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Leading by Example

Leading by Example


by Joy Minion
Photography by J Style Photography

Leadership involves hard work, enthusiasm and good communication skills, and Oak Grove senior Emily Card has it all. “Leadership is something you never force on kids. It just comes easy for Emily,” says girls basketball coach Mike Forsberg. She’s learned “to manage the team on the floor and get the team involved – it’s like having an extra coach on the floor. And her work ethic, that’s always going to be with her, that’s part of who she is.”

Emily is quick to say that she’s learned many of her leadership skills by watching her coaches and past captains, and from being a team captain herself. “My volleyball coach, Julie Vancura, has taught me so much about setting and about volleyball, but also about how to be a good teammate – something she really stresses. And then my basketball coach, Mike Forsberg, he’s been such a great role model – in sports, school and faith. My track coach, Janice Stoa, has definitely taught me what hard work is and what improvement is. She’s shown me that even when you’re running your race by yourself, it’s still for the team.”

Emily passionately supports that team concept. “It’s not just a team, it’s a family…those girls are going to be there for you, no matter what; on the court or off, you have 15 sisters behind you to pick you up when you’re down. Being a good teammate means they count on me to be there and I count on them. We’ve set goals for our seasons, we are here for a reason, we have a job to do. We have to work together to accomplish our goals.”

According to Katy Braaten, assistant varsity volleyball coach, Emily and the other two captains “set the tone for how our season is going to go. They set examples and create experiences for the younger athletes to go through and learn from. It’s awesome!”

Why play three sports? According to Emily, “Research shows that playing several sports instead of focusing on just one makes a better athlete.” What is her favorite sport? “It depends on the season! When volleyball starts, I love it, and then when basketball gets going…I really love basketball.”

She’s played volleyball since 4th grade. At first, Emily said “I hate volleyball!” When her mom, Charlene, asked why, Emily said, “I couldn’t get the ball over the net. Everyone else could do it, and I got so frustrated!” Her mom encouraged her to “keep trying, it’ll get better.” Emily kept trying, and by the end of that first season, Emily said, “Oh, I just LOVE volleyball!”

That perseverance has paid off…Emily plays the position of setter and is co-captain of her team. She is the team leader in assists and has earned numerous awards over the years.

Is she happy she stuck with it?

“I’m glad…I would have regretted it if I’d quit. This spring I’m hoping I can coach some 4th grade volleyball. I love sports and I love kids, so what better way to put those together?”

Emily has played basketball most of her life. “I’ve been doing sports since I could walk,” she said. “My dad kind of got me into basketball right away.”

As point guard for her team, Emily works hard to improve her ball-handling skills.

She earned a place on the All-Region 1 girls basketball team last year, as well as on the Wild Rice All-Conference team. She has also received numerous Player of the Game awards.
Coach Forsberg says Emily has become very good at “reading the defense and getting a feel for the game. There’s a lot of times she just calls plays…she’s become very good at that, and I think it’s because we think a lot alike.”

Is coaching basketball in her future?

“The past few summers I’ve had the opportunity to help my dad at basketball camp as a volunteer coach, working with kindergarteners to 8th graders. That’s been an awesome experience…it lit a flame in me for coaching. I loved working with the kids, teaching them the fundamentals of the sport, seeing them excited to play.”

And then there’s her career in track. “I run the hurdles – mostly the 300 hurdles – I’ve kind of done it all…I used to run in the 4×8, and then we didn’t have enough girls for that, so I was in the 4×2…you name it, I probably ran it.”

How did Emily become so involved in sports? “We’ve always been a sports family,” she answered. “My mom played basketball and was a cheerleader. My dad was a basketball player and he’s the boys’ basketball coach at Oak Grove. He was an assistant coach before that. He also teaches at the South campus. My older brother played sports – I looked up to him and said, ‘I want to do that, too.’”

Mom Charlene said, “Emily started playing soccer when she was 4. It was her first sport. We had all our kids do gymnastics when they were little, then take swimming lessons. We’ve always told her practice matters, you have to work hard…earn your spot, nothing’s given. And there was a time in those early years that she sat on the bench and didn’t play a lot. But she kept playing…there’s something to be said for that teammate who sticks it out. I think it’s her positive attitude that makes her a good leader. She’s just a great example to the team.”

Emily has three brothers: Nick, a junior at NDSU; Caleb, a sophomore at Oak Grove; and Cody, a 7th grader at Oak Grove. In the family tradition, they also are active in sports.

Emily has been on the President’s Honor Roll for academics throughout her high school career. Her favorite subjects are AP Chemistry and Spanish. “Summer before last I got to go to Guatemala. I’d love to go to more Latin American countries, and maybe Spain, Bolivia.”

When not studying or playing sports, Emily finds time to be in Key Club, National Honor Society, Cass County Youth Commission, yearbook staff and Student Council. She also teaches Sunday School at Hope Lutheran and sings in the choir. How does she manage all those activities? “Priorities and time management!”

What about the future? She’s considering Concordia, MSUM and UND. “I’m thinking about going into elementary education or occupational therapy – I know I want to work with kids…I’m passionate about helping kids!”

Emily offers this advice to younger athletes: “It’s not always about you, it’s about the team. That can be hard, because as an athlete it’s easy to put your own success over the team’s. But there’s no greater feeling than when your team succeeds together. I hope that’s something that the girls who look up to me or who are on a team with me would see – it’s not about me, it’s about the team.”

Dad Kyle sums it up: “It’s been fun to watch her just be a good leader. As she mentioned, the team should come first, and I remember telling her to be a good teammate. That’s what Emily is, a leadership example…maybe not always the greatest player out there, but she understands what her job is and makes everyone better.”

And Coach Forsberg adds, “I would tell Emily not to lose focus on what I always tell the girls: put God first in your life, then family, then school or whatever job, and then their recreational time. It’s priorities.”

Emily’s final thoughts? “I’m definitely thankful for the community I’ve been raised in, for my family and for the community of Oak Grove. I’m very blessed to go to such an amazing school. I’m humbled that people look up to me as a leader.” FMSV