Former North Union softball standout Emily Clark makes a throw from the infield for The Ohio State University women’s team. Clark, who also played one year of professional softball, is the new coach of the Lady Cat program. (Photo submitted)
The North Union softball team lost an huge asset when Dawn Draper decided to hang up her whistle as the head coach after 21 years of service.
However, as they say “when one door closes, another opens.”
That open door allowed Emily Clark to walk through and take over where Draper left off.
Clark has a reputation on the softball diamond. She helped take the Lady Cats to a pair of Final Four state playoff appearances, under Draper’s coaching, before graduating in 2015.
From there, she moved on to play at The Ohio State University until 2019 when she signed to play professional softball in the National Pro Fastpitch League for the Cleveland Comets.
After one season with the Comets, Clark joined Ohio Wesleyan University as an assistant softball coach
The 2020 campaign was canceled due to COVID-19.
Clark moved on to sign with Athletes Unlimited, a professional league based in Chicago.
However, with a child on the way, Clark didn’t play in the league’s inaugural season a year ago.
Clark has now moved on from playing to coaching.
The North Union job came at the right time and at the right place for her.
“Being a first-time mom and now a first-time varsity coach, North Union was right for me,” she said.
Clark is a personal trainer who works with players in all facades of softball. She said she isn’t nervous about the transition.
“Being a personal trainer, I’m never really out of coaching,” she said. “It is just not about me anymore. It is about why people play.”
Clark said being from the North Union community and playing softball, she understands what Lady Cat players will be going through and just how important softball is in Richwood.
“There is a huge reputation of getting far in the tournament and of getting girls to the next level (college),” she said. “I have dealt with the challenges of playing, but now I have to understand what they are as players.”
Clark also knows that a lot of the current NU players either saw her or her sister Avery, who also went on to play at OSU, play and what she can bring to the program. Clark brings the same mentality that Draper preached during her time with the Lady Cats.
“The goal is to win a state championship,” Clark said. “With the talent we have here at North Union, it is not acceptible to not win.”
However, she understands that it is going to take time to get there.
NU’s softball program has been without a JV team for the past three seasons.
That’s something Clark wants to change.
“North Union is respectable in softball,” she said. “So I need to figure out why girls don’t want to play, because it’s about taking on the little things to make a strong program.”
Clark also has an inside track to her team. During her days at North Union, she played for Draper.
The two have maintained a relationship from that time.
“I have a good relationship with Dawn and when I got the job, she started filling me in about the team,” Clark said. “It allowed me to get ahead of the game.”
Although Clark realizes coaching is results-based, she understands there are more ways of winning than what shows up in the scorebook.
“It is about having fun and learning life lessons,” she said. “I think they will trust me because of my experience.”
Clark said above all she decided to take the job because she believes she can help.
“Being an alumni and having your name on the program is a pride thing,” she said. “I’m super-grateful.
“This community has always been supportive of North Union softball and I’m here to keep that going.”