Each of us watches professional soccer players on tv. We read about them online and we try to learn from them. However, the true details behind their success is often not discussed. Recently, Goalden was fortunate to interview Honefoss Bk goalkeeper Steve Clark about his success in division one college soccer at Oakland University in Michigan and his transition to the professional game. Honefoss Bk is a club in the professional Norwegian league. Clark’s story is a great example of hard work, dedication and the passion for pursuing a dream no matter the challenges ahead of you.
Born in Michigan in 1986 and standing at 6’2” Clark’s story is truly inspirational. A young man who started playing early but learned the finer points of his game later in his career. One of the hardest working players on and off the pitch. A true leader and one not to cross due to his competitive drive and desire to win. After playing four years at the division one college level for Oakland University (Summit League) some of his notable career highlights include:
- 2008 Summit League Defensive player of the year
- 1st team all summit league
- Division 1 Great lakes all region 1st team
- 2007, Summit league 1st team
- D1 Great Lakes region 2nd team
- 2006 PDL National Championship Game MVP
Clark: For me, as a college Freshmen I was not ready to play right away. I needed major improvements in a lot of areas of my game but I trained very hard to improve and thankfully I did. I think the jump from High School to College was harder for me than the jump from College to the Pros.
Goalden: how should players know which division in college they should play (d1, d2, d3, NAIA)?
Clark: As far as facilities and level of play Division 1 is considered the best but I also know some NAIA schools like, Lindsey Wilson out of Kentucky have a really high standard. I believe in playing at the highest level possible but that is up to the player to decide. I was recruited by two D1 teams so I had the option of D1 over D2 or D3.
Goalden: what do you feel was the turning point for you in soccer career?
Clark: Turning point. Very good question. As crazy as this sounds I was cut from elite travel teams in 8th and 9th grade and I was determined to prove these people wrong. I also was trained by a goalkeeper for Hope College who was a little bit crazy. He was a really tough trainer and showed me a way of training that was intense but showed progress. I would also have to add playing at Oakland University. Their current head coach is a fantastic goalkeeper trainer and we trained 45 minutes before regular training everyday. A turning point? Nah, more like many small ones over 6 years.
Goalden: who and what has been your biggest inspiration in pursuing your soccer career?
Clark: My biggest inspiration was not to fail. I did not want to be average and I wanted to be great. I still do.
Goalden: tell us the story how a young man from Michigan was successful in making a professional team in Norway.
Clark: I flew to England in December of 2009 to train with Bradford City FC. After I impressed there and got a few more contacts I flew to Norway. It was important for me to be in Norway in person to ask for trials. I am not that impressive on paper yet but in person I was as good as anyone. Also, I was lucky to get a trial with one of the biggest clubs, Stabaek, which led to my contract with HBK.
Clark: There has been adjustments in my game primarily distribution and handling issues as a goalkeeper. When I was a rookie, I was giving up rebounds left and right and had to work on that. Also, at Real Salt Lake, Nick Rimando’s distribution will humble any rookie. It was really impressive and made me think about how I need to improve. But, overall, I would say my instincts as a goalkeeper are very good so I fit well at the professional level.
Goalden: How different is the professional game from the college level?
Clark: It is hard to compare the atmosphere in a college locker room with that in a professional locker. This goes with out saying but it is your job and lively hood so it is a lot more serious. For me, it is a lot more fun because I always approached the game with a professional type attitude so you have that surrounding you and it’s exciting. Also, the pressure to preform for money and your life is crazy, you have to really block it out or you can become afraid to fail, which leads to failure. Finally, there is nothing like winning a game as a professional. Period.
Goalden: what are the differences you’ve noticed between the European soccer game and the North American soccer game?
Clark: In Europe, players are much more technical and in North America we value athleticism. You would find players here that are not even as close to as good as athletes in College soccer but are so technical they are good professionals.
Many players play college soccer at the highest level and when their four years are up they call it a career. Clark’s story is truly inspirational in that he went after his dream. He knew he had to be there in person and did whatever he could to get himself trials. Once on this pitch, his skills and determination took over. Clark’s story is about opening doors and creating opportunities for himself. It is a great example of how one opportunity created another one. We will continue to follow his career and look forward to more success stories like his.