SPORTS COMMENTARY

Smith: Former Leander ISD coach takes a stand

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Kori (Cooper) Clements took the Cedar Park volleyball program to previously unreached heights. Last week, a couple of years since leaving Leander ISD, she took an important stand that has sent shockwaves through the Texas high school sports world. 

Clements resigned from her post as Amarillo head volleyball coach after one season and a trip to the regional semifinals, citing difficult playing time decisions and a lack of support from campus and district administrators. 

She released a statement with Amarillo Globe-News sports reporter Kale Steed last week. 

“I was told by campus administration that I needed to recognize the political aspect of my job, and also of theirs. I cannot and will not compromise the integrity of my decisions based on a parent’s political pressure or position. I believe strongly in the value of athletics, that being a part of a team is a privilege, and playing time is earned,” Clements said in that post.

She’s right. 

Coaches should always have the final say and they should always put the best team out there that gives them the best chance of winning. It sounds cliche, but if someone wants to break into the starting lineup, there’s one simple thing to do: work harder.

The support for Clements on social media has been overwhelming with former players and coaches publicly voicing their support. 

Even legendary Sandies coach Jan Barker, who coached Clements at Amarillo and then beat her in the state title game when she was the coach of Cedar Park a few seasons ago, said the move was heart breaking in a Twitter post. 

Clements said in a podcast with the Globe-News staff that she wants to coach again, and it’s been reported that she’s receiving numerous job offers since her resignation. 

“I’m hopeful that AISD will be able to hire an experienced coach with the courage to make the tough playing time decisions and the technical expertise to push our returning players,” she said in the statement. “Next year’s team has the potential to play for a State Championship, and I will be enthusiastically supporting them in their journey.”

Clements was one of the first coaches I met when I moved to Central Texas. It was late in the volleyball season and the Lady Timberwolves were just starting their run to the state tournament. 

For a young reporter that didn’t know anyone in Leander ISD, she was one of the coaches I interacted with the most in those first few months, and I can’t say enough good things about her and the players on the team. 

I hadn’t gotten the chance to ask a question after their state tournament loss, but Clements made sure to answer one from me even with tears in her eyes. That’s refreshing for a reporter and a sign of respect from the coach. 

This whole ordeal hasn’t been the best look for Amarillo ISD, but in that podcast with the Globe-News, Clements said she has worked with fantastic public school administrators in the past, and included Leander ISD Assistant Athletic Director Jonathan Lamb as one of the best. 

I couldn’t agree more. 

There are two sides to every story, and Amarillo ISD should have their rebuttal. 

The Amarillo ISD statement, in full: “As has been reported, Coach Clements has resigned from her position with the District During this transition, she has temporarily been placed on paid leave. As is the case in most strained employment situations, there are different viewpoints. Ms. Clements chose to make her side public. However, AISD does not comment on personnel matters out of confidentiality and respect for our employees.”

There is and will always be more pressure from parents, district officials and even athletes on coaches than me as a sports reporter covering high school athletics, but I can sense the pressure even sitting on the sidelines or in the press box. 

I was walking away from a game earlier this year and overheard an athlete venting on the subject of playing time. 

I’m sure the lopsided loss that just happened had something to do with the high emotions, but the athlete was saying that if they didn’t play in the next game, they were going to quit the team. And they expressed that they didn’t know how their coach became a head coach. 

There hasn’t been a coach, athlete, parent or school district administrator that has been difficult to work with in any way since I started working at the Hill Country News. 

I have no doubts that high school coaches in Leander and Round Rock ISD and all across the country are pressured to play certain athletes for political or financial reasons. 

Clements’ stand, in this case, is a difficult and correct one to take. But it's also something that everybody should look up to. 

Follow @ByZachSmith and @HCNSports on Twitter and Instagram for the latest news on all local and regional sports. 

Email: sports@hillcountrynews.com

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