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Where are They Now? An Interview With Emily Minnick

At NDSU, Emily Minnick was one of those rare athletes that was a starter all four years on campus.

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At NDSU, Emily Minnick was one of those rare athletes that was a starter all four years on campus. During that time, Minnick became one of only 24 women in program history to record 1,000 kills in a career, earning an all-conference honorable mention as well as all-conference honors during her time with the Bison.

Now, Minnick is a successful salesperson at Apex Systems. We spoke with her about that, her days at NDSU, her current role as a coach, her battle with cancer, and more.


With your degree in psychology, how did you end up at Apex Systems, a technology services business?

So I actually graduated after the volleyball season in 2016, but I didn’t walk until the spring of 2017 because that’s when a lot of my teammates were going to walk and I wanted to wait for them. Also, I started right away as a freshman and a lot of my friends redshirted. So, I stayed in Fargo through 2018 and worked at CCRI where I worked with clients with mental disabilities. I was using my degree there, but I knew that wasn’t the end game. I wanted to be in a bigger city so I moved to Minneapolis in August 2018 and started at Apex.

They like hustlers. It’s sales, so they liked that I was competitive, had a team background, and all that. It’s kind of cutthroat. But they like the team mentality too. A lot of my interview was talking about my background in athletics, which is kind of interesting. I was also doing a little bit of marketing sales through Mary Kay at the time, too, and I think that’s maybe something that they liked. I’ve been there for four and a half years now. I staff IT departments for Fortune 500 and 100 companies across the Twin Cities. My primary client is healthcare, but I have some home security clients and some FinTech clients as well that I support.

Do you like it?

Yeah, I like it. I like the company culture more than I like the actual work honestly. I hang out with a lot of my co-workers and we have a lot of different team-building activities. The whole work-hard-play-hard thing in sales definitely rings true. We like to have a good time as well. We actually just had our Christmas party and we kind of do it big. They rent out some sort of venue and it’s drinks and food and an awards show, the whole bit. Everybody gets dressed to the nines. It’s pretty fun.

I know you really love your dog and also coach volleyball, what other things do you like to do in your free time? I like to travel. Anytime I have some time off, I travel. I don’t have kids right now, so it’s kind of my time to do that. I have nieces and nephews and I get to give them back. So that’s nice. But I do a lot of traveling not only for coaching but also personally. I’m going to San Diego in April and then to Puerto Rico in May. That’s usually not how it happens with trips being in back-to-back months like that. But probably once a quarter I go on a trip, whether it’s domestic or out of the country. I just try to get out. My job is pretty demanding so I feel like I need that break and that reset. I went to Mexico last year and it was beautiful. What level are you coaching at? I’ve been coaching for five years now and I’m currently coaching at MN Select out of Maple Grove. The two big clubs out here are MN Select and Northern Lights. They kind of run the cities out here. It’s very different from my upbringing. I’m from Willmar, MN which is about two hours outside the city. Back in that time, there was no club. There was no traveling club team in my hometown. That’s actually why I would drive up to Marshall, MN because that was the closest one to me, which was an hour and fifteen minutes away from my hometown. I would drive that as a 16 and 17-year-old two or three times a week. But now, these girls have everything at their fingertips. There are like 10 different clubs to choose from within 30 minutes of their house. It’s a different beast out here—there’s a lot of volleyball.

Do you still play the sport?

After I graduated, I played on a women’s national team with Jennifer Lopez, Chrissy Knuth, and basically all the girls that graduated the year before I came in. It’s like AAU, but for us old ladies. You don’t really practice but you go to a big tournament. It changes locations every year, but I played two different years with them. I was doing a lot of not only local tournaments to stay in shape and keep around the game, but also we were playing in those tournaments, too. We won it our first year. The next year, Lopez tore her Achilles in the Nationals championship game. We took second that year because it was in the last set of our championship match so we didn’t have a setter.

Now, during the spring season, I don’t do as many tournaments. But in the fall, when I’m not coaching, there’s a Facebook group out here that a guy put together and we do reverse fours, which is two women and two men on a women’s net. The men can only play back row and the women play front row. It’s a nice co-ed dynamic essentially. It’s pretty competitive because everybody is pretty high-caliber—some people played overseas, some people just played in college, but everybody’s high-caliber. They don’t just let anyone play in those, which is nice because I’ve also done sand leagues with work and that’s just a completely different caliber of play. You’re just going there to bop around with a volleyball. Nobody really knows how to play the game.

Back in September 2022, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 cervical cancer. Since then I have undergone two surgeries and am now ‘disease free’ and in the surveillance phase. My best friends, Megan Bachmeier (left) and Leslie Rasmussen (right) also went to NDSU and have been a pivotal support system for me through my diagnosis/treatments.”

Is it hard for you to play in those bop-around leagues?

Yeah, it’s for sure hard. I have to go into it with a different mindset. Because it’s kind of twofold—everybody at work knows you played collegiate so they expect you to be this insane menace on the court, but it’s a team sport. So if you’re playing around people that don’t even know how to pass, set, or serve the ball, you can’t, as your one sole member, define how that game is going go. So, they give me a lot of crap for certain things. It’s all fun and games, but I prefer to play competitively, yes.

Well, we talked before and it sounds like you really grinded to help pay for school so I’m sure you developed a pretty strong edge for the game.

Yeah, it’s even hard coaching sometimes. I tell my girls all the time, ‘I wish I could just give you the intensity that is in my brain right now because you’re an extension of me on the court. You guys are the ones on the court and you guys have to be the ones to figure this out. I can give you the tools. I can teach you the technique. But it has to come from you internally.’ So, that’s that’s hard sometimes because you can only do so much with the lineup. And then you kind of have to release the reins a little bit and let them fail, succeed, win, lose, all the things.

In college, I was very hot-headed and passionate. I just didn’t care about anything else but winning. So when we weren’t having a winning season, it was really tough for me. But now on the coaching side of it, when we do lose or have a bad game or whatever, you just have to smile at your players a little bit and understand there was some growth that was learned through that. It’s not just about the win and loss. There are all these other things that come with it.

I’ve also realized there are multiple ways to lead. There are passionate leaders, there are positivity leaders, there are accountability leaders, and there’s all these different ways to lead. And all of them are equally as important. It’s not just one item that like supersedes the rest. I try to tap into that with my team and understand each person’s strengths, and weaknesses, how they can interact with each other and then lean into those strengths.

Do you like coaching?

Yeah, I love it. I coach with Sydney and we’ve been close friends since high school—she went up to UND and I went to NDSU.

What are some of your favorite memories from your time at NDSU?

There are a lot. I feel like the memories that shine through now are more so the little moments like the bus trips or getting together and packing into a car and getting picked up by one of the upperclassmen who was driving us over to the BSA for a morning lift and all those little moments.

For the big moments, hitting 1000 kills was super cool. I remember that game specifically. We were in Omaha. My parents had traveled all the way down from Willmar because we knew I needed 19 kills that game to be able to supersede that. But 19 is a lot. The next game was in Oklahoma at Oral Roberts. So I just went off that game because they were all there. I didn’t want to make them drive to another place. So I had to get 19. And I think I got, I don’t know, 20 or 21 or something, but I just remember counting them down in my head. That was a good memory.

Jason Miller was a super positive mentor for all of us. He was kind of the glue that held us together. Of course, he pushed us hard in weightlifting but he was just so even-keeled, and also you earned your respect from him by pushing yourself and the respect was returned if he saw that effort, and I think that’s something that I try to emulate with my kids now. We used to say “body built by J. Mills.”

You had a bout with cervical cancer, is that correct?

Yeah, it was wild. I went in for a routine checkup and the results came back abnormal. I had some further testing and ended up having to get a surgery and through that surgery, they found a mass. It was unexpected being 27 years old and relatively healthy. The mass has since been removed and I’m in a surveillance phase. But yeah, that threw me off the rails a little bit at the end of last year, but so far, so good. I’ve had a clean bill of health for a little over two months now. They’re going to maintain a pretty close eye on it for probably the next five years just to make sure we’re overprotective.

Where are They Now? An Interview With Emily Minnick
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