Joya Clark, Norwich University Class of 2014 graduate, traded her mouth guard for a whistle and has been hired as the new Norwich men’s rugby assistant coach for the upcoming 2014-15 season.
During Clark’s collegiate rugby career on the Norwich women’s rugby team she was the program’s all-time leading try-scorer and helped her team win six championships in both sevens and 15s. Last year, Clark and her team achieved the difficult feat of a perfect 40-0 record.
In addition to playing for Norwich, Clark has also been an active athlete for the AIG Women’s Collegiate All-American program. Most recently she was named to the 2013-14 WCAAs. Last year, Clark was invited to go on tour with the WCAAs in France, but declined in order to attend the 2013 USA Rugby Emirates Airline College 7s National Championship, where she helped lead her team to yet another championship title.
Those who know Clark have extreme confidence in her coaching ability. WCAA Head Coach Martha Daines has enjoyed working with Clark over the last couple of years.
“Her intensity and competitiveness on the field is obvious,” Daines said. “She balances that intensity and passion with a wry sense of humor that comes out off the field. In working with her, it's clear that she is a student of the game with good observational and analytical skills. I think she'll be a great coach.”
It was not until Clark’s junior year at Norwich that she considered switching over to the coaching side of rugby. Clark explained that, during her time at Norwich, her team did a large amount of coaching each other during the season. The more seriously she thought about coaching, the more her mindset changed as a player.
“We would be in practice trying a new drill or recycling an old one and I couldn’t help but think about how if we tweaked parts of the drill how it could be more challenging, more game-like, or more effective,” Clark said. “I’m the type of athlete who drives to be the best on the field.”
Clark explained that the young men’s team she will be working with this fall is “coming in with the drive to learn and to become more knowledgeable over the course of the season.
“I believe my biggest challenge switching from player to coach will be finding out the best ways to explain my thoughts about the game in a way that the men will understand and be able to use as a baseline in their rugby careers.”
Clark came across the coaching opening last spring when Norwich Men’s Head Coach Bob Weggler approached her about the possibility of being his assistant coach in the fall.
“We had a few conversations about the opportunity, Coach Weggler talked it over with his captains and I even had the opportunity to assist that spring with the men’s sevens team,” Clark added.
Deciding to stay at Norwich rather than join a different rugby program was not a hard decision for Clark.
“Staying at Norwich was actually quite easy for me … I understand the unique lifestyles of our student-athletes, and I love Vermont,” Clark said.
In the future, Clark plans to return to the women’s side of rugby adding that her overall coaching goal is “to lead a women’s collegiate team to a NCAA National Championship title.”
Clark’s Collegiate Rugby Accolades:
2011, 2012: USA Rugby U-20 National Team Camps Attended
2012: USA Rugby U-20 National Team won U-23 All-Star Tournament
2012: USA Rugby National Championship Series 7's MVP
2012-2013: Norwich Women's Rugby Toughest Tackler
2013: Attended three AIG Women’s All-American Camps
2013: Invitation to AIG Women’s Collegiate All-American Tour in France (Declined to attend 2013 7's National Championship)
2013-2014: Norwich Women's Rugby Coaches Award
2013-2014: AIG Women’s Collegiate All-American
Overall Leading Try Scorer - Norwich Women's Rugby