Elizabethtown College Online Magazine

An Eye for Soccer: Gene Clemens

“Gene is a Blue Jay through and through.”

— Skip Roderick

Gene Clemens—or as students refer to him, Geno—didn’t always have an itch for the pitch, but one trip changed that forever. The longtime Elizabethtown College professor made his initial pilgrimage to Ireland with the men’s soccer team in 1992 and has been a large part of the careers and lives of coaches and student-athletes ever since.

Clemens started at Elizabethtown College as a Bible and philosophy instructor in 1965. He taught for 35 years before retiring in 2000. Clemens is still going strong with the men’s soccer team, regularly attending practices and games. Head soccer coach Arthur ‘Skip’ Roderick, a 1974 Elizabethtown grad, was in Clemens’ classes.

“I’ve admired Gene since I had him as a [teacher],” said Roderick, now in his 31st year coaching at the College. “We got to talking at lunch one day back in ’92 and he mentioned that he had a handful of my players in his class. I knew that he loved to travel, and we had an open spot on our trip to Ireland, so I invited him to come be a part of that experience.”

Upon returning from the Emerald Isle, Clemens became fully immersed with Roderick and the men’s soccer program. At 80, he’s still a major component of the E-town coaching staff.

While many of his contributions to the players, be it mentoring or checking up on their studies, goes on behind the scenes, he still can be seen leading the “Circle of Trust”—a pregame tradition, where players huddle and share inspiration, encouragement and commit to play as a team. Another Clemens’ trademark is that he’s often seen on the sidelines rapidly snapping pictures during games. It’s this imagery, shared with players, coaches and parents after every game and season, that affectionately earned him the nickname “The Eye in the Sky.”

gene clemens circle of trust

Circle of Trust: Before every game Gene Clemens offers inspirational words and encouragment. Players gather in a circle of trust where they commit to playing as a team and supporting one another on and off the field.

In 2010, Clemens was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, but this did not put a damper on his involvement with the program. The Blue Jays have won more than 300 games with Clemens around. He’s been there to see Elizabethtown hoist four Middle Atlantic Conference Championship trophies and two more Commonwealth Conference plaques. But for former player and current assistant coach, Andrew Kummerer ’06, soccer rarely entered the conversation during his encounters with Clemens.

“He’s the grandfather Blue Jay,” said Kummerer. “Skip was always ‘Papa Blue Jay’ and Geno is the grandfather. He’s a voice of reason, someone we could always go to if we needed to talk, and we knew he would give the right advice.”

Numerous supporters have bonded together, in what Roderick likes to call the “Blue Jay Brotherhood” to give something back to the E-town soccer staple. The Brotherhood’s goal is to raise enough money to replace the Ira R. Herr Stadium scoreboard in Clemens’ name for the 2013 season.

“Gene is a Blue Jay through and through,” said Roderick. “He cares so much about this College and about the students, and we want to honor him for what he’s meant to all of us.”

The Gene Clemens Scoreboard: You Can Help

clemes scoreboard renditionWith the support of generous Blue Jays, the scoreboard to honor Gene Clemens will soon be a reality. If you have interest in providing support for the scoreboard, please contact Skip Roderick at roderiad@etown.edu. Gifts can also be made online here.