The 2017-18 high school athletic year has come to an end and Yukon Public Schools Director of Athletics, Mike Clark, shared his thoughts on where he feels Yukon athletics are going into the summer.
“It’s a learning experience,” Clark said. “I try to find the best way I can to help my coaches. We are very fortunate to have the coaches we have, the community support and the kids have great opportunities here. You are always going to go through ups and downs. If we expect our kids to get better, we have to expect the same out of ourselves as coaches.”
Clark said he likes his coaches to evaluate themselves once their season is complete.
“I think it’s important for coaches to evaluate and re-evaluate themselves,” Clark said. “They also need to evaluate and understand the skill level of the kids coming into their program.”
Yukon is a member of the Central Oklahoma Athletic Conference along with 11 other schools in the Oklahoma City metro area. Each athletic program is given points throughout the school year based on how each sports team did in their specific season.
Yukon finished eighth in the COAC in 2017-2018 with eight points. Edmond Memorial was the leader with 32 points. Edmond North was second with 31. Norman North was third with 25. Mustang was fourth with 21. Deer Creek was fifth with 20. Edmond Santa, Westmoore and Stillwater were tied for sixth with 16. Norman was seventh with 14. Southmoore was ninth with three and Moore was 10th with zero.
“It starts with our conference,” Clark said. “We are in a tough conference. You see several teams coming out of our conference and competing in state championship games or winning state championships. We have got to do a little bit better. We are not leading our conference right now, we are toward the bottom. That needs to improve. We have received a lot of statewide awards from an individual standpoint but we need more success with our teams.”
Clark said he understands the rollercoaster ride that is high school athletics.
“Programs are going to have off years at times,” Clark said. “I am happy with the direction we are going and happy with my staff I have in place. We are set as far as head coaches go but we are looking to replace three assistant baseball coaches and three assistant football coaches right now.”
Clark said he looks for more than a coach when searching for the right person.
“I take pride in helping find quality teachers that are coaches,” Clark said. “I haven’t been able to do that this year and that disappoints me. Out of the 14 to 15 resumes I have coming across my desk, the majority of them do not have teaching certificates. Our coaches need to be able to teach and teach well. Our principals have a high standard for who they put in the classroom. I’m not a fan of adjunct coaches, I want people who understand the education process.”
When athletic programs are successful at a school the size of Yukon, it can be difficult to keep assistant coaches because they are seeking head coach positions at other schools.
Clark said he understands and respects that process.
“Sometimes you are going to lose assistants who go on to be head coaches elsewhere,” Clark said. “I look at that as a good thing because you don’t want to hire anyone that no one else wants. When that happens, it allows other coaches to move up. We are not only looking to develop student athletes, but we want to develop coaches as well. We tell our coaches to be continual learners and make yourself a commodity. Make yourself wanted as a teacher as much as a coach.”
Clark said he meets with his head coaches before and after each season.
“I meet with my coaches before the season starts and once their season is over,” Clark said. “The preseason meeting is about scheduling, policies and their needs. The postseason meeting is an evaluation, they evaluate their assistants to me, we do inventory and go over the good and the bad from the year.”
Clark said he works closely with the principals to get the best possible teacher/coach to fill vacancies.
“Our principals send me a list of teacher openings we are going to have and I go around to my coaches and ask them if they have anyone in mind who could fill those positions. I like for all my coaches to have around three candidates for assistant jobs and they need to be able to fill the opening.”
Clark said he likes the direction of all the programs inside Yukon athletics but wants to see improvement in a specific area.
“We need to do well in big games and big matches,” Clark said. “If our football team comes out and beats Mustang to start the season, it sets a positive tone for the rest of the athletic year. We need to understand the importance of doing things right every day and understand the progress is slow sometimes.
“One area I want to see improvement is in mental training of our athletes,” Clark said. “Our coaches are very good at physically training and technically training but our kids need to be better mentally prepared for situations. Our coaches need to buy into that aspect, so our kids buy in. We need to prepare for every obstacle so there is no panic when it occurs.”
Clark said one sport needs to have success to move up in the COAC standings.
“We need more success in football,” Clark said. “It started last year with us winning four games after winning none the year before. We need to be consistent in the number of games we feel good about winning and then build from that. Then we need all sports to follow.
“Another area we need to do better is in multi-sport athletes. College coaches are looking for multi-sport athletes. It’s hard to ask a kid to play one sport for 10-11 months. They need a break, so their bodies don’t’ start to break down A softball player may play 70 club games in the summer and 35 games in the fall for their school. That is 105 games. Suddenly, losing one game may not matter as much. Kids are not practicing as much and that’s not good.”
Clark said he expects his coaches to understand what their athletes need when it comes to preparation.
“Time is the most important thing to our athletes,” Clark said. “If we are going to have three hour practice but our athletes are only going to be focused for an hour, how is maximizing their performance? We need to understand how each athlete will respond. Sometimes it is better to have an hour-and-a-half practice where your athletes are 100 percent focused versus a long practice where they lose their attention.”