McMaster’s Clare Sharkey seizes the moment and her leadership role

Hamilton, ON- When Clare Sharkey and her McMaster Marauders women’s basketball teammates were in Halifax in late December, she couldn’t help but let the moment sink in. 

Point guard Arianne Soriano made the point that it was one of their last team trips together for the senior players. It was their first time travelling to Atlantic Canada as they practiced, scrimmaged and played against the Dalhousie Tigers. Sharkey thought about it and then realized: she’s right. 

Sharkey and her senior teammates joke about the milestones as they come. Last first practice of the season. Last first practice post-Christmas. Last first game of the new year. 

That was against the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks on Jan 6. After the Ridgebacks got out to an early lead, McMaster fought back to go up and keep a sizable margin throughout. They won 91-48 and got some key minutes from players across the lineup. 

“It was nice to get the entire bench in and the entire roster in and get lots of developmental minutes for people,” Marauders head coach Theresa Burns noted. 

Twelve players saw the court and four scored double-digit points. Sharkey had eight points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes. 

Just a week earlier, the Marauders’ depth was on display in their exhibition game versus Dalhousie. Thirteen players saw playing time in an 81-47 victory. Burns said they had some good training sessions and was glad to get a competitive opportunity in during the break. 

The trip also served as a team bonding experience. “It was one of those life learning great opportunities,” Burns added. “Lots of life lessons learned. Lots of team gelling.” 

The team explored Halifax and Nova Scotia. Sharkey recalls them going to Peggy’s Cove, walking around, laughing and taking pictures. Those experiences forge that bond. 

“I want them to succeed as much as I want to succeed,” Sharkey noted. “That shows on the court when you make the extra pass, you get excited over someone else’s play. That’s when we play our best – when we’re happy and having fun.” 

Sharkey and her teammates show their energy and support for each other (Photo: Rick Zazulak/McMaster Athletics)

Sharkey and the senior players have become a big part of that team bond. She came into McMaster back in 2017 from Newmarket with guards Sarah Gates and Mia Spadafora. Soriano joined a year later. They reached the OUA finals and nationals in 2018 and won the OUA and national crown the following season. 

Sharkey’s become a leader over time. In her first two years, she didn’t say much, preferring to follow the lead of others instead. As time went along, her veteran teammates and her coaches helped her find her voice and now she’s doing the same for her younger teammates. 

She’s become an impact player. In a win against Laurentian on Jan 14., she set the tone with 10 rebounds. Part of that comes from belief, according to Burns. She described Sharkey as “the nicest, sweetest person in the world.” A humble individual as well – the last person who would want the spotlight.

“I think she’s starting to understand what an impact she can be,” Burns added. “It’s nice to see her having that belief in herself and it’s just good for her as an overall person.”

The forward started to find her leadership style as well. She prefers to lead by example. Sharkey finds little things here and there – tidbits of experience – that she carries with her and passes along to her teammates. She helps guide them. 

Teammate Delaney Bourget said she has phenomenal basketball IQ. “It’s rare to have a player you feel like can coach you,” Bourget added. “Anything she says to me, it’s so accurate, it’s insane.”

Part of being more vocal is conscious, Sharkey admits. “You’re like, ‘maybe I should say something here,’” she noted. “Subconsciously, you do become more comfortable and more confident in what you do.” 

It became more natural. She found that she knew what to do, what to say as a leader. 

She also understands the interesting and rare position she’s in. Due to the 2020-21 season being cancelled, the athletes maintained their year of eligibility. Sharkey, Gates and Spadafora are in their sixth year at McMaster – something not many athletes have experienced before. 

Sharkey also recognizes that time is soon coming to an end. She called it bittersweet. “You’re really understanding the opportunity how special it is to be a part of a team like this and not taking anything for granted,” she added. “Just giving your all because that’s all we have left.” 

It motivates her to approach each practice and game and play as hard as she can. She does so with her teammates and coaches, a group with a close bond. With laughter and enjoyment. With a fun last semester still ahead, as she calls it. 

“You kind of take a step back and oh, you do kind of remember all the fun memories you have here,” Sharkey said. “Just hope to create a few more.” 

Featured Image: Marisa Settimi/McMaster Athletics

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