Fresh off of a historic undefeated season and the U SPORTS national championship with the Metropolitan University of Toronto (formerly Ryerson) women’s program, Carly Clarke is back in her hometown as head coach of the U SPORTS. Canadian women’s under-23 GLOBL JAM team.
Clarke, who has been surrounded by women’s basketball since she was in third grade and is currently an assistant coach with the Senior Women’s National Team, will have the opportunity to coach an absolutely stacked roster of Canadian women, including members from the senior national team Shaina Pellington and Aaliyah Edwards as well as newcomers like Shy Day-Wilson and Latasha Lattimore.
As the head coach of Canada Basketball since 2011, Clarke has witnessed first-hand the rise of women’s basketball in this country, and she sees GLOBL JAM as an opportunity to showcase that growth at home for the first time. time. Sportsnet spoke to Clarke about her basketball upbringing, the importance of representation in women’s sports, how the national program develops female athletes and what makes Canadian hoops unique.
Sportsnet: Growing up in Halifax, how did you get into basketball?
Carly Clark: Just the neighborhood I grew up in, all my friends played so I started playing in third grade and loved it. I was lucky to have had very good coaches when I was young and I would say that had a positive impact on me. My high school coach and I are good friends to this day, and he had a very strong impact on my basketball development. And there were female coaches at the universities in Nova Scotia at the time that I was able to rub shoulders with often. I think seeing women in this position – also including Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee – has been helpful.
How do you make that transition from play to practice? And how did you become head coach of TMU and assistant coach of the senior women’s national team?
I played for five years at Bishop’s University in Quebec, then I graduated. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next and Dalhousie University head coach Carolyn Savoy, who had coached me with Team Canada when I was a player, called me and asked if I wanted to become an assistant coach with her. . I was thinking of doing a master’s anyway, so I decided to do my MBA and start coaching with her. I spent two years there.
At the same time, I started working at the Performance Programs Center at Canada Basketball, mostly as a volunteer. I did and I was also on provincial teams with Nova Scotia. And then in 2009 there was a program called National Elite Development Academy which was run by Canada Basketball out of Hamilton. They hired me as an apprentice coach there for a year, where I helped train some of the best high school players from across the country, including national team prospects like Natalie Achonwa, Michelle and Katherine Plouffe. and Kayla Alexander. After that, at age 26, I was hired as a head coach at the University of Prince Edward Island. During my second year there in 2011, I had the opportunity to coach Canada’s U-16 team. And then I kind of worked my way up the national team ranks and after three years at UPEI, I got hired here at TMU, where I’ve been for 10 years. In the off-seasons, I always did national team stuff, starting with U-16 and U-17, then I moved to U-18 and U-19 for a cycle, and now I’m an assistant in the senior team.
What do you enjoy most about coaching?
My real passion is helping a team achieve a goal and helping people and players grow to achieve it. I certainly feel the most pride or satisfaction when I see our athletes achieve something they have high hopes for.
And how would you define your coaching style?
I think it’s player or athlete centered. I hope the athletes will feel supported but also challenged and inspired. I try to pull threads that will intrinsically motivate them. Rather than a fear-based approach where I would scream or yell, it’s more about trying to encourage the why, figure out the why, and do it while building a team of great people.
And then with this specific group that you have at GLOBL JAM, how would you characterize this team?
Generally at the international level, Canada’s reputation is that we play with great courage; That we’re really defensive and physically strong enough that way. I think there’s a level of athleticism that shows in our game now as well. I think this specific group has a lot of competition. I think there is a competitive edge in this group that makes them quite special. And there is also passion and motivation around it.
• A party with us: GLOBL JAM was created with two main goals in mind, to give young Canadian basketball talent a chance to play some of the best competition in the world – and let them do it at home.
• Where dreams begin: An opportunity to show off at home, in front of friends and family, while potentially inspiring young Canadians to achieve their own dreams? This is Prosper’s dream scenario.
• The future is here: Shy Day-Wilson not only has the next, she has the next and now, and whatever she decides to do.
• The thrill of red and white: For the first time since winning a silver medal at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship 2015, Marcus Carr is playing for Canada. Now he can also chase home wins.
What does it mean to you to coach this team in Canada at the inaugural GLOBL JAM tournament, where most of these women will be playing on home soil for the first time in years?
It means a lot. As I said, I’ve been working with national teams since 2011. I had the opportunity to be a head coach for seven or eight years, but always abroad in places like Mexico, Chile , Amsterdam, Italy and Japan. I have traveled the world, but I have never had the opportunity to be a head coach in Canada. So to do that, representing Canada in the building that I work in full-time at TMU, really means a lot.
And then to be able to work with a bunch of these players that I’ve traveled around the world with and share the experience with everyone in front of my friends and family, it’s going to be special. And hopefully we can grow a bigger fanbase across the country as we finally get to show what we’re capable of at home.
You talked about having female coaches that you could see growing up. What do you think a tournament like this could mean for young Canadian girls who get to attend games and watch these athletes play in person for probably the first time?
I think it’s huge. I know over the last few years there have been so many stories about the Raptors and the Vince Carter effect and all that. And I think that also had an impact on women’s basketball. But when women can see women doing something, I think it has a whole different impact. And yes, the WNBA is growing and coming, but it’s only on TV here and there, especially here in Canada. So for fans to have the opportunity to see some future WNBA players firsthand and be able to yearn for and maybe get their autograph, I think those memories will last much longer in person than on TV.
I know this is kind of a development team for the senior team and the hope is that some of these young women will eventually play for the senior team, say in the 2028 Olympics. So , how do you reconcile the development of talent with the desire to win this tournament?
We talk about on-demand performance all the time, and it’s all about development. In these tournaments, in FIBA tournaments, Olympic tournaments, you have seven games in 10 days, or in this case, five games in six days, and you have to be able to perform at peak performance and come together. And I think there’s a developmental aspect to learning how to move around in these tournaments, which is so different from a college season or a pro season where you have six or eight months, isn’t it ?
And then it’s also about creating roles, creating systems that align from our age group teams to our senior team. Thus, athletes get more touchpoints in building these roles and experiences to seize different opportunities. I think it’s all about development and working with them to share, educate and build habits that allow you to be a professional and a long-time player.
We’re seeing a surge in Canadian basketball talent, with 20 Canadian women playing in March Madness last season. How important are these national team experiences to the development of these Canadian athletes?
I think our development system from a national team perspective has continued to grow and we’ve definitely created a pathway for these top women. I think the most important thing is the pathway that has been created, so now the top athletes start playing U-14, U-15 with their provincial teams, then they can play U-16, U-17 and U- 18, U-19 with national teams. And they just get all these high-level opportunities to play and compete and understand and develop training habits and an understanding of the skill set that you need to play at a high level.
Also, with the increased visibility of women’s basketball and our national team, I think it inspires Canadian players to want to do more and work harder.