From Episcopal to Dartmouth: Emily Garrard’s soccer journey, dedication to positivity

From Episcopal to Dartmouth: Emily Garrard’s soccer journey, dedication to positivity
Emily Garrard is ready to bring her soccer skills to Dartmouth College. (Courtesy photo)

By Josh Hwang

In high school athletics, some individuals stand out not just for their skills on the field, but for their dedication, leadership and passion for the game. At Episcopal High School, one athlete comes to mind: Emily Garrard, a soccer player from Atlanta.

After four years at Episcopal, Garrard will be moving on to Dartmouth College to continue her soccer career. From a young age, soccer has been more than just a sport for her.

She started her competitive soccer journey at the age of seven, inspired by her sister and father; but it wasn’t until her high school years at Episcopal that soccer took on a new meaning to her. Garrard said she used soccer as something to help her escape from the stressors in her life and didn’t intend to play at the collegiate level.

“I started playing soccer when I was super young, as soon as I was able to walk,” Garrard said. “It was just what my family did. I decided to play at Tophat Soccer [Club] at the age of five – one of the best teams in the country – and [I] played there until I came to boarding school.”

The Episcopal soccer program not only enhanced her soccer skills, but also taught her the value of teamwork and camaraderie.

“I used to play in one of the best club teams in the country back home, which was very competitive. Everyone was serious and it seemed like everyone was competing with each other,” Garrard said. “When I came to Episcopal, being part of a team that gave me a refreshing perspective, focusing more on team dynamic and friendship, really inspired me to want to play in college. It made soccer really fun for me.”

Garrard’s dedication to soccer extended beyond the confines of her high school team as she also joined an Alexandria Soccer Association team during her sophomore year. The next year, the combination of participating on the ASA team and her more competitive squad at Episcopal took Garrards’s commitment to soccer to a new level.

She has not only broken the school record for most goals in the season her junior year with 29 goals, but also taken on a leadership role guiding younger players. She knew that she wanted to take on a leadership role as she became a senior, inspired by Wynne Boggan, a former lacrosse player at Episcopal who now plays the sport at the University of Chicago.

“She inspired me with her drive to succeed,” Garrard said of Boggan.

Garrard’s senior year, the varsity soccer team has managed to have one of the most successful seasons in Episcopal’s history: They’ve secured the regular and postseason Independent School League championship title. Garrard attributes this success to the camaraderie and the friendships made on the field.

“For me, the only way you can succeed is having fun with the team and that’s why we did so well this year. Everyone was having fun instead of being hard on one another,” Garrard said.

As she is set to play soccer at Dartmouth, her collegiate decision was not only influenced by the scenery in New Hampshire and the prestigious academics, but mainly by the coaches.

“Once I was interested in playing soccer at the next level and started talking to the coaches there, I realized that it was a great fit for me,” Garrard said. “The two new coaches were very excited for the program’s future and seemed determined, which helped me make my decision easily.”

Moreover, her initiative in starting @spiderspreadjoy, a platform aimed at spreading positivity through uplifting messages, reflects her desire to make a difference both on and off the field. The Instagram account has 155 followers and mainly posts photos of colorful construction paper with a large spider on it and a saying.

“I was inspired by a local artist that said a spider had a bad day and I decided to write positive messages below that,” Garrard said of her account. “I gave out [spiders] to people during exams to motivate my friends that were really stressed. … I really wanted to spread positivity by doing random acts of kindness.”

Garrard said she’s not sure how the account will fare when or if it grows, but wants something that can spread positivity.

“I want anyone to benefit from looking at a positive message. I want to reach people that I am not close with to help people feel better in hard times, and bring people up when they are feeling down,” she said.

As she prepares to graduate from Episcopal and embark on the next chapter of her journey at Dartmouth, Garrard said she will miss the bonds with her teammates and the opportunity to mentor younger players most. Yet, she eagerly anticipates the challenges and growth that await her at Dartmouth.

“I just really look forward to learning from those around me. Even now, I learn so much from younger players. I just think it’s a cool opportunity to play with girls that are four years older than me. I can learn about their experience in soccer and life in general as well,” she said.

The writer is a senior at Episcopal High School who is completing an externship placement with the Times.