When you are talented at anything, sports included, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and focus too much on the future. For the University of Houston’s Emma Clarke, despite her immense skill, she is locked in on the present and making the most of her time playing NCAA soccer.
After finishing with a losing record in both of her first two seasons at UH, Clarke and the Cougars are enjoying a 2-0 start to the 2021 campaign. “This year we have an addition of 14 new players to the team, which has completely changed our team and made training every day that much more competitive in order to get playing time,” Clarke told BGN. “We practiced together for six months last year before we got to play our first game together, so everyone on the team was extremely excited for the first two games of the season.”
“We made sure to leave it all out there on the field for the first two games, and our hard work paid with two wins for us. Compared to past seasons, we already have the momentum from those games and the confidence in our team’s ability which I think sets us up very nicely for a successful season.”
Clarke was a starter on the backline for both of those victories, including the 8-0 clean sheet blowout vs. Texas Southern last time out. Her hard work since the 2019 season ended is paying off. “Individually, since 2019 I have been working on improving the consistency of my game and keeping myself to a high standard with everything I do,” she said.
— Houston Soccer (@UHCougarSoccer) February 11, 2021
When discussing her main individual objectives for the 2021 season, Clarke said, “This year, while still focusing on consistency, I am aiming to improve my leadership on the field and lead our team from the back. Another goal of mine is to improve my presence in the air, with scoring a header from a corner being part of that goal.”
While she’s definitely made herself comfortable in Houston, Texas, Emma is actually on the other side of the world from where she grew up. A native of New Zealand, she actually had the chance to be involved with her country’s youth national team. Clarke said, “Obviously, I am very thankful to have represented my country at the youth level and it was an amazing opportunity to play alongside such amazing hardworking players.”
Does she have her sights set on breaking into the New Zealand senior squad? “I have made Houston my home for the last three years and I have focused all my energy into playing college soccer which I love,” she responded. “After my college years, I am not sure if I will want to continue to play at such a high level of soccer anymore or if the Ferns team will ever be a goal, as I will have my career goals to think about. For now, I am just enjoying where I’m at with my game and playing college soccer.”
Discussing the biggest culture shock when coming from New Zealand to H-Town, Clarke said, “The biggest surprise was probably the accents and the weather. I knew American’s of course had an accent, but the accent down in the South is so country and different to the other accents that you would usually hear on American TV. With the weather, of course I knew it would be hot in Texas, but I did not expect it to be that hot and humid for most of the year and since I love summer, it suits me perfectly.”
In addition to the weather and the accent, Texas is also known for its barbecue. Emma said, “I haven’t really tried many BBQ places yet to be honest as I am not a huge meat eater, but I have had the Goode Co. Barbecue BBQ brisket sandwich in their jalapeño cheese bread which is amazing!”
Food also comes into play when asked what she loves about Houston that’s not in her native New Zealand, and vice versa. “I love food, so something that’s not in New Zealand but in Houston would have to be the food places I like such as Poke, Chipotle, MOD Pizza and Chick-fil-A,” she explained. “In New Zealand we have chicken-sushi which is my favorite, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere in Houston! Other things I love in New Zealand would have to be the amazing scenery, such as the beaches and mountains that are so close to home and of course my family.”
Next up on the menu for Clarke and the Cougars will be a showdown on the road against East Carolina University tomorrow, kickoff at 4 PM, as they look to start the season 3-0.