Foster Child Finds Solace on Volleyball Court

Foster Child Finds Solace on Volleyball Court

Despite challenging upbringing, Davis Clarke shines for the Olds College Broncos

By: Brendan Stasiewich/bstasiewich@oldscollege.ca/@StazLife

12 years ago Davis Clarke walked alongside his twin brother Johnathan, breathing in the brisk Edmonton air, doing what he thought most other six year olds must have been doing: accompanying their mom to the liquor store with money raised from selling train tickets.

Now playing libero for the Olds College Broncos, Clarke has kept his backstory largely to himself, taking care of business on the court without much personal discussion with teammates about his upbringing through the foster system.

“A few of my teammates know I was a foster child, but they don’t know any details,” says Clarke. “None of them know what my mom did for money when we were younger, none of them know how we didn’t have food to eat, and none of them know that sometimes I didn’t have a home to sleep in.”

In 2005 Clarke came home from school to strangers in his living room, and would soon learn that he and his brother would be taken away from their mom. What they didn’t know was that the next three years would be spent without stability, moving from home to home.

“We met a lot of good families, and a lot of bad ones,” says Clarke. “In 2008 I lived with who I now consider my mom and dad, April and Kevin Weins, who took me in, and I heard my mom was doing better and maybe we could go back to live with her.”

That dream never came to fruition, instead another nightmare was around the corner.

“One day in grade 8 I came home, thinking everything was going great, and my brother wasn’t home,” says Clarke. “They told me they were going to separate him from me, at around 13 or 14 he moved to a new home and I didn’t see him for eight or nine months.”

Separated by seven minutes at birth, the twins would for the first time in their lives be separated by the length of the city.

“We were super close, I love my brother. After school we would go swimming or bike or longboarding, anything twins would do together we would do,” says Clarke. “That was incredibly tough. Thinking everything was okay but then coming home from school and him not being there.

“What he was doing at home just wasn’t appropriate, I didn’t realize at the time, but he was doing drugs and skipping class, so he just needed to be removed,” continued Clarke.

“I moved on, my saving grace through all of this was sports, it kind of just kept me going.”

In grade seven Clarke was pushed to try out for the middle school volleyball team. He wouldn’t know it then, but making the team would be one of the most important things to happen to Clarke.  

“During the hard times, that’s what kept me going,” says the Sports Management student. “I was so busy I didn’t have time to go party, I had tournaments on the weekend and practices every night.”

However, Clarke’s life would again change when he turned 18 as he grew more and more distant from the place he called home.

“I kind of did the same thing my brother did, I would be away from home for days, I was out partying and now the relationship with my parents is still good but nowhere near what it used to be,” says Clarke.

At a turning point in life, an email to Broncos coach Darryl Noel suddenly turned things back around for Clarke.

Photos by Bob Serrano

Clarke had asked Noel to come watch him play at club volleyball provincials. Afterward, Noel and Clarke would sit down to talk about the opportunity to play collegiate ball.

“The first question he asked was ‘why should I take you? What makes you different?’ and the first thing I said was ‘this is my obsession’,” says Clarke.

An hour and a half later Clarke was a member of the Olds College Broncos.

“It’s crazy, I’ve seen stuff and had to do stuff that no kid should have to see or do, so to think where I am now is crazy hard,” says Clarke. “I wouldn’t be where I am if not for the family I grew up with, they put me in athletic camps and made me who I am.”

Clarke has been succeeding with the Broncos in his rookie season, featuring as the starting libero and picking up Athlete of the Week honours on November 21.

Clarke now speaks with his twin brother daily, who is now a father alongside his longtime girlfriend. Clarke’s mother is also much improved after facing the harsh reality of Clarke telling her he would cut her out of his life if she didn’t take care of herself.

“It took her awhile but she finally did. My brother said the same thing before he had his kid,” says Clarke. “She has her own place, I go visit for a few hours at a time, she watches my games online and tells me how proud she is; I’m crazy proud of my mom and how far she’s came.”

Clarke expects to play with the Broncos into his second, perhaps even third year, and preaches trusting the process and building together as a team.

“Some people who play a sport are here just to be here, but I’m here because volleyball is my life,” says Clarke.

“This is what saved me. I could be in Edmonton right now doing who knows what, I could have gone down that path, but I’m here because it’s something I invested so much time in and I truly love it.”