In 2018, Ciara Sharkey enrolled in the Nutrition and Dietetics program at Marywood University after visiting the campus and learning about the small class sizes and personal attention that students receive from their professors. Before the start of the rugby season, Ciara was unsure if she wanted to continue playing at the collegiate level, despite having had a successful high school career. Nervous and unsure of herself at the time, the freshman Pacer ultimately decided to join the first-year athletic program.
“I was nervous coming into Marywood,” Sharkey explained. “I didn’t know what to expect at the time; it was all brand new to me. If I could give one piece of advice to new students, it would be, ‘Just try it. Put yourself out there.’ The community at Marywood is so accepting.”
The decision to join the women’s rugby team paid off tenfold, according to Ciara. Not only was she voted team captain by her teammates for all four years, but she also made lifelong friends and cherished memories along the way.
Over the years, Ciara came to realize that her relationship with her professors was different than those of her friends attending other universities. Marywood’s professors are comparable to her rugby teammates, in the sense that they both have her back, for better or worse, Ciara claims.
“I love the Nutrition and Dietetics department”, said Sharkey. “My professors are amazing. I’m not a random number in a class of 300 students. The professors know me by name. The experiences are much more personal at Marywood.”
Now in her final year at Marywood University, Ciara’s star shines brighter than ever.
In January, Ciara was selected to the Small College All Tournament team at the Women’s All Star 7s National Cup in Houston, Texas. Ciara, who was also named co-captain of the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union All-Star Team (EPRU), led her squad to a 22-7 victory against Great Waters at the Houston Sabercats’ facility.
The tournament included over 200 collegiate athletes from more more than 65 schools across the country. Woody Cole, head coach of the Marywood University Women’s Rugby Team, said he wasn’t surprised that his top player was selected as team captain by the EPRU coaches. The All-Star Tournament is used as a platform for selection to the NCR Women’s Select 7s Program, which most recently competed in the 2021 Falcon 7s Tournament hosted by the American Rugby Pro Training Center.
"Ciara has an extraordinary eye for the game”, said Coach Cole. “Her high work rate and selfless nature account for her ability to effectively lead."
Ciara Sharkey and the Marywood University women’s rugby program share many similarities. Both debuted at Marywood University in the fall of 2018, both experienced growing pains over the past four years, and both turned out better than expected.
“I come from a European family,” Sharkey explained. “My dad is from Liverpool and my mom is from Ireland - both played rugby before they moved to the United States. The culture they raised my brother, sister, and I in included sports like rugby and netball. I started with flag rugby as a child, and, eventually, joined my first team by the time I reached seventh grade. The game will always be a part of me.”
Ciara admits she has aspirations to play professional rugby in the Women’s Premier League (WPL), but is currently focused on becoming a performance dietitian. Whatever path Ciara decides to take, one thing is for sure: she’s a winner.
Marywood's accredited undergraduate program in nutrition and dietetics puts students on the path to becoming registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs). The program integrates the theories, practices, and skills of nutrition and exercise science, applying them to the challenges that both athletes and non-athletes face in choosing diet and exercise regimens that will maintain optimum health and maximize performance. Marywood’s programs also address the challenges of choosing appropriate diet and exercise patterns to prevent chronic diseases.