When you meet James Clardy you may be somewhat intimidated by his “tough guy” appearance. But in reality Clardy is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. You will realize right away the passion he has for coaching the girls’ baseball and basketball teams at his church. He has been involved with this CYO program for several years and here in this interview he shares this passion with us and how it has affected not only his life but the lives of those he has coached throughout the years.
How did you get involved in the CYO as a coach?
After moving back to San Antonio in 2003 we settled in the neighborhood where I had grown up in Valley Hi. We made some new friends and one of them had a son who participated in the CYO program and asked if we wanted to sign our son up. We actually signed up both our son who was 7 at the time and our daughter who was 5. My daughter team was a TOT II team (T-Ball) and the coach needed some help, so I volunteered to help with the team. After having a great season and observing the opportunities of the program and seeing the potential for improvements 2 years later I was elected President for St Vincent De Paul’s CYO program.
Had you been a coach before?
I started coaching as a volunteer in the Valley Hi Little league during my senior year of high school for a team of boys in the neighborhood that wanted to play but was not able to find a coach and then for Columbia Little League the following year as an assistant coach for my little sisters softball team.
Why coach a girls’ team and not a boys’ team?
The plan was never to coach a girl’s team it was to coach with my sons’ team and for a while I was able to do both. Our Athletic Director at the time had put together a team of girls in the Tiny division and needed one more player for the roster and asked if we would sign our daughter up to play basketball with the team. So we did and when I went to the coaches meeting and our AD gives me a roster for the girls, at first I was a little confused and questioned if he had given me the wrong rosters. He looked at me and smiled and said nope you’re their coach I replied I know nothing about coaching basketball I can barely play the game. He laughed and said they just want to play and besides you are the only guy I know who won’t say no to them. And I have been coaching this team of girl’s in basketball and softball for the last 7 years.
What are the challenges of coaching a girls’ team?
Girls, seriously, I had coached boys for years before and with boys you give a direction or correct a behavior or yell across the field they respond in a positive adapting to the direction. Girls are tough, they want to do what they want, and they are harder to keep focused. If you yell across a field at a girl they either shut down, start crying or immediately go to giving attitude and you have to change your whole plan for the day to try to get them back on track. And if anything happened at school between any of them forget it the whole practice is spent breaking up arguments and it’s not just the ones involved somehow it always manages to get the whole team involved.
How long have you been doing this?
I have been coaching on and off for the last 24 years with various leagues and organizations.
Why are you so passionate about this?
It didn’t start out that way. I just wanted my children to experience it all and hopefully get something out of it. After being in the program for a while and interacting at various levels I saw that there was no real accountability and the focus was on just winning and not on the kids. I have seen teams stacked, ringers brought in, kids turned away, or forced to quit just so a coach can get a shot at a trophy saying champion on it. The more I observed the more it just kept eating at me that this was all wrong. The CYO program is there for all participants no matter how good or experienced they are no matter their background or financial situation. One of the first things we started changing when I became President and put a new board in place was to breakup all the favoritism and start driving scholarships to allow more kids in the community to participate. The first 2 years we lost half our head coaching staff due to enforcing our Policies and Procedures, and not turning anyone away if we could find a space for them, they had never been held to these expectations before and not everyone liked following the rules. I have lost good friends due to holding everyone accountable to our Policies and enforcing strong ethic expectations within the program. The strongest and hardest message to get across was that no one was above the rules no matter what position you hold me included.
Have the girls been positively impacted by being involved with this league?
I and my coaches with the girls’ team hold high standards and expectations not only for us but the players as well. We expect hard work and dedication not only in sports but in their daily lives as well. They have to do well in school, they have to be respectful, and above all else determined, we never let up or quit regardless of the score win or lose and we have lost more than our share of games but the girls always come back ready for another season.
Is there one specific season or game that you will never forget? Why and what happened?
This last softball season is probably our most memorable so far. We (the coaches) have always known the girl’s have great potential and are better than they have ever consistently shown us. This season like every season we worked hard and practiced and drilled but something was different the girl’s had a drive and desire that we had not seen in them before. Our motto has always been “When You Work Hard No One Beats You” and this year they worked hard, and for the first time in 7 years seized a Zone title and went on to City Playoffs. I had never seen them play harder than in our City Playoff game, the opposing team which thought they had an easy win had to fight for every inch of the game we lost by 3 runs and came in second. The whole dugout was crying, even the coaches were getting emotional for the first time in our 7 years this little rag tag team had done exactly what we knew they were always capable of.
Tell me about your own background.
I grew up most of my childhood here in San Antonio then I moved to Boston where I lived for about 16 years. I have been playing baseball since I was about 6 in little league, I would look for games in the park, any where I could get into a game even with the bigger kids just to play. I played some football in middle school and high school. I have been in management most of my life at various levels with companies here and in Boston.
Tell me about your family – your wife and how many children you have?
I met my wife Linda in Boston and we have been married for 16 years now, we have two amazing children Matthew (15) and Patricia (13). Matthew has played with CYO Athletics since he was 7 until he started playing for his school in the 7th grade. Patricia is still playing, this may be her team’s last year since they are all going off to high school next year and will be in various activities. They are great kids both are in the Gifted and Talented programs in school and advanced classes, I really couldn’t ask for better, they both have bright futures.
When and where are the games held? Are they open to the public?
For Basketball we try to hold all of the games at Sam Rayburn Middle School, we contract the facilities through NISD, we just don’t have the facilities of our own yet. For Baseball and Softball our home field is located at the Enrique Barrera Sports Complex (Covel Gardens) off of Covel St and is sponsored by Waste Management, they do a great job in being involved in the community and we would not have the facilities we do without their support. All activities are open to the public and anyone is welcome to attend, the more the merrier.
Is there a final comment or thought that you want to leave us with?
The program only works because of the people I work with, Linda Clardy, Mark Guerrero, Andy Guevara, Carlton and Sandy Coker, Albert Jimenez and all their families they are always there to make it happen. No one person makes all this happen and I am very blessed to have such a great and determined support staff helping keep this community program running strong and growing every year and ensuring we do not lose our focus on our true purpose.