The scenario is not new to Patti Callahan. However, it has been a decade since she’s gone through this experience.
Callahan is once again the interim head coach of the Euless Trinity Lady Trojans soccer team, as head coach Kurt Clawson has been deployed with the Texas Army National Guard. The last time she took the helm while Clawson was deployed to active duty, she and the team presented him with a special present upon his return — a district co-championship.
“My first year at Trinity (2007-2008), Clawson deployed the second game into district. This was very difficult and challenging for several reasons,” Callahan said. “First, it was very emotional for me, him and the team, because we knew where he was going and we were very uncertain and scared for him.”
Clawson spent 18 months in Iraq that time. This time he said he will be gone two years but staying in Fort Worth for the most of the time, with some extensive travel and to Alabama for some schooling.
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“It’s a great opportunity, but I will surely miss the staff and students here,” the 43-year-old Clawson said.
“When I was hired, we knew he was deploying so I felt honored that I was chosen to step in and take over the program,” Callahan said. “That brings us to the second reason it was difficult. I put pressure upon myself to hold to the standards that he has held the program to and I did not want to disappoint him.
“While I have quite a bit of coaching experience, I had never been a head coach before. So, to step in and take over a program right at the crux of the season was nerve-wracking. I was a little anxious as to how the girls would respond to me as the new head coach as well as how they would deal with knowing their coach was serving his country in a very volatile place in the world. I was very fortunate to step into a strong and stable program that Clawson had built.”
Callahan said that team had a pre-game warmup shirt made with the slogan, “We fight for our coach. He fights for our country.”
“I still have that shirt — it’s pretty special,” she said.
“I cannot claim that success as my own. I had a tremendous support system from my JV2 coaches as well as the boys soccer coaches,” Callahan said.
Cliff Meixner took over the second season Clawson was gone (2009). Callahan said being ex-military himself, he felt it was another chance to honor and serve his country by fulfilling the role of the deployed Clawson. She understood and stepped back into the role of assistant.
As for taking over this year, Callahan said she was not expecting it so soon.
“I knew he would be deploying next year, so this year was a surprise,” she said. “However, I feel that I am more prepared to take over this time. I know the girls this time as we have an established relationship.
“Clawson and I work very closely together as if we are one cohesive unit. The girls know that, so the transition for them and me will not be as difficult in relation to soccer.”
However, that can’t be said for the fact that he will be gone for at least 18 months, she said.
“I didn’t tell Clawson this, but when I first found out he was actually leaving I had an emotional meltdown at school,” she said. “I don’t cry, but I did that day. He is more than just my co-worker. I am proud to call him my friend and I will miss him.”
And though he will be in Fort Worth, Clawson isn’t sure how often he will get a chance to come see his team play, if at all. He also said that while he is thrilled to be serving his country, he will miss not being there for the final seasons of several of his players.
“I guess it feels similar to when they graduate and they’ve got to leave,” he said. “But it did cut short the opportunity to coach a few of them that are really fun to watch play soccer and get to know as great kids.”
But Clawson reiterated that they are in great hands with Callahan, who has two state championship rings, one as a player at Duncanville and another as an assistant coach at McKinney North.
“Callahan will do a great job,” he said. “She knows soccer.”