Engineering is a team sport, and Brody Clarke found a community of supportive students who helped one another succeed

Bears' basketball captain graduating with a different kind of team ring-the engineer's Iron Ring

Miranda Herchen - 02 June 2019

(Edmonton) Brody Clarke is sitting in his student dorm room wrestling with his first physics assignment. A first-year engineering student from Ontario, he is left to face the problem alone. He can't figure it out.

"I was banging my head against the wall. I had no idea what was going on."

Desperate, he seeks help.

"I know the guy who lives directly across the hall is also in engineering," said Clarke. "So, I poke my head out and go to his room.

"He's not in there."

Clarke hears a commotion down the hall. Curious, he follows the boisterous conversations.

"I get to the end of the hall, and everybody's out there working on the physics assignment," he recalls.

"And I was like, 'Are all you guys in engineering?' and they're like, 'Yeah, are you?' I said, 'Yeah' and they say, 'Bring your stuff out.'

"Immediately I had a community," said Clarke, who graduates this week with a degree in civil engineering and four years of experience on the U of A Golden Bears basketball team.

"I got lucky in that respect," he said of meeting the dozen or so other engineering students sharing the same residence.

"Those guys really helped me a lot in first year because they bridged that gap of having friends in the academic world and other parts of my life than just basketball."

Clarke had always been an exceptional athlete but he also excelled at physics and math throughout high school and needed to do something that would stimulate those abilities. He considered engineering.

And after visiting the U of A campus and faculties, Clarke knew it was the place for him. "The moment I walked into the engineering building, I was like, 'Yeah, I could see myself studying here for the next five years.'''

Engineering has taught Clarke the importance of little things, and he recognizes this on the court as well.

"Scoring is great and rebounding is great and blocks and steals are great, but what about diving on a loose ball once in a while? What about giving a high-five to your teammate when they come off the bench, just to make sure they're involved and engaged?

"All those little things, they play a really big part in basketball the same way as they do in engineering."

Little things add up to big things. Bears basketball is a weekly commitment of 25 to 30 hours, making balance an important thing for any student-athlete, especially one in a program as demanding as engineering.

Recovering from a surgery in his first year allowed Clarke to adjust to engineering and the athletic environment without having to travel out of town for games.

Early in his first semester, Clarke sat down with his coach, Barnaby Craddock, and the basketball calendar. Clarke wrote down every lab, midterm, assignment and final, finding the places that could potentially cause him stress. Together, he and his coach discussed time management and what things Clarke would have to start in advance.

After his first year, Clarke had figured out what he needed to do to succeed.

"Once you get into the groove of things, you realize what you're good at and how much work you need to put in to get certain results."

Between planning and extending his degree by a year, Clarke made it through his degree-with Academic All-Canadian honours for his above-80 average, which he called "a byproduct of working hard."

While receiving this honour was not an immediate goal for Clarke, he soon realized it was something he wanted to maintain.

"I got the taste of it in my first year and I said, 'Oh, I want the recognition.' And then you keep striving for that."

Clarke's basketball game is just as strong. Serving as the Bears' captain for the past three years, he led the team to a Canada West championship in 2017, and cracked the U SPORTS All-Canadian team three times.

Clarke's final year of university basketball will be next year. He is returning to the university to study for his MBA, a difficult program to get into.

This summer, he's working for a real estate firm and playing professional basketball with the Edmonton Stingers in the new Canadian Elite Basketball League.

Basketball and engineering might not seem comparable, but Clarke's realized how the two can overlap.

"One thing I learned from basketball that I'm able to apply well in engineering is teamwork. Basketball is very much a team sport," he said. "There's a lot of moving parts, a lot of people who have to be pulling in the right direction at the same time in order for things to go well."

"I had a prof in first year who once said, 'Engineering is a team sport,' and it really is.

"You have to be able to work through stressful times and collaborate with other people who might not always have the same ideas as you and because at the end of the day, everybody's trying to get the same end."