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Wallace State's Clem going out on top

Wallace State's Clem going out on top

HANCEVILLE, ALA. – As Jayne Clem prepares for her induction into the Cullman County Sports Hall of Fame next month, she is getting ready for a new phase in her career.  After 34 years of coaching, the last 17 as head coach of the Wallace State Lady Lions softball team, she has decided to retire.

She leaves Wallace State having established the Lady Lions softball team as a perennial championship contender and a national powerhouse.

"We have enjoyed watching Jayne as coach, and Wallace State has benefited from the success she has brought to the Wallace State Lady Lions during her tenure," said Dr. Vicki Karolewics, President of Wallace State.  "She is among the most decorated coaches in Wallace State history, and indeed in the history of the Alabama Community College Conference, and we will miss her as we celebrate her storied career."

During her tenure at Wallace State, Clem amassed a remarkable record of 823-217, a .791 winning percentage.  She was named Alabama Community College Coach of the Year 11 times (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013).

Her teams won nine ACCC Division 1 Softball Conference Championships (2003, 2005 , 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015).

Her crowning achievements are two NJCAA Division I National Championships (2008, 2013). Those championships came during a six-year run that included two runner-up finishes (2009, 2010) and one third place finish (2012).

She was presented the Karen L. Sykes Outstanding National Coach of the Year Award in 2008 and 2013 by the NJCAA.  And she was named Coaching Staff of the Year by the National Fastpitch Coaching Association in 2008, 2010 and 2013, and the NFCA's South Region Coaching Staff of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013.

As icing on the cake and an ultimate honor, in 2014 and 2015 Clem was selected to coach NJCAA All-Stars at the Canadian Open, representing the U.S. abroad.

All this since she joined Wallace State as head coach in 1999.

Looking back on an illustrious career, Clem says there aren't many goals she set out to accomplish that she hasn't achieved.

"Of course there are never enough national championships," she said. "But I promised Dr. (James) Bailey when I came we would win a state championship for him and we were able to do that the first time in 2003, the year he retired. When we won the national championship in 2008, he called and he said he knew he'd hired the right person."

When the college took up the mantle of becoming a nationally-recognized Learning College under Dr. Karolewics's tenure, Coach Clem was among the first to set high standards for academic achievement on her team.  "I am as proud of our academic accomplishments as anything we've done," she said.

Each year, the teams set grade point average goals – always well above a 3.0.  "Our team GPA has consistently been among the top teams in the nation for the last 10 years," Clem said. Three times the Lady Lions were the No. 1 academic team in the country, with team averages reaching 3.72.

Dr. Karolewics has recognized Clem's teams numerous times at graduation.

Her players have had little trouble finding athletic and academic scholarships.

When asked about her secret to success in coaching, Clem said, "Good players." But good players are not always the most talented athletes, she said.

"I've coached bunches and bunches of kids and you can have all the talent in the world, but success happens when you have kids who want to play ball and do what you ask them to do.  So I look for good athletes who can play multiple positions, and who have heart and desire.  We've not necessarily had the most talented athletes, but we worked together as a team and we had great heart.

"I look back on the 2008 team – were we physically out-matched? Definitely. But nobody could play as a team like we did. Those ladies still keep in close touch with me and support Wallace State."

Clem's coaching career began in 1982 with Arab City Schools, where she started the junior high school volleyball and basketball programs, and in 1989, she was named Arab High School softball coach.  Over the next seven years at Arab, she won two state championships and compiled a 395-104 record. In 1996, she returned home to her native Athens to begin the Athens Middle School softball program as well as head the volleyball team.

Two coaches were instrumental in her decision to become a coach. Myra King, who Clem first met as a seventh-grader when King was student teaching. Clem was a student of hers later after King became a teacher and coach. When King went on to coach women's basketball at Calhoun Community College, Clem joined the team on a scholarship. (There was no softball program at the time.) "She was and still is my role model," Clem said of King.  The other coach, Coach Harold Murrell, coached baseball and basketball at Athens State. Clem began keeping the scorebook for him at basketball games in 1979, and continued to do that for the next 25 years.

While Clem has no shortage of offers to be involved in athletics, she is looking forward to enjoying retirement for now, and most importantly, spending time with her grandchildren.

She has two grandsons and a granddaughter. The eldest grandson is an engineering major at Auburn University. Her other grandson is a senior baseball player at West Limestone, and she was headed to watch him play in a double header on the day of this interview.  Her granddaughter is a seventh grader who plays basketball, softball and varsity volleyball.

"I'm also looking forward to doing some fishing," she said.  For the past 17 years she has gotten up at 4:00 a.m. to drive 75 miles to the college, arriving early to get ready for her day.  Now, she's looking forward, at last, to having time to rediscover her 105-acre property in north Alabama.

"I'll help somewhere sometime but right now I'm going to enjoy watching the grandkids."