By contributor Farida El Sheshingy

I’ve been told, on many occasions, that hard work beats talent; hard work goes a long way regardless of what you pursue in life. I understand this notion a bit through sports and education. I still remember how I felt the first time I achieved a major milestone back home in Egypt: the day I received my acceptance letter from the American University in Cairo, one of the most prestigious universities in the country—my dream university at the time.


Mariners’ player Emily Clarke shows off her moves.

It was a Monday morning, just like any other at school. I had worked hard since the ninth grade to get good grades, and it was a waiting game to see which of the two universities would accept me. With eight lessons a day in March, I could barely keep my eyes open, and when I did, I would daydream about college. I was mindlessly active, totally passive.

Later in the day, I got a text message saying, “Congratulations! You have been accepted to attend the American University in Cairo. Please visit the registrar building to pick up your letter of acceptance. Looking forward to seeing you on campus!”

The first person I ran to was my English teacher, whom I admire and have learned a lot from since the eighth grade. She has always believed in me and pushed me to work hard and believe in myself. She helped me prepare for everything, from exams, soccer games, and my creative writing portfolio, to SATs—all four times. I ran downstairs and met her in front of the teachers’ lounge to tell her the good news.

“Ms. Rehab, guess what! I got accepted in AUC!” She didn’t seem surprised at all. In fact, she looked as relaxed as ever. She smiled at me, sighed in contentment, and uttered the most comforting, reassuring sentence that I have ever heard in my life:

“Farida,” she said. “Hard work pays off.” That was it. Nothing else mattered in the world but that feeling of euphoria of seeing your work actually get you somewhere. “See? Now you know. This is for all the times you did not believe. You deserve this. I’m so proud of you.”

Since that day, I haven’t really felt like I have put in a substantial amount of effort into something worth notable recognition. Maybe I have, but you don’t really know when you’re putting a lot of work into something until you start seeing results. Being a VIU varsity athlete, you’re always in constant battle with everything and everyone around you, and it gets difficult to see the light sometimes.

Last year, I worked at the VIU gym as part of the Game Day staff. Consequently, I was at every Mariners’ home game. Watching the women’s basketball team one day, I saw something that made me pause. One of the VIU players hopped on the cycling machine right after finishing her game, without cooling down—she was actually working out. I thought that was rather odd, since she had just played a 50-minute game. Shocked and in awe, I had to find out what motivated her to jump on that bike after losing a game.

I sat down with Emily Clarke, PacWest athlete of the week, and had a chat about what drives her, who influences her the most, and what makes her wake up every morning and live the life of a VIU Mariner and a Physical Education student.

Emily is in her second year at VIU, after graduating from Penticton Secondary School. I asked her a few questions on what it means to be dedicated to becoming the best player and person that you can be, regardless of where you see yourself.

When asked how she does this after disappointing games, Emily said, “There have been a lot of inconsistencies. Seeing my improvement is a struggle , and getting over the downs is challenging, but I always look at the positives.”

I wondered if she had always been this way, and she confirmed this by referring back to her high school days, saying, “Everyone supported me. The work that I put in was kind of contagious.”

I watch her train her heart out and I think about all the time she commits to bettering herself—what does a day in Emily Clarke’s life look like?

“I wake up on an average day around 5:30 a.m.,” she said. “I’ll do homework quickly, then by 7 a.m. I’m at the gym, either in the weight room or on the court,” she continued, “for a two to three hour workout, or to work on my game. Then, later in the day, I have practice from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Any extra time in between is for homework and classes. I work four out of five school days a week. My day ends around 11 p.m. Oh, and I have games on weekends.”

I admire her so much for finding ways to be a varsity athlete and a student all year round—not just Emily but also all my fellow VIU athletes. Soccer season is so short compared to the rest of the Mariner sports, so I cannot imagine how physically demanding and emotionally overwhelming basketball season can be. With this snapshot into Mariner life, I now know who I am really cheering for when I watch games at the gym. I wish them all the best for the rest of the season, and I hope they start seeing some amazing results for all the hard work they put in every day.


Emily was more than happy to answer a few more questions for me:

How long have you been playing basketball?

Since I was in grade six—more seriously since grade nine and 10; that’s when I started to take my game further. I played for one regional team in grade nine, and club teams in grade 11 and 12.

What is the highest level you aspire to reach with your talent?

I want to play it year by year. CIS or professional would be awesome.

What does a day in your life look like off-season?

I work from 5 a.m. to noon, and then I go to the gym and work out for two hours. After that, I either run a track, do a beach or stair workout, or do hill sprints. In the evening, I play basketball for one to two hours, and then scrimmage for one to two hours (days vary). Usually it’s five to six hours of physical activity after work.

Growing up, did you have any key mentors or motivators in your life? How have they affected your game?

My coaches always pushed me to be better. A lot of my teachers really pushed me, as well as my parents. Everyone supported me. Lots of people came out in the morning to train with me, which was great. Lots of my friends continue to shoot hoops with me.

Did you have any life-changing experiences or major personal accomplishments that have influenced who you are as a player and person today? Tell me more about them.

I fell in love with working out in the gym around grade 10. Basketball was a great outlet to show my improvement in the gym. Working out helped me in basketball—and basketball helped me in the gym.

What motivates you to become the best player you can be?

Just actually trying to be the best I can be. People have different passions and put just as much effort into that, but for me, basketball drives my passion, and I want to be the best that I can be, not just for myself but for the world as well.

What has been the most challenging experience in your career so far? And how did you go about overcoming it?

I wouldn’t say anything specific, but I’m not naturally a basketball player—I’m athletic. There have been a lot of inconsistencies. Seeing my improvement is a struggle and getting over the downs is challenging, but I always look at the positives.

If you could replay your season last year, what would you have done differently?

I probably would have put in a little less time at the gym. I overworked myself to the point of burnout, especially in the end. I fell back on how athletic I was to compensate what I was doing wrong with basketball. I should have focused on what I could control and be okay with what I couldn’t.

How have your teammates influenced you in your transition from your rookie season into your second year? Anyone stand out in particular?

A couple of them helped me tone it down to prevent a burnout like I had. They all pushed me to be better— Jenna Carver in particular. I spent a lot of time with her doing skill work. She is motivated and has such a passion for being there in the moment.

When you think about the future, what gives you hope? And what makes you concerned or worried?

I’m very excited because each year I’ve seen improvement. I think I will keep consistently getting better every year. I’m not too worried because I will put in the work, and with work I will see results.

What are you looking forward to achieving this year? (As a team and a player.)

Team-wise, I’d say provincial championships. We have a lot of talent on our team. As long as we play together and play our best, there are not a lot of teams that can beat us. I hope we eventually do well at nationals. As far as personal achievement, I want to see myself perform more consistently in games. Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down. I think it’s mainly mental, so if I get my mental game consistent, I will play really good games.

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