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Campbellsville University mourning loss of assistant soccer coach Garrett Stark who died Feb. 9

By Katie Neal
Special to KyForward

The Campbellsville University community is grieving the loss of assistant men’s and women’s soccer coach Garrett Stark, who died Feb. 9 as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident.

Stark was the chief recruiter for the CU Harrodsburg soccer program, having brought in more than half of its inaugural incoming class who were his former high school or club players.

Garrett Stark (Photo from Campbellsville University)

Though new to collegiate soccer, many of these players had experiences under Coach Stark’s tutelage, which enabled the program to more immediately become a family of coaches, staff and student-athletes. This is merely a fraction of Coach Stark’s legacy that will resonate within the program for years to come, and belies his one-year tenure with the university.

“The Campbellsville University family, especially the Harrodsburg Pioneers, was devastated to hear of the tragic death of Coach Stark,” said Dr. H. Keith Spears, interim president of Campbellsville University. “His commitment to young athletes was paramount and leaves a lasting mark on all who knew him. Our faculty, staff and students mourn the passing of our dedicated university colleague. We lift up his family and friends with condolences and prayers.”

Dave Walters, associate vice president for regional administration, remembered Stark for his inspiring leadership and commitment to students.

“The CU Harrodsburg Pioneers will always remember Garrett Stark as an accomplished coach and mentor, both on and off the field. We extend our condolences to and will continue praying for his family and friends, as well as everyone at the Conover Education Center who had the opportunity to know him,” Walters said.
On Tuesday night, CU Harrodsburg’s director of athletics, head coach, counselors and pastors gathered to support and pray with student-athletes on the soccer teams, and the university will continue to support them during this difficult time.

Coach Garrett Stark talk with a player during a game. (Photo from Campbellsville University)

Dalton Christopher, director of athletics for CU Harrodsburg, said Stark was instrumental in establishing the men’s and women’s soccer programs. He said Stark would often attend other team’s events — most recently, an Esports match—to support athletes and fellow coaches.

“Garrett has left a tremendous fingerprint on not only the lives of each student-athlete he came across, but also on the lives of the coaches and administrators across our Pioneer family that had the privilege to know him. Each of us, along with our students, were truly family to Garrett,” Christopher said. “Today we mourn the tremendous loss of his life, and we also celebrate the passionate love he had for the game of soccer, the athletes he coached and the coaches he worked alongside. We will miss him dearly.”

Head coach Paul Brooks said Stark was the perfect choice for the first assistant coach in the soccer program’s history — recognizing not only his talents and reputation as a coach, but also his character and integrity, which flowed over into the lives of the young men and women involved in the sport.

“Coach Garrett Stark leaves an immense hole in the hearts of our soccer family and the soul of our program,” Brooks said. “As a brand-new program, it was important that we instilled these faith-based values as we were given the opportunity to build a family; we both agreed that a culture of faith values and community were attributes that we could offer collectively. As a man of faith himself, Coach Stark went above and beyond the traditional coaching role and offered himself sacrificially to the emotional and physical needs of 40 freshman players in a new college environment and athletic program.”

Stark’s legacy goes beyond the CU Harrodsburg campus and into the wider community. He was a seven-year head coach the Mercer County Senior High School boy’s soccer team, where he was awarded Kentucky High School Coach of the Year in 2016, and a 20-year veteran of club and indoor soccer.

CU Harrodsburg is offering support and counseling for all students, faculty and staff. Counselors are available in dorms for anyone who wants to talk or needs assistance.

Katie Neal is a freelance writer for Campbellsville University.

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