Diane Clark’s colleagues and former athletes say that the longtime coach at Jonesport-Beals High School epitomizes what a high school coach should be.
“Anybody that’s into coaching, if it’s not about the kids, you really shouldn’t be into coaching. That’s the way I feel about it,” said Jonesport-Beals girls basketball and boys soccer coach Skipper Alley. “I always felt like Diane was that way. Kids came first with her. That’s one of her greatest attributes really.”
Clark, who has coached volleyball and softball at the Washington County school for 31 years, has retired from her softball coaching position.
Clark, the school’s athletic administrator and physical education teacher, will maintain those positions along with her volleyball coaching job.
“There were a lot of reasons. I guess mainly I didn’t have the energy to do it by the time the end of the school year came,” Clark said. “It felt like the time was right.”
Clark added Sid Merchant is coaching the Jonesport-Beals softball team this spring.
Clark’s coaching resume is impressive as the Royalettes won three consecutive state championships in volleyball from 1997-99 with Tricia Carver spearheading those squads.
Carver’s oldest sister, Sandi, pitched the school to three straight Class D state softball crowns (1992-94), while middle sister Kristi (1995) and Tricia Carver (1998, 2000) led the team to subsequent Eastern Maine championships.
Tricia Carver has followed in her coach’s footsteps and is coaching junior high softball in Hampden. She served as head junior varsity and assistant varsity coach for the Hampden girls basketball team this winter.
Clark, a Skowhegan native and graduate of the University of Maine-Presque Isle, where she played field hockey, has had some back issues recently. That, coupled with her busy schedule that involves being Jonesport-Beals’ athletic director, were two of her main reasons for giving up her softball post.
“My back is a little bit weaker than it used to be. A lot of swinging to hit fly balls and ground balls, I can’t do it like I used to be able to,” Clark said.
Clark also played on Skowhegan’s first varsity field hockey team.
Alley, who has been coaching the girls’ basketball team at Jonesport-Beals the last five seasons, said Clark is a wonderful colleague.
“She’s been very supportive of me. Anything I’ve needed she’s helped me with,” said Alley. “She’s been there a long time and had quite a bit of success, especially with softball, and with volleyball for that matter.”
Alley’s daughter, Brittany, pitched for Clark all four years of her high school career while Clark was Skipper Alley’s physical education teacher.
“She was very supportive of Brittany, treated her fairly,” he said.
Even though she’ll still be involved at Jonesport-Beals with her other posts, Clark misses being on the softball diamond.
“I do miss it. I stopped in at the dugout [Monday] as the girls were in. It seems really weird to be down there,” she said. “I had a couple [who said], ‘oh please, do it one more year,’ but someone always says one more year. You’ve got to stop sometime.”
Clark has a lot of plans for her newfound free time in the spring.
“I’m basically going to be relaxing, enjoying not having to have practice, planning two hours every night for what you’re going to do the next day, stuff like that,” she explained.
Clark, who enjoys staying active, said she plans to spend a lot of time kayaking, hiking and swimming.
“There was no sitting around in her classes, she kept us busy,” Alley said. “She always had her plan for the day and she followed through with it.”
Alley, the son of longtime former Jonesport-Beals boys basketball coach Ordie Alley, has always been thankful of Clark’s “open-door” policy.
“If I ever needed anything as a coach, her door has always been open for me,” he said. “She’s been good to work with. I don’t think I’ve had a better AD to work with.”
Clark was also one of the first people to congratulate Alley when the Royalettes earned a trip to the Eastern Maine Class D girls basketball tournament this winter.
“I don’t think there was anybody happier in the two communities for the girls to get to Bangor than she was,” said Alley.
Clark only sees the softball team at Jonesport-Beals improving on a yearly basis.
“There’s a lot of young talent there, hopefully it can be developed,” she said.