Jordan Clark, who coaches tennis at ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch, CO, is one of our Outstanding Coaches of The Year nominees.  She also happens to be a professional soccer player in Europe. Here are highlights from our conversation with this elite athlete and coach.

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On what makes teams great:

The best trait that I’ve seen great teams characterize is cohesion and a sense of togetherness. When a group of individuals can really come together and embody the true sense of what it is to be a team, incredible feats happen. Getting a group of individuals to find a genuine sense of purpose in working towards a common goal can be at best, tricky and difficult to attain, but is something that I believe should be priority one for any coach or manager of any team. 

I think that the most critical foundational step in setting up a great team is creating a welcoming, inclusive, and positive environment. Every member of a team is a human being and humans are social animals. The more that you can create an environment that is genuinely “family” oriented, the more that you are going to get the best from each member of that team.

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On how sport fuels life:

I believe that sport fuels life because it represents many facets of life. In sport, one must face competition, challenges, hardships, successes, and defeats all while working with and against a wide array of personalities. Sport fosters incredible emotional and social skills such as respect, discipline, dedication, perseverance, leadership, teamwork, and more. Sport allows us to acquire these skills while learning, growing, exercising, and doing one of the most under-appreciated and important things for our nervous system and brains–playing. Sport transcends being just a game by fueling passion and community. It can unite nations and foster peace in times of turmoil. Sport encompasses the peaks and valleys and twists and turns of the human experience. 

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On how sport fuels my life:

Sport has positively impacted my life by helping me acquire some of the most important skills that are necessary for succeeding in life, connecting me with some of the most amazing people I would have never otherwise have come across, and has allowed me to live out my life’s dream. Sport is more than just a part of life for me, it is a way of life.

On realizing your dreams:

One of the most powerful pieces of advice that I received was from a good friend of mine. That advice was to not give up on pursuing my dream, that it was possible, and that all I needed was to make that one connection that could lead to a real shot. My journey is unique to that of most professional athletes in that I didn’t get my real break until I was in my thirties. 

Between my age and not being able to see the path ahead of me, I was contemplating retiring from the attempt. The encouragement I received was the spark I needed to fuel my fire to really go after my goal. From there, I started just taking things step by step and working as hard as I could to keep inching my way closer to my dream. Now here I am, realizing my dream in Spain, playing in a top league with some of the top players in the world. 

If I were speaking in front of a crowd of coaches and athletes, I would advise them to never give in to the impossible, the unlikely, or the can’t. No matter how stacked the odds are against you, you must find a way to face those odds knowing that you can beat them. Miracle outcomes don’t come from teams that don’t fight for the impossible.

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On helping others:

My next goals are to continue to keep playing at this level for as long as it’s meaningful to me and to always keep improving and to better myself. I want to see how far I can go all while hopefully helping others along the way. If I can make even a small difference in helping to grow the women’s game or to motivate and inspire others who feel like they have no chance of succeeding, then I’ll be happy with my career.