By Chris Sanders
In 2012, Carly Clarke took the job as head coach for Ryerson’s women’s basketball team. Now, she’s regarded as one of the best coaches in Canada, which has been largely credited with her ability to upraise one of the university’s top athletic programs.
Before Clarke’s arrival, the team never surpassed the semifinal round of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs. Things have greatly changed since then, with the coach turning the team into a legitimate force in the OUA. During her seven-year tenure as head coach for the Rams, Ryerson has qualified for the playoffs every year. In 2015, her team set a program best 16-3 record to go along with the team’s first OUA gold and U SPORTS silver finish the following year.
Clarke’s success in the OUA warranted a role with the women’s national senior team in 2017, providing Canada invaluable experience, as she previously coached various women’s youth national programs from ages ranging from the U16 level. Her biggest accomplishment with the youth program came in 2015, when she contributed towards Canada’s first gold medal at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
“She has demonstrated the ability to develop athletes and has excelled at every level, including achieving historic results at the international level as head coach of our women’s age-group national teams over the past seven years,” Denise Dignard, director of Women’s High Performance, told Canada Basketball in a press release.
Her most recent work representing the maple leaf was this summer FIBA Women’s World Cup, assisting Canada to a perfect group stage record, before the team’s loss to Spain in the quarterfinals.
“Coaching the best players in our country and going against the best players in the world. [I’m] really trying to make sure that I’m learning things throughout the journey,” Clarke said.
One of those things was serving as an assistant, a role that Clarke embraced despite normally working as a head coach. The last time Clarke worked as an assistant coach was in 2008, when she helped the Dalhousie Tigers’ women’s basketball team.
“It was my first time being an assistant in a really really long time,” said the Halifax native. “It put me in a different position, which I was really appreciative of…I got to look at the game a different way.”
Using these learning experiences as a pedestal, the Ryerson coach translates her time with the national team to guide her Rams’ squad to develop as a program. Despite recieving an automatic berth as the host of the U SPORTS national championship this season, Clarke’s goal remains the same as it would every year. With star players in Sofia Paska and Cara Tiemens leading the way, Clarke is looking to guide her team to national glory.
“I always want to grow and get better and with that being said, our program is always trying to expand. Over the past six years, our program has evolved, but our goals haven’t changed.”