Aug. 12, 2015
It's the voice that stands out for Gregg Lemkau and Chad Riley ('04) from their playing days under the guidance of current University of Notre Dame men's soccer head coach Bobby Clark.
Steady and firm, blanketed in a thickly knit Scottish brogue, Clark's is a voice rarely raised in anger, if ever. It's a voice that can be stern, yet also be an arm around the shoulder. It's a voice that inspires collegiate soccer players to embark on a journey of inquiry, a voice that helps arm them with skills to slice through the wilderness of the world long after the cheers of the soccer field have faded away.
Lemkau played soccer for Clark at Dartmouth College when the Clark era there started. The Big Green hadn't enjoyed a winning season in six years before Clark arrived. When Clark left after nine seasons, Dartmouth had three Ivy League titles and two appearances in the NCAA elite eight.
Riley played soccer for Clark at Notre Dame, where the Irish were coming off a losing season when Clark arrived. Notre Dame went from an RPI of 111 in Riley's freshman season to an RPI of five when Riley was a senior. In 2013, Clark and his Fighting Irish raised a national championship banner.
Now, Clark, Lemkau and Riley are united in a remarkable gesture of generosity. Lemkau, who graduated from Dartmouth in 1991, and his wife Kate created the Bobby Clark Head Coach of Men's Soccer position at Dartmouth through an endowment of $2 million. Riley is the head coach of the Dartmouth men's soccer program.
Clark was 82-42-13 (.646) in nine seasons at Dartmouth. At Notre Dame, Clark is 182-74-45 (.679) in 14 seasons.
"It says a lot about Gregg as a person," Clark said of the endowment that is in his name. "Most people would have grabbed that opportunity to put their name on it and rightly so. That's what I would have expected.
"For Gregg to do this ... I'm very indebted to him to be remembered from that group of guys," Clark said. "It's very big of him, very generous of him. Not many people could have thought that way. I'm glad I made an impression on that group. They've all gone on and done extremely well. That's the most rewarding thing for a teacher, to look back and see that all of them have gone on and done so well, in all kind of different fields, doctors, engineers, in teaching, and as coaches."
Lemkau is the co-head of Global Mergers and Acquisitions for Goldman Sachs. His passion for soccer has led him to serve on the board of directors for Grassroot Soccer, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting the spread of AIDS in Africa. Clark's son, Tommy, founded Grassroot Soccer.
"He was, first and foremost, a teacher, a teacher of the game and a teacher of life," Lemkau said of Clark. "He was never a yeller or a screamer. He clearly had the credibility, having played at such a high level. He was extraordinarily technical in his coaching, both from the little things, how to play the position, as well as a tactician around the game. He had a great feel for the game, even from a goalkeeper's perspective.
"He was inspiring without yelling. You just wanted to do well for him. He always had the right little bit of wisdom, or Scottish saying, or right motivation at the right point in time for each player, and was very focused on not just the starting 11 players, but the full 18-man squad."
Riley, who also served as an assistant coach for Clark, said Clark's demeanor has him standing a cut above the rest.
"One of the biggest differences with him was he didn't yell at you," Riley said of Clark. "Most athletes are used to growing up with coaches who, for better or worse, are yelling at you. He never really had to do that. He had very high standards and was very demanding, but there was never yelling. He wanted you to be internally motivated. He was very good about that. That's very hard to do as a coach.
"For me, he's really the model of what a modern-day high-level competitive collegiate coach can do," Riley said. "He really embraces the student-athlete portion of it. He doesn't ever treat his team just like athletes, but he expects a lot. He's just such a good person to learn from when you're in that 18-to-22 age group. He gives you enough room to make your own decisions, but he tries to help guide you at the same time."
Lemkau traces his ability to navigate the turbulent waters of the financial oceans to lessons learned from Clark.
"Thinking back on my four years at Dartmouth, which is a phenomenal educational institution, he was far and away my best teacher out of all of the fantastic professors that I had," Lemkau said of Clark. "Bobby was the best teacher in terms of life lessons, winning and losing, things that stick with me today. I learned more on the soccer field, more on the bus, more in the off-season from Bobby than I did from any other teacher."
Clark employs an intellectual approach that carries his players to great heights, including a national championship in 2013 for Notre Dame.
"I try not to raise my voice," Clark said. "I try to keep the players thinking. Soccer is very much a thinking game. Every time you have the ball, you're the quarterback. If you don't have the ball, and your team has the ball, you're a receiver, and you need to be thinking about that. If you don't have the ball, you need to be thinking how to position yourself so you can get the ball.
"I think you can be very firm without screaming. You can keep a level tone, but the players know if I'm happy or I'm sad or I'm disappointed. If you're a teacher, you have to find ways of giving them knowledge. I don't think intimidation is the best way to teach. It would never work with me. I'm not easily intimidated. I try to think, `How would I like to be treated?' I like to get knowledge. You must get criticism. Nobody likes criticism, but if you give it in a certain way, they'll listen, and then we move forward."
Riley said Clark has the ability to blend a balance of teaching with the tactics of competing to win.
"He really empowers his student-athletes to make the decisions on the field and create a system that teaches, where the older players teach the younger players the ways," Riley said about Clark. "He loves soccer, and he's thinking about it all the time. He's always willing to try to get better. It's easy when you're just starting out, but after you've had success for 30 years ... and he's always recruiting good students and good athletes. He doesn't get too up or too down. He won the national championship, but he was back at work the next day to build the next team. I think he really enjoys the process."
Riley was also grateful to Lemkau for the endowment.
"Gregg is a huge supporter of Dartmouth, our program, our athletic department, not only financially, but he loves Dartmouth and he loves the game of soccer," Riley said. "Gregg is close with Bobby. It made a lot of sense for him to name it in Bobby's honor because he had such an impact on him during his time at Dartmouth. We're very happy with Gregg's generosity. It's not just the endowment. Gregg puts a lot of work into the school and into our program."
As for Clark, the endowment is another strong bond to Dartmouth.
"Dartmouth is a special school, and that was a special time in our family's lives," Clark said. "Our children still look at Hanover, New Hampshire, as home. They were all born in Scotland and Aberdeen, but we were all together in Hanover for nine years.
"Dartmouth was always be a part of me, but this means it will always be a part of me, and a part for our family."
-- Curt Rallo, special correspondent