“Basketball or softball? Which do you like better?”
Sophomore Claire Oberdorf has faced this question throughout her many years playing basketball and softball, finding extreme difficulty in answering—in light of her clear eyes and full heart. “This kind of all just happened,” she says producing a polite smile, downplaying her personal accomplishments as a two-sport Division I athlete.
Claire serves as a guard on the Marist Women’s Basketball Team, as well as a middle infielder for the Marist Softball Team. In addition to being a mathematics education major, she has successfully crafted herself to become both a stellar student and athlete. With transitioning from one season to another, she constantly adjusts her mindset and lifestyle.
“They [basketball and softball] have different aspects that I really enjoy,” she says, answering the initial inquiry that has reappeared in every sector of her life. “It’s more when I’m in season, I really love that sport. Getting up early for basketball practice and having three hours of straight sweating and complete exhaustion makes me ask, ‘Why would I want to do this?’ But that’s also the reward,” she says, her face glowing.
Claire caught Marist’s attention during her sophomore year in high school on the basketball court, but unfortunately suffered from an ACL tear that compromised her playing time for that season. Her injury aided her decision to instead play softball at the collegiate level—as Marist then recruited her for the Women’s Softball Team instead.
During her freshman fall semester, softball Coach Joe Ausanio recognized Claire’s churning passion for athletics beyond the softball diamond. Ausanio informed her of the basketball team losing a number of graduated members, and pushed for Claire to continue to engage in both sports. In October, he told her to try out for women’s basketball—as a walk-on. “I went in and they liked me, and they told me to keep coming back if I wanted to,” she says.
Claire made the basketball team as a rookie point guard, successfully and unexpectedly becoming a two-sport Division I athlete. Then, in her 2015-16 basketball season, she appeared in 30 games and started 18, averaging 21.5 minutes per game while averaging 4.5 points per game.
“I was lucky to play so much freshman year being a walk on,” she says, showcasing her an ever-present humbleness. “So now I play both, and it’s kind of just like “AHH!” she says, good-naturedly. “I’m figuring it out as I go.”
In Claire’s 2015-16 softball season, she had 14 multi-RBI games and a .391 batting average. She was also selected as Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year during the league's awards banquet in the McCann Center last year, as she was a three-time Rookie of the Week during the regular season.
Between mixed responses of people thinking that her decision was “crazy, but cool at the same time,” Claire recites her family’s endless support. “My family and parents were all for it, with a ‘do what you want to do because we know you can do it’ attitude.”
Claire and her coaches strategically plan where she needs to be, and when, in order to balance her commitment to both teams. “Last season everything just kind of happened without a lot of time to plan,” she says. “During basketball season I’m all basketball, and during softball season I’m all softball—they can’t really steal me during the season.”
The chaos of her life as a two sport athlete is balanced with the aura back home in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. “It’s really relaxed, so coming here was really exciting,” she says. “My town is small and not a lot of people really get out.”
Claire’s life is even more complex, as her older sister, Jayne, is a senior pitcher on the Marist Softball Team.
Jayne first visited Marist when Claire was a only freshman in highschool, and she recalls bickering with her regarding her interest. “I insisted, ‘Don’t you dare decide to come here because I want to come here,’” she laughs.
“We have our little bickering across the field where Coach Joe has to separate us for a few seconds,” she says, while simultaneously expressing gratitude that she gets to attend school and play softball with her sister. “We only do it to make each other better.”
Claire emphasizes the importance of having Jayne as a support system as being stronger than anything else she has experienced with playing sports. “I didn’t think I would ever want to go to school with her because we were so competitive when we were younger,” she says, explaining their constantly growing bond both on and off the field. “But now, she’s my best friend.”
She also values the overall fun involved in both games—as each sport brings out different aspects in her. “During softball I have major superstitions with which bow I wear in my hair, or how I do the eye-black, which sock I put on first,” she says. “In basketball, I’m kind of just laid back.
She credits her success in multiple aspects of life to her exposure to both teams, coaching staff and concrete games. “Both of the coaches have had a lot of impact on me,” she says. “It’s funny how they’re both so different, but want the same thing out of their players.”
“I wouldn’t say that I have individual goals—it’s always just to do well,” she says. “I want everyone to have fun,” she says. Claire will continue throughout her next two years as a Red Fox on the field, court and in the classroom—bearing her bottomless heart for both games and through her endless drive to put her best self forward in all areas of life.
She plans on pursuing a career as a mathematics teacher, as she is concentrating in secondary education and aims to teach high level calculus in high schools. “I’ve always wanted to teach calculus or the AP classes in high school,” she says, “Lucky for me, it comes easy and I enjoy doing it.”