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Emma Kirts, who plays soccer at Towson High School in Baltimore County, is the U.S. Army Impact Player of the Month.
Kirts was nominated for the award by Brendan McFadden, an assistant coach for the Generals' girls' soccer team.
"On the soccer field, Emma is the ideal leader," McFadden wrote in his nomination email. "She leads by example while also being a vocal and supportive teammate."
With a roster consisting of just three seniors, Towson was in need of a leader in 2017.
Despite being a sophomore, Kirts, a forward, was thrust into the role of captain because she was one of the team's more experienced players after a freshman campaign in which she scored 10 goals and contributed nine assists.
"I like being a leader because I like helping my teammates," Kirts said. "I feel really honored that they would look up to me for guidance, especially this year because we were such a young team. It was really hard at first starting with mostly freshmen and sophomores, but we really grew as a team, which was special to be a part of."
Part of the team's growth happened as a result Kirts' idea that the team watch game tape as a group. During the sessions, players could offer tips and talk about their vision of the game together.
On the field, it translated to Towson playing as a more cohesive unit.
"It was more of a soccer tutoring program," Kirts said. "Watching yourself from another perspective, as well as talking about it, always helps you improve and become aware of what everyone is thinking on the field."
For her part, Kirts put together an excellent season that saw her earn Baltimore County All-Division honors, finishing the year with eight goals and 10 assists. Towson thrived, too, finishing with a 10-6 record. The group carried a four-game winning streak into the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association 3A North regional final, where the Generals' season ended with a loss to Bel Air.
It's the third season in a row Towson has lost to Bel Air in the regional championship game.
"The whole team was motivated this year, especially after last season when we had a tough loss in the regional championship," Kirts said. "Even though our season ended the same way, we wanted the best for everyone and that was the idea behind watching film as a group together -- to keep bettering ourselves."
When she's not playing soccer at Towson, Kirts referees games during the fall for younger players and gives them tips on how to progress their skills. Kirts is also a counselor at a soccer camp during the summer.
"I help a lot of the kids learn simple soccer skills, and I try to work with all of them," she said. "It's a great time. I love to teach them, and I'm really looking forward to when the camp starts next summer. The kids come in every day excited to learn as much as they can, and I love that I get to help them personally. It's a really humbling feeling."
Kirts also plays basketball and lacrosse at Towson. She holds a 3.5 GPA and plans to continue her soccer career in college.
After the young Generals' encouraging 2017 campaign, the team has big hopes for the next couple seasons.
"We want to win states," Kirts said. "I think it's manageable because we are a really young team and we have lots of time to grow together."
In Kirts, the Generals have a leader they'll enthusiastically follow the next two years.
"She's a source of inspiration and motivation on the coldest and rainiest days," McFadden wrote. "Emma is the ideal player in many ways, and we are excited to see her continue to grow and lead."