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The Heart of a Champion

The Heart of a Champion



by Emily Pascavis
Photography by Thru Him Photography

Whether it’s practice or working by myself, I always go at game speed and give 100%. I put myself in game situations so when it comes to the games, I feed off of the pressure instead of getting nervous…I know that if I want to accomplish my goals, I have to work super hard for them. I might not be remembered as a great athlete to others, but to myself I want to be remembered as the great athlete I strive to be.”

Those are the profound words of Barnesville High School sophomore, Nicole Herbranson. Nicole is a four-sport varsity athlete, involved in basketball, volleyball, softball, and track. In reading her words, it is clear that Nicole is very mature for her age, and truly something special.

We’re All In This Together
Nicole is one of five children in the Herbranson family. To say she grew up in the world of sports would be an understatement. With four of the five children being athletes, Joanne, Nicole’s mother, says they brought Nicole to her sister’s basketball game just three days after she was born. Nicole’s sister Laura played volleyball at Minnesota State Community and Technical College–Fergus Falls, her sister Jaynie played basketball at Concordia College in Moorhead, and her younger brother plays basketball, football, and baseball.

Having the great relationship that she does with her family, it was no surprise to hear that Nicole’s biggest inspiration is one of her sisters. “Jaynie is my inspiration because of the kind and hardworking person she is. She’s one of the nicest people you will meet, and also one of the most competitive and hard working. I watched her play basketball and other sports growing up, and I feel I got my work ethic from her. She is always there to help me with any sport when I have questions or need to vent. When I was younger she took me into the gym to shoot [baskets] with her a lot. She’s someone I can always depend on and I hope to be like her when I am older.”

Along with the support of her family, Nicole also grew up with the leaders before her reminding her and her teammates to always work their hardest, play every game like it is their last, and never take it for granted. Now, Nicole is in a position to positively influence and lead her teams.

An Emerging Leader
Regardless of the sport, Nicole is the type of athlete any coach wants on their team; not just because of her work ethic and athletic ability, but also because of what she brings to the team in terms of leadership, motivation, and support.

“She is a gifted athlete that motivates her teammates by her actions and words,” says Nicole’s volleyball coach, Megan Askegaard. “They feed off of her big plays and follow her example. She always comes ready to work, and I have NEVER seen her complain about things that she cannot control. She is always pushing others to be better by using encouraging words, and simply cheering if she is not on the court.”
Nicole’s mom, Joanne says she is “very impressed with her type of play. She is a quiet leader, and always positive. She is competitive and aggressive, but in a good way. She’s always very conscious of the other team.” Her dad, Dave agrees, adding that, “She just has a quality about her; she is a hard worker, unselfish, and if she has something to say, she leads by example.”

Age Is Just A Number
Despite being young, Nicole is a vital part of her teams, and has had great success in her high school career thus far. Winning All-Conference Honorable Mention in both volleyball and basketball, being named MVP of the basketball team in the 2014 season, and named a Captain for the volleyball team this past season, are just a few of Nicole’s accolades. She is growing into a great athlete and leader, and shows no signs of slowing down.

“We live in a technology-filled world with so many challenges and things to do,” says Nicole’s basketball coach Ryan Bomstad. “Young people have so many opportunities and things they can do now. When I played, you played sports. Now, students are working, they have cars, they are involved in four or five different groups, and they are being pulled in all different directions. Through all that, Nicole will sacrifice some of her time with other things to be great. That is truly rare for athletes today. There is a low percentage of student-athletes who will make that sacrifice; she is in that group. She is one of the most talented players I have ever been around. She has incredible work ethic, and the drive to be great.”
“Her greatest quality is the person she is,” he continued. “She is the most humble and down to earth person I have ever met. She is respectful of everybody, she is kind and considerate to others, and she is family oriented. Her family is the biggest thing in her life. She has great relationships with all of her siblings and family. Her mom and dad are incredible people and they should be truly proud of the great young person she is. She says thank you after every practice. What athlete does that in today’s world? You add up all those qualities and you get a tremendous player, but even more, a better person. That is truly what sets her apart.”
Going The Extra Mile
One wouldn’t think there would be much spare time, or much of an off-season when you are involved in four varsity sports, yet Nicole still finds the time to put in extra work. During the school year, she goes to school early, taking any chance she gets to shoot extra baskets. This summer she lifted weights at the school and was a part of J.O. volleyball and A.A.U. basketball travel leagues. “Her work ethic is second to none,” explained Bomstad, “She is always in the gym, works on her fundamentals constantly, studies the game, and pays very close attention to the little details.”

With a plate as full as Nicole’s, one can imagine that balancing school, sports, friends, and family is a struggle; especially at a young age. Nonetheless Nicole seems to have a pretty good grasp on how to manage it all. “Though nights get to be late, I always make sure I get my work done after games,” says Nicole. “School is very important to me, as well as sports. So finding time for both is tough, but I am able to manage just fine. Spending time with friends and family usually comes on the weekends, although sometimes I don’t even have time then…but I know that it’s just part of being in sports.”

You can never be sure what the future holds, but one thing you can be sure of is that Nicole’s future is bright. Her level of maturity, selflessness, optimistic mindset, and fundamental desire to succeed will take her far, not only in sports, but in life as well.