Whenever the subject of the Ropers Award comes up, I am amazed by the importance it is given by the members of the Mill Valley Soccer League, by the children who play on the teams, by their coaches and by members of the administration of the league. I have met many of the recipients of this award and have experienced their reaction to receiving it. It fills me with respect for them and for my son, Clarc.
Clarc’s life was short, but it was full of examples of the strength of his convictions, his love for those around him and for the joy of his being alive. This short note about him cannot address all of those elements but perhaps some brief examples can provide a better description of him.
He was not born as Clarc Ropers. Eventually he did not like the name his mother and I gave him and he decided that he wanted to be known as Clarc, patiently but emphatically correcting us every time we failed to use his chosen name. We admired his decision and his tenacity in regard to making sure that we understood what his name was. Soon enough we very comfortably came to know him, and think of him, as Clarc. Because that is who he was.
During the summer before his death, the two of us sailed together on a 26 foot boat from Newport Beach to Catalina Island, usually a safe and mild passage. The day we sailed on those waters, however, proved to be as windy a passage as any I have sailed through. Coupled with unseasonable weather we had to navigate our way safely past an oil tanker that was on a collision course with us. We were successful in our efforts, of course, but during those moments of tension Clarc remained calm and uncomplaining, which amazed me because, on the inside, I was certainly neither calm nor uncomplaining about what we faced. When we found safe harbor in one of the bays provided by the island we had a wonderful time together that night and over the next two days before we sailed back to Newport Beach.
Naturally, there were many nuances which brought us close together, including a lot of laughter. More than that, however, were the talks we had together. He listened and I listened, and all of that listening created a lot of warmth which I can still feel to this day.
As for the soccer, Clarc played on a team known as the Lasers. He enjoyed getting prepared for practice and for the games. And he loved playing in the games, and I loved going to the games. Although he always wanted to, he never scored a goal. But what he was about was to GET THAT BALL! And that was what he always tried to do.
—Mark Ropers, 2009
The Club has handed out the Ropers Award to one player on every team since 1980. The Award commemorates Clarc Ropers, who was killed in an automobile accident at the intersection of Almonte and Miller. The award was not created to recognize the best player on the team, the worst player on the team, the player who scored the most goals or the player who was the best goalie. This award is intended solely to recognize the true spirit of sportsmanship and a love of soccer.
If there is a player on your team who comes to the practices, does what he/she is told to do, and not only never complains but does so joyfully -- even though he/she does not want to be the goalie -- that player is a good candidate for the Ropers Award, even if they haven't scored or blocked any goals. There will be opportunities enough in life to reward the best players for their skill. This is a time to send a special message to the kids (and to their parents) that sportsmanship, teamwork and good spirit are recognized and appreciated. The selection of the Award recipient should not be put to a vote of team members, but rather should be a player selected by the coaching staff, and announced to the whole team at the end of the season.
We hope every coach and every player will embrace the spirit of this award in honoring a joyful love for the game!