Newport’s Clark plans to accentuate the positive

  • As Newport coach Rob Clark watches, Owen Beaulieu pulls down a rebound during a drill with teammates Lucas Devore, left, and Karter Pollari at practice in Newport, N.H., on Dec. 15, 2021. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — Geoff Hansen

  • Rob Clark is taking over the reigns of Newport's boys basketball team that has won just two games over the past two seasons combined. Clark, who is also the Assistant Principal at Newport Middle High School, watches the team run a play during practice in Newport, N.H., on Dec. 15, 2021. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Newport coach Rob Clark observes his team run a new play on offense during their practice in Newport, N.H., on Dec. 15, 2021. Owen Beaulieu passes over the defense of Christian Forsythe as Aaron Fellows, left, and Owen Leavitt watch. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/17/2021 9:33:49 PM
Modified: 12/17/2021 9:33:48 PM

NEWPORT — The Newport High boys basketball team was down by a lot.

This phrase could apply to many of the Tigers’ games over the last several seasons. From 2018 through last winter, Newport went 5-38.

On this occasion, the Tigers trailed Mascoma, 11-0, in the first quarter on their home court at Towle Elementary’s Wheeler Gym. Then 38-8 during the second quarter, and 48-10 at halftime.

New head coach Rob Clark’s expression didn’t change throughout the contest, which ended in a 64-19 Royals victory. Clark remained calm and stoic on the sideline. He’d clap and encourage his players occasionally. But he never showed frustration over the lopsided score.

“I want to try to identify positives,” Clark said. “I need to give them good feedback to help them improve. But I can’t just be picking out everything we do wrong. We had to focus on the positive, encourage (them), and be there when it’s tough and not give up on that.

“I think that it’s too easy, as a coach, to throw up my hands. We’re not gonna do that.”

That change in attitude for the program started from the beginning of practice this season, and even before that. Clark took over as head coach during the summer.

Clark served as Newport Middle High’s assistant principal for two years before moving to Richards Elementary in the same role this year. He knew some of the kids on the team before he became their coach. But he knew them as students, not basketball players.

On the first day of practice this season, Clark made it clear to the team that he was serious and disciplined, and he expected them to be the same. He told the players that he still worked in the school system and would keep up with their attendance and their grades.

Senior guard and team captain Jayden Conroy heard the message resonate in different ways. He said the team lost two or three players early on who couldn’t manage those expectations. But since then, he said, it’s caused a positive impact.

“I can definitely tell you the team grew stronger,” Conroy said. “We have a group chat, and every day we’re encouraging younger kids, and younger kids are encouraging older kids — you hate to say it like that — but to go to school, get their stuff done. Friendships and relationships between coach and players have definitely improved more.”

It was an odd transition for some on the team to see Clark go from a school administrator to their basketball coach, but it had a positive effect in supporting his attitude. The kids who knew him as an assistant principal already gave him respect from the beginning, as they were used to him commanding it during school.

Clark went to Portland High in Connecticut and scored 1,000 points during his varsity basketball career. He suffered an injury late in his time in high school, which led him on the coaching track.

He’s coached boys and girls basketball in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Within the Granite State, he led JV boys and varsity girls at Mascenic Regional High. He’s also coached middle school teams.

He knows it’s a rebuilding job at Newport. He’s focused on improving his players and laying the foundation for a good program.

“I think that there’s a lot of passion. There’s a lot of intensity. I think that we want to maintain that,” Clark said. “I just took it from day one and wanted to teach fundamentals. If we’re not playing at a higher level at the end of the year, then I wasn’t successful.”

Clark’s position is difficult. It’s not easy to find the positives when his team is regularly overmatched and behind by large deficits. During games, he makes sure the players know he’s there for them. He tells them he likes all of them and that he wants to make them better basketball players and better people.

“He’s trying to instill a mindset where we keep our head down, keep chugging and try to be the best that we can possibly be,” junior forward Karter Pollari said. “And just working on getting better every single day.”

Clark can’t simply snap his fingers and turn his team into world-beaters. He knows it will take time to turn Newport’s program around.

But his emphasis on discipline, doing the little things right and positivity during low moments is noticeable among his players. And that buy-in what he needs to set the program on the right course.

“I remember our first game last week, we lost pretty bad (against Hopkinton). And we walked off hanging our heads,” Conroy said. “But he said, ‘Why are you guys hanging your head? You just played one of the best teams in the division. You guys knew you probably weren’t going to come in here, do amazing and beat them. But you came in, played your hardest and I loved the hustle.’

“He’s always giving us positive things. The negative things are never negative. He’s always trying to help us, and that carries over into the next practice.”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.




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