The 31-year-old Clarke is currently spending his fifth and final year of Canadian university sport eligibility playing on the Huskies men’s soccer team, but that doesn’t even come close to defining his career in sport.
In past years Clarke has competed as a member of the Huskies track and field squad, running as a pentathlete and throwing shot put. He also completed an additional five years of university level sport playing rugby at the University of Bath in England while getting his undergraduate degree in sport and exercise science; meaning when Clarke isn’t playing sports, he is studying them.
“Originally that’s why I got into sport science, because I wanted to try everything on myself. I would see a new diet or new training method and try it on myself first,” Clarke said.
Hailing from Tamworth, England, Clarke first came to the University of Saskatchewan in 2002 on exchange from the University of Bath. After returning home and finishing his undergraduate degree, Clarke found his way back to Saskatoon to complete a master’s in motor control and fine movements of the body. During this time Clarke competed with the track and field team for two seasons.
Following the completion of his master’s, Clarke spent the next year and a half moving back and forth from Canada to England to work with Olympic athletes from both countries before landing in Ireland where he spent six months training professional boxers.
Despite globetrotting and working with some of the best athletes in the world, Clarke decided to return to the U of S to complete a PhD in Kinesiology.
“The two years I spent working in between my master’s and my PhD was pretty neat but now I had all these new ideas in my head, and to be honest girls might have had something to do with me coming back to Canada to study,” Clarke said with a smirk.
Upon returning to the U of S in 2009, Clarke had aspirations to work with the football team for his PhD research.
“I went to [Brian Towriss, Huskies football head coach] and Bart Arnold, the strength and offensive line coach for the Huskies football team, straight away with my ideas about doing research for the football’s strength and conditioning program,” Clarke said.
In the meantime Clarke, in his first year back, rejoined the track and field team. Then in 2010, Bryce Chapman, Huskies men’s soccer coach, contacted Clarke about playing soccer. Clarke jumped at the offer and played his first season of Huskies soccer in the fall of 2010, the same time he began his research with the football club.
“I had research going, I had finished track and now I was starting soccer. That summer I had two-a-day [practices] for both soccer and football. I would run back and forth all day [switching from playing to taking notes] and it was pretty crazy.”
Clarke was forced to redshirt the 2011 soccer season in order to recover from off-season knee surgery. It wasn’t all bad, though, as the extra time allowed Clarke to focus on his research with the football club and to be a teaching assistant in a few undergraduate kinesiology classes.
Clarke’s research compares the cycles of fatigue between training and actual games in an attempt to identify and combat early fatigue in football players. He is near the end of this work, and will complete his PhD at the end of this school year. Over the years he has grown more comfortable with the football team and is now a strength and conditioning coach for the team as well. All the while balancing his final year of sport eligibility with the soccer team and teaching classes.
From track and field to rugby, and from bobsledding to boxing, Nick Clarke seems to have either played or researched almost every sport, a trait of a true sportsaholic.
Photo: Cole Guenter