.ca | 12:45 P/ GPLS
We continue our features on the Canadian National Team Program this week as we talk to Madison Clarke from Edmonton about her years playing in the Prairie League and her experiences and future goals with Team Canada.
Since the age of four, softball has been Madison Clark’s love.
She missed birthday parties, family events, and even her own Grade 9 graduation, all because softball was on the schedule.
But after just completing her junior year at Saint Joseph’s University, where she plays NCAA Div. 1 softball for the Hawks, all those missed dates and time spent practicing the sport she loves has seen the Edmonton native pitcher not only find her way into the top level of college softball in the United States, but also on the cusp of being one of the faces of Canadian softball in the future.
As a long time player for Lloydminster, Clark remembers her time in Girls Prairie League Softball (GPLS) as one with tough competition, but also one of comradery amongst all the teams in the league.
“The GPLS was always one of my favorite tournaments to be involved in because we always played such good competition and I knew most of the girls from the opposing teams,” said Clark. “All of us grew up playing softball together even if we weren’t on the same team at some points. It was always nice to have a league that went on for a good part of the summer because we always had tournaments and got to play good competition all the time.”
She would win it all with Lloydminster in 2012, still the only team to complete a perfect season in GPLS history.
Clark was selected to the junior team, and put on the Canadian jersey for the first time when the team travelled to Oklahoma with hundreds of fans watching. During her time with the Canadian juniors, she experienced a side of softball she had never experienced before, playing against some of the top players in the world, while also experiencing a culture side of the game.
“My favorite team that we played was probably New Zealand. Before the game they did the Haka in front of us on the line. I had never experienced that traditional ritual before. I had just heard about it or seen it in a movie. Being there and experiencing it was super cool.”
She has played with the junior team at the Canada Cup, and mingled with the senior women’s team in a summer, she said, she will never forget.
“The Junior National Team was one of my biggest accomplishments …. I don’t think I was more excited to make a team in my life.”
Between her play in the Prairie League and across Canada, scouts took notice, and Saint Joseph’s reached out to Clark for an opportunity to play NCAA Div. 1 softball and get a full athletic scholarship. For the past three seasons she has helped lead the Hawks into the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament for the past two seasons, where they finished second in 2016, and third in this year’s tournament.
“It has been one of the best experiences of my life,” said Clark. “Growing up I never believed I would get a full Div. 1 scholarship to a great school. The experience so far has been amazing. I can’t believe all the places and things I’ve seen throughout the United States that no regular person gets to see or experience. I ran up the ‘Rocky’ steps in Philadelphia, got to see the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis and have made some of the best friends along the way.”
With one more season to go with the Hawks, Clark is still looking for her first championship ring as conference champions, but beyond rings and wins, Clark wants to be a leader on the team for the incoming freshman and underclassmen that will look up to the senior pitcher.
And with plenty of dreams still left to accomplish, the talented pitcher is setting her sights on a childhood dream, one that would again see her put on a Team Canada jersey, only this time on the largest stage of them all. Clarke got her first opportunity to pitch for Team Canada at last year’s World Cup of Softball where she made her debut in a relief appearance against Team Japan.
With softball returning to the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo, Japan; Clark will have an opportunity, as one of the 29 players in the Senior National Team pool, to tryout for the Senior National and Elite Team next week in Mississauga, ON. In 2017, Team Canada will include stops in Chicago, Oklahoma, Akron, Vancouver, the Dominican Republic, and Japan. While making this team wouldn’t guarantee her a spot on the Olympic roster, it would be a massive step in the right direction.
“I don’t think an opportunity to be in the Olympics ever gets out of my mind,” said Clark. “Watching the Olympics as a little girl, I always admired how hard working and dedicated all of the athletes were towards their sport. I have loved Softball since I was four years old and looking back, I think I always set goals and dreams of becoming a high level athlete. From all the early and late practices and going sometimes 20 hours a week, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”
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