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Iowa’s Caitlin Clark Stays Grounded in Faith: Her ‘Gifts’ Are ‘From God,’ Coach Says

  • Michael Foust Crosswalk Headlines Contributor
  • Updated Mar 22, 2024
Iowa’s Caitlin Clark Stays Grounded in Faith: Her ‘Gifts’ Are ‘From God,’ Coach Says

The Iowa women’s basketball sensation who is smashing records and grabbing headlines “takes seriously her call to be” a role model and realizes that her gifts are from God, say those who are close to her and her family. 

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark broke the all-time women’s scoring record in February with a 49-point performance against Michigan, and then in March, passed men’s legendary player “Pistol Pete” Maravich with 35 points against Ohio State to become the career scoring leader in all of college basketball, both men’s and women’s.

Often called “Ponytail Pete” for her shooting range and on-court personality, Clark has scored 3,771 points in her career entering the NCAA tournament.

Iowa, 29-4, is a No. 1 seed and a favorite to return to the Final Four, where the Hawkeyes lost to LSU in last season’s national championship game.

Clark attended Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, and her family attends St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in West Des Moines, according to Crux, a Catholic media outlet. She considered playing at Notre Dame, a Catholic university, before opting for Iowa. 

“She knows that she has some talents that other people weren’t necessarily born with, and she’s just looking to maximize them not just for herself but for her teammates, and on an even bigger scope for the fans,” Kristin Meyer, her high school coach, told Crux. “It’s not just about scoring a lot of points or winning; she loves playing in front of a sold-out arena because she gets to entertain people and bring a smile to their face. For two hours she lets them have this great experience and she takes that pretty seriously, and knows that those gifts from God are an opportunity to bring joy to other people.” 

Next season, Clark will be playing in the WNBA, most likely for the Indiana Fever, which has the No. 1 pick in the draft. 

Her path to stardom began as a freshman when she led the NCAA in scoring with 26.6 points per game. As a sophomore, she averaged an NCAA-leading 27 points, and as a junior, she averaged 27.8 (which ranked second to Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist’s 29.2 points). This season she is averaging 31.9 points, which leads all women in college basketball. 

She has 56 career 30-plus point games - the most in all of college basketball over the last 25 seasons. She does more than simply score, though, as she leads her team and the Big 10 in assists.

Father Joseph Pins, pastor of the family’s church, St. Francis, said Clark “does a great job just living out the faith.” 

“We’re proud of our alumna who has done such a great, great, great, thing in life,” Pins told Crux. “It’s always good as we form children to watch this go through and see success not just on the basketball court but also in her faith life.”

Clark, while in high school, said the religious aspects of Dowling Catholic were a big reason she enjoyed playing here.  

“We get to live our faith every day. Dowling starts every day with prayer and ends every day with prayer,” Clark told the Des Moines Register in 2018. “This is a big reason why Dowling has such a special culture and is such a special place to go to school.”

In 2023, when Iowa advanced to the Final Four, the parish held a watch party so parishioners could gather and cheer on their favorite player, together. 

“She’s a team player. She’s very humble,” said parishioner Shelley Goodell. “I think she represents what’s best about being raised in the Catholic faith. She really is the perfect role model for all the kids.”

Clark often signs autographs for fans after games, staying long after the final horn. Earlier this season, she made national headlines when she gave her game-worn shoes to a 10-year-old girl at courtside. Clark said the young girl had caught her eye during pregame warmups. 

“That girl had my jersey on, and it was cute. She was copying our stretching warming up, so I thought it was adorable,” Clark said.

Bishop William Joensen, who serves in the family’s parish, told Crux that Clark “continues to draw strength, perspective and peace from her presence at Mass and the Gospel values instilled in her.”

“She takes seriously her call to be a role model to young girls especially,” Joensen said, “and to all who mark this phenomenal achievement.”

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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.