Last week, Ryerson Athletics announced the hiring of Carly Clarke as new head coach of the Women’s Basketball team.
Clarke comes to Ryerson after a three-year stint as head coach at the University of P.E.I., and currently serves as the Head Coach of the Canadian Cadet Women’s National Team – which she led to a bronze medal at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. She spoke to The Eyeopener’s Harlan Nemers about her recent appointment and her plans for the women’s basketball program.
The Eyeopener: Congratulations on the big news. So why did you decide to leave UPEI to come to Ryerson?
Carly Clarke: There are a few different reasons. First, my family lives right in the city here, so it was a great opportunity for us to be reconnected.
Also, I follow the CIS closely and the direction Ryerson Athletics is going in. Moving into the new Mattamy Athletic Centre is really exciting, but overall, I think Athletics is moving forward here and women’s basketball in particular. One of the things that I loved about Ryerson was they really have a good support system for balancing academics for their athlete. It was just that the timing worked out to be a great fit. I thought it was a great opportunity.
E: Tell me a little bit about your background as a player and student?
Clarke: I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and once I graduated from high school I played for five years at Bishop’s University (in Sherbrooke, Que). When I graduated, I moved back to Halifax, where I completed a Master’s in Business and was an assistant coach with the Dalhousie women’s basketball program for two years. I spent a year in Hamilton where I worked with NEDA (National Elite Development Academy), which is the Canada Basketball program that doesn’t exist anymore, but basically with the best high school players in the country. And then I was hired by the University of Prince Edward Island and have coached there the past three years until I accepted this position.
E: The previous head coach, Charles Kissi, was a male. Do you think as a female coach you are able to relate better with a women’s team?
Clarke: I think there are both pros and cons to having a female coach or a male coach. But I certainly think that I can bring some characteristics as not only a female, but a female that’s played in the CIS and has [had] that experience where I can relate to the girls. I can relate to them with my knowledge as a CIS player and coach, and hopefully they’ll feel comfortable relating to me when they have issues and vice versa. But I think a coach is as good as their ability to communicate, whether they’re a male or a female.
E: What values, as a former CIS player, do you bring as a coach?
Clarke: In my first year at Bishop’s we were 2-13, didn’t make the playoffs. By my third year, we won the Quebec Conference (QSSF championship). I understand the work it takes to go from the bottom to the top, and how hard it is to stay at the top. (I understand) the grind of being an everyday athlete, the time management skills – having to balance school and basketball and everything else that’s going on in your life. I think I fully appreciate what value can be added by being a student athlete.
E: How are you going to make the Rams women’s basketball team better?
Clarke: I think I’m incredibly passionate for the game of basketball and for watching females grow and learn on the court and off the court. I think you’ll see us be one of the hardest working teams, if not the hardest working team in the conference and beyond. And I think we’re going to be leaders by example in every area. I know we had a strong year last year and we’re looking to try and build on that. Ashley MacDonald graduating is a big loss and we’re looking for some players to step up and fill in her shoes. I think we’re going to play an exciting style of basketball that everyone else will buy into. I think Angela Tilk and Kelcey Wright, two of the more senior players, will be looked upon to take leadership roles and make up for what was lost in Ashley.
E: What kind of style do you like to play with?
Clarke: I definitely like to play up-tempo. It’s fun to watch, it’s fun to play, it’s fun to coach. But we’ll have to slow it down some at times – use our best players and make sure that we’re getting them shots. But I think we’ll be looking to share the basketball, get great shots as a group. And then defensively be a group that’s committed and hardworking because the best teams in the conference and country can defend. That’s something that we need to do. More than 50 per cent (of the defense/offense breakdown) will be put into defense. We’ll certainly be emphasizing the defensive side of the ball from the beginning because that’s often the one that takes a little bit more work while everyone wants to score.
E: And what kind of impact will the new athletic centre have in developing a basketball team?
Clarke: The building itself is iconic and it’s going to draw some attention and interest hopefully from athletes and students all across the country. And if we’re successful in putting a good product on the floor in that iconic venue, I think the repercussions can only be positive.