One of the most popular and successful coaches in Mercer County died in a car accident last week.
Garrett Stark, 49, of Harrodsburg, head coach of the Mercer County Senior High School soccer team and an assistant coach at Campbellsville University-Harrodsburg, was killed in a two-vehicle collision on Tuesday, Feb. 9. According to his obituary, he is survived by his daughter, Taiylor (Conner Layne) Stark, and sister Christy Stark.
According to the Boyle County Sheriff’s Office, the accident happened at approximately 1 p.m. in the area of US Highway 127 and Melrose Avenue in Danville. Stark was driving a blue SUV which rear-ended a garbage truck picking up garbage from a residence. A second garbage truck was behind the first truck, shielding traffic from the right hand lane.
Stark was transported to Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Drug or alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the crash, the sheriff’s office said via Facebook post.
Originally from Newport Beach, California, Stark moved to Lexington in 1985. He has served as head coach for Titans Soccer since 2012, with a one year break in 2018. Under his leadership, the Titans won five 46th District championships and four 12th Region championships. After leading the Titans to their second consecutive 12th Region Championship in 2016, he was named the Central Kentucky Soccer Officials Association Boys Soccer Coach of the Year. He also served as assistant coach of the CU-Harrodsburg Pioneers soccer teams during their inaugural season and as co-founder and executive director of the Kentucky United Soccer Club.
Stark rejoined the Titans as head coach in 2019. Upon his return, he told the Harrodsburg Herald that coaching for Mercer County was close to his heart.
“I am blessed to have coached such great young men my four years at Mercer County,” he said in 2019. “I have also been blessed to have had two great assistant coaches in Doug McClain and Aaron Steele that go above and beyond to help prepare our players week in and week out. I have been blessed to have had a great school administration and community supporting our Mercer County Boys Soccer program. The parents have truly been great at raising really good young men off the field and that has helped in their development as soccer players on the field over the years.”
Many in the community shared their sense of loss.
Hadden Dean said on the Harrodsburg Herald website: “Garrett Stark was a great find for our mens’ soccer program and community. He took a program that was building rapidly to a series of consecutive district championships, regional appearances and many regional championships. Along the while he raised an amazing daughter and I never, one time, heard him complain about how life had treated him or his daughter. The accolades he received were warranted and then some. This district is difficult and when considering Boyle and Jessamine County teams and the coaching for those programs, those wins mean a lot. Several of the kids from Boyle and Mercer went on to play in college and have continued to achieve there. Garrett Stark was a huge part of developing those players and fully understood the importance of select soccer and how it needs to work with high school programs. I pray for Taiylor and know that she is being showered with love from our community. Garrett will be missed by our community, but his legacy will certainly live on for many years to come.”
The Campbellsville University community also grieves for Stark, who served as assistant coach for the CU Harrodsburg men’s and women’s soccer teams.
“The Campbellsville University family, especially the Harrodsburg Pioneers, was devastated to hear of the tragic death of Coach Stark. 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,” said Dr. H. Keith Spears, interim president of Campbellsville University.
Dalton Christopher, director of athletics at CU-Harrodsburg, said Stark was instrumental in establishing the men’s and women’s soccer programs, including the recruitment of many athletes he coached at the club and high school levels. 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.
Head coach Paul Brooks said Stark was the perfect choice for assistant coach, not only because of his talent and reputation, but also his character and integrity. More than half of the players during the program’s first year played under Stark at the high school and club level.
“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,” Brooks said. “Coach Garrett Stark leaves an immense hole in the hearts of our soccer family and the soul of our program. 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.”
CU Harrodsburg is offering support and counseling for all students, faculty and staff. In addition, Mercer Schools’ Crisis Intervention Team is available to help students and staff who may need or want assistance. “We realize that many students are participating online and prefer a virtual meeting,” said Mercer Superintendent Dennis Davis in a press release. “If you need to talk to a counselor to set up an individual meeting in person or virtually, please email Stacy.Davis@mercer.kyschools.us or Cynthia.Russell@mercer.kyschools.us.”
Arpan Dixit, the former sports editor for the Harrodsburg Herald, also remembers Stark fondly.
“He always made sure I had everything I needed after every game for the Herald in regards to Mercer County Soccer. He was a very kind man and was one of the first people to text me when I got a new job. I’ll never forget his kindness and willingness to help others and countless kids reach their dreams in soccer and in life. RIP Coach. You will be missed,” Dixit said on Facebook.
A Celebration of Life will be held for Stark on Thursday, Feb. 18, starting at 4:30 at Southside Christian Church (1950 Danville Road).