here and I cannot thank everyone enough.”
Now Clark is ready for a new challenge and a new opportunity halfway across the country.
“This has really been a spiritual journey for me and I know for sure that God has been planning and preparing me for this,” said Clark, whose last day at CCV was Aug. 22, “and I am thrilled to follow his will. He has made it very clear that this is where he wants me to be at this stage of my life.
“I have a great opportunity to be a difference-maker in the Heartland as far as growing the game is concerned. My goal and challenge is to bring my version of ‘extreme tennis’ to the masses in the Midwest and make them love the game like Richmond does.”