Emily Banks didn’t start out playing soccer.

She was looking for something to occupy her time during the off-season from volleyball at Alma. Banks tried out for soccer when it was a new program.

“I just fell in love with it,” said Banks. “All the girls were supportive even though I was the worse person out there. It was a different kind of experience and it felt more like a family.”

With the COVID-19 outbreak, schools in Arkansas have shut down. Originally, it was to last until the end of Spring Break, but that has been pushed back two more weeks. This will shorten the season if the players get back, but the voluntary isolation already has the student-athletes ready to get back on the field.

“Yeah, I miss it,” said Banks, who is a senior. “I do miss my AP Literature class. The teacher has a way to really connect with the students, so that was nice.”

Banks got involved with volleyball helping out her older sister, Rachel Banks, by practicing with her. She did both soccer and volleyball until she broke her arm during soccer practice. During this break Banks follows a running schedule and practices drills at home, but sometimes it’s difficult to find a place to practice. The accident happened right before her junior season began, but according to her coach Cory Sturdivant, she “came back full force” once she got the clear to start playing again.

“I was the worse player for the first two weeks of practice as a sophomore,” said Banks. “In the very beginning, I wanted to quit. I started to get the hang of it and started to gain more control. Everyone started to encourage me and there was no way I was going to quit after that.”

Sturdivant said Banks didn’t play like a brand new player to the game. Banks earned her starting position as a defender during her sophomore year.

“Every indoor or summer session we’ve had she’s pretty much been working on her skill,” said Sturdivant. “She’s more than just a player. She’s a leader, a motivator, and a coach herself. She’s one of those kids I wished we had the opportunity to have on the team every single year. Her work ethic is incredible and so is her attitude.”

Banks coached a 5th/6th grade soccer team last fall.

Alma began playing as a JV team during Banks’ sophomore year. The school had to travel to a lot of places to find JV games and went further than they would normally during the course of the season, including against teams in Oklahoma. In the team’s first varsity season, Alma spent most of the time on the road and Banks was looking forward to playing most of her season at home.

“Everyone on the team is some sort of inspiration for me. We all work so hard and we hang out when we’re not playing or practicing,” Banks said. “We go out for each other’s birthday and we’re just a big family. I try to make friends with the player on the other team when I play left wing. Not much happens at left wing, so you try to establish you’re not there to beat them up.”

Banks enjoys going to Siloam Springs to play. “It’s fun to beat them at their stadium.” She also recently enjoyed her time at Clarksville where Alma played five games in two days. Banks said she had fun and the people running the tournament were great at communicating, which made it more enjoyable.

Before each game, Banks will say a quick prayer for herself, her teammates and others, before joining the rest of the team for another prayer, which advances the family atmosphere for the team.

“We’ve had our bumps in the past, but we were working together every day,” Banks said. “If someone needs help we won’t turn a blind eye. We don’t turn on each other. We’ll keep working on it until we help them get it right, even on the off days.”

She said the Lady Airedales played their best game right before the extended break when it defeated Vilonia 4-0. Last season, Alma lost that game 7-1. “It was incredible. We were really really looking forward to facing all the teams who beat us last year,” Banks said.

“She’s been a great leader for our girls’ team. All of them look to her and look up to her,” Sturdivant said. “She’s a one-of-a-kind player every coach would love to have on their teams. Not just because she’s a good player, but because she’s a great young lady.”

Banks grew up in Alma with both of her parents from Oklahoma. She plans to go to Harding in the fall and major in physical therapy and make the soccer team as well. She was inspired by the work of Alma trainer, Patti Webb, to venture into that field.

“Everything she does is just so helpful and it makes me want to do what she does,” said Banks. “Her program is so good, especially the way she helps others work through their injuries. She’s just a higher class of person.”

Any advice for younger players? “Always be on your toes for something new. Anything that will hurt, it’s only going to hurt for a little bit. Look out for yourself, but look out for your teammates as well.”

Fun Questions with Emily Banks

Biggest Fear: “The ocean and all the stuff that swims in it. I don’t know how to swim because of that.”

Super Power: Secrecy (“Is that a power? I want to be the sneakiest person on the field and the fastest one. It may be easier for me to play soccer.”)

What pet would you like to have: A parakeet.

What would you be doing at 3:30 in the afternoon if there was no mandatory stay at home: Playing soccer. “It’s hard not going to the field and practice with my friends.”

Pet Peeve: Rude people who are rude for no reason.

My most annoying habit: “I laugh at everything and I have a big laugh so everyone around me may get annoyed.

Biggest Inspirations: Coach Cory Sturdivant and Coach Dillon Work. “They always got a positive outlook and make us want to keep our heads up and keep playing as hard as we can.”

Now that you have free time catching up on reading or binge-watching? “I’ve been watching “The Office.” I got to watch it all before they take it off of Netflix.

The first thing you’ll do when you’re allowed to leave the house and be around other people: “I’m definitely going to go hang out with all my soccer friends and play soccer. I hope we can get back to school in time to do that.”