CHS football manager is good teammate on and off the field
by Steven Felschundneff | email@example.com
When Claremont High School football coach Shane Hile saw Chris Clark roll his wheelchair into his classroom with eyes as big as saucers, he knew the 15-year-old freshman wanted to join the team.
But in this particular case, Hile refrained from coaching and let Chris take the initiative.
“So I kind of put together pretty quick what he had come to talk about. I am sitting there like a big tough guy trying not to cry, but in my mind I was [thinking] ‘You are already hired,’” Hile said.
“I just rode up to him and said, ‘Hey coach, can I help the team?’ He said ‘Do you want it?’ and I said ‘Yes, I do want it,’” Chris said.
And that is how Chris became one of the Wolfpack’s football team managers for the upcoming season.
On Tuesday, a perfect sunny Southern California afternoon, Chris rolls around the football field in a “Wolfpack football” shirt cheering for the team and talking with Hile and the other coaches. The team managers perform a host of duties aimed at making the practices, and games, go smoothly. Some of the tasks, such as organizing and fetching equipment, will be difficult for Chris because of the wheelchair, but Hile said they had just begun spring practice and were still sorting out the tasks Chris might perform.
For the time being, he is an inspiration for the coaches and players, because of his positive attitude and willingness to help out in any way he can.
“But the really cool thing is, between him and the boys it’s not contrived or anything, they just dig each other and he fits right in. It’s not like people are trying to accommodate him. It just flows and is kind of awesome,” Hile said.
“I will do whatever they need me to do, but I am here to motivate them,” Chris said.
This same positive attitude earned Chris the David Stoecklein Family Memorial Fund award of $2,500 at the Be Perfect Foundation’s annual gala honoring him for his “determination, humor and unwavering faith.”
The Be Perfect Foundation was launched by Hal Hargrave Jr. who is not only a CHS graduate, but also played football for the Wolfpack. Hargrave also founded The Perfect Step where Chris has received physical therapy for four years.
His mother, Gloria Clark, said her son is a real advocate for students with disabilities at Claremont High, with a number of projects in the works.
“I really like helping my community,” Chris said. “I do some volunteer work as a hospitality minister for [Our Lady of the Assumption] church. I am trying to have my PE teacher create a program for my friends who want to get out of their chairs.”
That physical education program would be similar to the workouts at The Perfect Step, where students can get out of their wheelchairs to do stretching and resistance exercises.
He is working to get motivational speakers to come to the school to illustrate how others have overcome life’s obstacles. He has also been urging the school district to acquire communication devices for those who can’t speak, including training so they can use the equipment effectively.
“He is a good kid, he cares about his friends,” Gloria Clark said.
The Clarks are big Dodgers baseball fans and Chris knows all the players and can recite their stats. But when it comes to the gridiron, he roots for the 49ers because up until recently there were no Los Angeles teams. He basically loves sports, according to his mother.
“If he had it his way, he would be out there playing baseball, but he can’t so he wants to be team manager,” Clark said.
On April 29, Chris will be one of the honorees during the Making a Difference Awards Ceremony hosted by East San Gabriel Valley Special Education Local Plan Area.
Back on the football field, Chris is chatting with fellow team manager, sophomore Kylie Roberts. The two students also work on the staff of the yearbook, which they say is already completed.
Kylie said she enjoys being part of the team because she gets a firsthand, close-up view of the games, with which Chris agreed.
Asked about his full schedule he admitted it was kind of crazy but not a problem.
“I am a pretty busy guy but I like it,” he said.