Big Shots in the Middle
by Merrie Sue Holtan
Photography by J Style Photography
To be “stuck in the middle with you” is perfect for Kylie Kanwischer and Emily Dietz both 6’1” senior captains who guard the net for the Fargo Shanley volleyball team. Kylie has accumulated 630 kills and 195 blocks over her career while Emily has 587 kills and 141 blocks. Curt Johnson, Shanley’s volleyball coach, says the two are great student-athlete role models, who share their leadership skills on and off the volleyball court.
Kylie also plays soccer and has run track, while Emily adds basketball and track and field (discus) to her list of sports endeavors. They have gone to the state tournament in several sports and have achieved numerous all-tournament, all-conference and all-state awards. Two years ago, Shanley won the Class A State Volleyball Championship, and last year they placed second.
Kylie and Emily, also whiz kids in the classroom, both have 3.9 grade point averages. Emily leans toward math and science and wants to be an elementary education teacher, and Kylie excels at science and biology with a love of animals leading her to a career in veterinary science.
A self-described “home girl,” Emily decided to continue her basketball career at North Dakota State University.
“I’m a farm girl at heart,” says Emily, who has always loved riding the combine on her great uncle’s farm. “I want to stay close and live where I don’t have to take a plane to come home.”
“I want to travel the world and live all over the place,” Kylie says. “ Maybe study animals in Africa, work in Hawaii or Colorado. I’d like to be a zoo vet and work with the big animals.”
When Kylie makes her college choice, it will include a campus surrounded by nature and an opportunity to play volleyball.
The Competitive Edge
Emily calls her family the ultimate “traveling sports family.” She played four summers for the North Dakota Pro basketball team, two of those at the elite level. This year they traveled to Minneapolis four times as well as Chicago and Iowa for tournaments. Emily has an older sister Grace and younger siblings Adam and Megan.
“Traveling is a real time commitment, and I always sacrificed summer and friends,” Emily says. “I will never forget the feeling of being from North Dakota and competing and beating teams from all over the country.”
Emily’s parents, David and Lori, did not play sports, but Lori showed horses throughout the region. Emily credits her mom for teaching her tough mental training.
“I love the team aspect of basketball,” Emily says. “I love the burning fire to win and to make myself and the team better. It sounds cheesy, but it’s a pure love of the game.”
She believes volleyball is more choppy, start and stop, with more time to think. She prefers the flow of basketball, where there’s less down time.
“My dad is the encourager in the arts and activities,” says Emily, who is in National Honor Society, a service club, Teens for Life, and sings in Concert Chorale and teaches religious education classes. To relax, she crochets and currently is finishing a blanket.
Kylie remembers being lugged to tournaments as a little girl while her older sisters Katrina and Kelsey played in tournaments. Both her parents, Kathy and Marvin, have run marathons including two Boston Marathons for Kathy. Marvin ran high school track and played football for Jamestown College and Kathy also ran high school track.
“We were an active family, immersed in sports,” Kylie says. “I started soccer in kindergarten and began traveling in third grade.”
For two summers Kylie played for the North Dakota United volleyball team and competed at Asics Nationals in Chicago as well as at the Disney Wide World of Sports high school AAU volleyball competition in Orlando..
“I was always interested in playing volleyball in the backyard with my sisters,” she says. “I like the atmosphere of volleyball, and getting a big block is a big thrill.”
As an outside midfielder in soccer, Kylie spends her time running up and down the field, thinking about “the whole game.” In volleyball, since she doesn’t play back row, she is more in and out of the action.
“Soccer is also a very physical game with people pushing at you,” she says. “You constantly have to go hard, be prepared and take risks.”
Kylie’s most difficult moment in sports was tearing her ACL and cracking her kneecap in ninth grade soccer.
“Trying to recover was so long and hard,” she says. “But my mom and dad helped me through it. It was a difficult come back.”
Kylie also sings in Concert Chorale, works as a lifeguard and a nanny, and is a member of National Honor Society and a service club. An artist, she loves oil painting and pottery and has even sold some of her paintings.
The Coach Factor
Both girls agree a coach needs to communicate with players about what goes wrong and how to fix it – by doing it correctly.
“I like a competitive coach who is involved with the game in a positive manner,” Emily says.
Kylie adds a coach should push a player toward greatness; to be the “best self” an athlete can be in all aspects of life. “My dad coached me all my years in soccer,” says Kylie. “He pushed me, taught me lessons like fairness, competition and hard work.”
The girls also respect coaches who celebrate with them. On the other side of the coin, when there are challenging years, they’ve learned to pick up and move forward.
“Our volleyball coach, Curt Johnson, teaches us to play to our ability, not to the other team,” Emily adds.
Advice for Athletes from Emily and Kylie
• Practice makes perfect. You won’t see improvement otherwise. Go to the weight room. Find it in yourself to go to the gym when no one is there. If you make yourself better, your team will be better.
• Don’t be afraid of mistakes. You can’t be the best unless there are new things to learn.
• Learn time management skills early. Use your study halls.
• Traveling teams may take a toll on your family time. Talk about what’s most important with your family.
• Prioritize and balance your life: faith, family, academics, sports.
Faith and Family
“My family is a stickler about faith,” Emily says. “We are strong Catholics and always go to mass. My faith also helps calm me.”
“Before each volleyball game, our team prays and says three Hail
Marys in English, Spanish and Latin,” Kylie says. “We pray for strength to work hard and to keep us free from injury.”
Lori and Dave Dietz are excited about Emily’s decision to play basketball at NDSU next year.
“She is a great leader on and off the court,” Lori says, “and we can see her teaching and coaching in her career someday. She is also passionate about her Catholic faith, and this is truly a blessing for us as parents.”
Kathy Kanwischer believes Kylie has always been an unselfish player.
“She would rather assist than score,” she says. “Kylie plays hard when the team needs her and loves to have fun. She is very determined to be a veterinarian and will work hard to achieve that goal. We wouldn’t trade her for anything.”