U SPORTS sits down with one key athlete, coach, and staff member of each U SPORTS athletic program in our new interview series “Getting to know…”
Name: Carly Clarke
School: Ryerson University
Sport: Women’s basketball
Position: Head coach
Seniority: Six seasons
Previous school/position: Head coach, UPEI Panthers
Hometown: Halifax, N.S.
1. How did you first get involved in coaching? What was your path to your position as head coach at Ryerson?
I played basketball all through my adolescent life, and was recruited to play at Bishop’s University once graduating from high school. During my university career, I started coaching club teams and then Nova Scotia provincial teams. When I graduated from Bishop’s, my former Canada Games coach and then head coach of Dalhousie women’s basketball, Dr. Carolyn Savoy, called me and asked if I would like to join her staff as an assistant coach. I did that for two seasons while I completed my MBA, and then was fortunate to work at the former National Elite Development Academy (NEDA) in Hamilton for a year under Christine Stapleton and Mark Walton. At the end of that season I was hired as the head coach at UPEI.
2. Who are the people that have influenced you most as a coach?
I would first obviously say my parents, they always supported me as an athlete growing up, and are still my number on fans now that I coach. They have always encouraged me to follow my passion and pursue coaching as a career.
My high school coach Stephen Stewart has also influenced me, as well as Dr. Carolyn Savoy and Mike MacKay. Mike has challenged me and continues to challenge me as I grow through coaching.
3. How would you describe your coaching style?
I like to believe that I’m both passionate and logical. I like to bring the energy I expect from our players on a daily basis while also ensuring that everything we do has a purpose, and that the players understand that. I work hard to build relationships with our student-athletes to understand what drives them. As I get older my playing days move further away, but I also try to understand the player perspective and use my own experiences to guide me as a coach.
4. Which coach do you admire the most, and why?
Pat Summitt is a coach I have admired since my playing days. She paved a path for women in coaching and women’s basketball. I don’t think it would be going too far to say that without her, a career in coaching (women’s basketball in particular) may not be what it is today.
5. What is the most “out-of-the-box” thing you’ve done as a coach?
I can’t think of anything too wild that I have done. I do, however, love learning and am not afraid to try new things and be innovative. I’m fortunate to coach with the national team during the U SPORTS off-season and that environment always exposes me to new and innovative ideas to try at Ryerson.
I guess I also have been known to rap a few lines when celebrating in the team room with our players.
6. What is your greatest coaching moment or achievement?
The thing that brings me the greatest sense of accomplishment is watching our student-athletes grow and succeed both on and off the court, and watching them go on to have an impact once their careers are over.
Watching our student-athletes celebrate our first ever OUA championship at Ryerson is certainly a memory that I don’t expect to fade, especially since we were able to celebrate alongside our men’s team who also won on the same night.
7. What’s the best advice you can give to an athlete and/or athlete’s parents?
Don’t be afraid to fail, be open to being challenged, and be determined and persistent when you face adversity.
8. How have you changed as a coach over time? What principles/values, etc. have remained the same?
My passion and love of the game is something that persists, as well as my expectations around being a great teammate and developing a mindset to work and focus on the present possession. I like to continue to grow and challenge myself, and bring new things into our environment. The game continues to change and evolve and I believe it is important as a coach to do the same.
9. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not in coaching mode?
I am a sports fan at heart, so I watch a lot of basketball, but other sports as well. I also enjoy reading, hanging out with my nephew, and heading home to Nova Scotia to spend time on the north shore at my parents’ house.