It is often when we are deepest in the throes of winter that thoughts turn quickest to warmer times.
Young women dream about summer days and the activities that go with being a lady of leisure: pedaling a bike around blue northern lakes, putting on tanning lotion while reclining on a sun-soaked beach, pumping a little iron in the Central Lakes College weight room.
Amy Martinson is the center for the Raiders women's basketball team in more ways than one. At 6-foot, she is the tallest Raider and a natural to play the post. Her leadership and dedication to improving her game, make her the obvious choice to build this year's Raiders team around.
"What does Marty mean to this team?" Raiders coach Dennis Eastman asked. "She's the rock, the stability. She's the leader. She's everything you would want as a leader. Marty spent last summer in the gym and now it's paying off. She's living the goal she wanted, playing well and everything's going her way."
Martinson, from Cokato, spent the summer between her freshman and sophomore years in Brainerd. Each day, while other students split for vacation retreats, Martinson split her time between the college gym and weight room. She wanted to get stronger and more durable. She wanted to develop her outside shot. She did both. Even now, while the basketball season plays itself out, Martinson works relentlessly with the weights and on her skills.
"Whenever we don't have games, I lift weights after practice," said Martinson. "We have, like, a workout we're supposed to do but I'm pretty much the only one who does it. None of my teammates has lifted weights that consistently; I lifted all summer.
"If I don't lift weights for a couple of days, my shots are off and I'm, like, 'Aw, I've got to get into the weight room.' I used to lift during the summer in high school. This summer I did it hard-core. Eastman is always (kidding me) saying that I'm too weak; trying to get me to lift more."
Martinson likes to be active, involved in studies, basketball or her other standout sport, softball. She has plans to continue her education and her athletic career at a four-year institution but, as yet, has not picked a school.
"I'm going to go somewhere but I don't know where yet," said Martinson. "It will probably be a school around here because I like it up north. I think I'm going to go into elementary education but I want to coach, too."
Through the early part of this basketball season, Martinson got all the playing time she wanted on the court. Now, Anna Struss, from Brainerd, has joined the team and splits time at the center position. That means Martinson gets fewer minutes, but it also means she has more stamina and intensity to put into the time she does get.
"It's hard for me to sit on the bench," said Martinson. "But Anna has helped a lot. Ever since she came, I've gotten breaks which help me to play harder for longer. She's a good rebounder and aggressive on offense and defense. It's really good to have her."
Martinson is a quick study. She knows what each of her teammates brings to the game and is quick to talk about the importance of chemistry. Martinson has become increasingly comfortable with the players around her and grown into her position as team leader.
"I've always been a leader," said Martinson. "In high school, I started playing varsity in eighth grade. My junior and senior years I was captain and led the team, not stats-wise, but emotionally. Last year was hard because I didn't know the girls here and I wasn't used to speaking up. But now I feel comfortable. I've tried to step up more and be a leader by how I play.
"Here, it's a lot harder to get together as a team because not everyone lives right here in Brainerd. So we try to do more things together. We have to know each other on and off the court."
The leadership position is something Eastman has consciously been grooming Martinson to fill.
"Last year I was constantly on her," said Eastman, "pushing her to get better. The reason I did that was because I knew that down the road I would have to rely on her. She didn't, I think, understand that at the time I was yelling at her, but I think she understands that now."
Eastman is a coach who gives the court-side appearance of being calm, cool and collected. Martinson smiles when asked about the accuracy of her coach's image.
"That's what I've heard," laughed Martinson, "but in the locker room, it can be a different story. He can yell, but sometimes we deserve it. I like playing for Coach. He tries to play everyone and makes it as relaxed as he can. He always knows the right things to say to get us going."
After this season, whichever four-year school she settles on will be fortunate to have her. If any prospective school questions that, they need only to ask her CLC coach.
"Whichever school gets her," said Eastman, "they're going to be happy with what they've got.
"We've had players step into the Division II level and Marty will be able to do that, too. If I was a four-year coach, I'd take her in a heartbeat. Her skills, her heart and her love of the game -- put those three together and you've got a pretty special person."
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