Jan. 30, 2012
HØNEFOSS, Norway – Excellence and the Oakland soccer program are two things that go hand-in-hand. That is why it was little surprise that former Oakland goalkeeper Steve Clark was able to help his team Hønefoss BK win promotion into the top men’s soccer league in Norway this season.
“This year I our team won the first division and earned promotion into the Tippeligaen (Top League),” said Clark in an online interview. “I was so focused on the game that I didn’t realize that a win clinched the league, but as our crowd cheered and screamed through the final five minutes I realized why and it was pure elation. It reminded me of being at Oakland when we beat Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament.”
Winning promotion from the first division means that Clark and his team will now compete in the highest division in the country. The team will also be eligible to earn spots in the EUFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League to compete against the best teams in Europe.
“Having Oakland soccer alumni like Steve Clark excel in professional soccer environments, both in the US and overseas, is a huge compliment to the players and to the program that Oakland has built over the decades,” said current Oakland head coach Eric Pogue. “It is our goal as Oakland soccer coaches to help our student-athletes achieve their goals in the classroom and also to develop top caliber soccer players that have opportunities to continue their playing careers after they leave OU.”
At Oakland, Clark was a two-time All-Summit League first team selection. He still holds the school record for single-season goals-against average and his 11 shutouts in 2008 are the second most in school history. As a senior he was elected as Student Body President.
Clark gives a lot of credit to his time at OU for having prepared him for the professional ranks.
“Playing at Oakland really prepared me for life as a professional,” said Clark. “The passion, the hard work and the intensity on the training pitch are all characteristics of Oakland soccer, which now define me as a player in Norway. I also developed a lot as an athlete during my training sessions with coach Eric Pogue, who I still regard as a mentor and teacher. “
He also credits his Oakland teammates for helping him adjust to live abroad.
“I wouldn’t be in Norway right now if it wasn’t for my former Oakland teammates Endre Osnes and Martin Snadel. They helped me with everything in my first year. We still visit about twice a month in Oslo.”
The move to the professional ranks has brought about a number of changes for Clark.
“The jump from college to the professional ranks is difficult, especially having to adjust to the European game,” said Clark. “I had a good basic skill set, but I still had to improve technically in all areas. I also had to work at little things like not giving up rebounds and adding length to my goal kicks Also, my Norwegian is still a work in progress, but something I plan to really work on as I continue to assimilate into the Norwegian culture.“
Some of the changes at the professional level have been good for Clark, who says he is now able to focus more on soccer.
“At Oakland it seemed like I had a million things going on at once. There was school, student organizations and I was also Student Body President. Now the only thing I do is play soccer. It’s nice to have nothing to do but focus on training.”
Despite being several thousands of miles away from his home in Michigan, Clark continues to be a big supporter of the OU men’s team.
“I am a huge Oakland soccer fan and I really keep in close contact with coach Pogue. He is still a coach to me as I play professionally. I send him game clips and get his opinion on goalkeeping matters. I also stay close to Mitch Hildebrandt and try to support him throughout the season.”
While continuing to stay focused on the upcoming season in Norway and continuing his professional career, Clark also has plans for after his playing days are through.
“I just signed a new two-year deal to stay here in Norway and I think my best years are ahead of me. After I am done playing I definitely plan on pursuing a career as a college coach. I always email coach Pogue and give him tips about the team, whether he likes them or not.”
Pogue is pleased to see his former pupil doing well. Just as Clark admits to being a big OU fan, his coach returns the sentiment.
“We at Oakland soccer are very proud of Steve and all his accomplishments,” said Pogue. “We will to continue to be his biggest fans as he makes his way up the professional soccer ranks.”
Clark closed by saying,
“Not only is Oakland my Alma Mater, but I love the school!”
To follow Clark on his journeys in the Norwegian top division you can read his personal blog, Soccer Over Here.