In The Locker Room with Emily and Izzy Berner, Student-Athletes and Sisters


Mallika Pandey

Izzy and Emily Berner

Sisters Emily Berner, College junior, and Izzy Berner, College first-year, grew up in an athletic family of seven in Reisterstown, MD. Although a majority of the Berner siblings played baseball and softball, Emily picked up lacrosse in fourth grade and has flourished in the sport ever since. She was an All-North Coast Athletic Conference Second Team selection for the Yeowomen in 2017 and a First Team selection in 2018. Izzy chose Oberlin for its reputation in academics, but was encouraged by Emily to try out for the softball team just days after arriving at Oberlin. Although the sisters’ busy schedules don’t allow them to spend much time together, they remain each other’s number one fan on and off their respective fields.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Izzy, athletics didn’t play a role into your college decision at first. What did you hear about the athletic community from Emily and what about being a part of a team convinced you to join softball?

Izzy Berner: I really enjoyed playing softball in high school, and I was kind of upset my senior year that I didn’t try to play a sport in college. I had just seen Emily and her team interact, and they’re all goofy, and they’re fun. And I just kind of wanted something to do — something to keep me active, and to have a close-knit group of friends. I love softball.

Emily, did you encourage Izzy to come to Oberlin or did she become interested on her own?

Emily Berner: I actually told her that she shouldn’t make the decision based off of me, because I’ve known people who have followed other people to college and then really disliked the college. So I told her to definitely apply, but choose where she wants to go based on what she wants to do. I did encourage her to reach out to the softball coaches.

What drew you to Oberlin?

EB: I actually didn’t know about it until my coach reached out to me, and then all of a sudden I started hearing all of these amazing things. Two of my high school coaches came [to Oberlin] and did athletics. I came here to visit and really enjoyed the place and felt like the academics would be a good fit. It was probably the first place that I visited and applied to where I said, “I could really see myself going here.”

You have a really big and athletic family that is super into baseball and softball. Tell me about that.

EB: I’m like the outsider. Everyone always wanted me to try softball, and I always did want to try softball, but I picked lacrosse up instead. I think I was one of the only ones in, like, fourth grade, and then I just really loved it. Everyone else pretty much stuck with baseball and softball.

How did you get into sports?

EB: When we were young, our parents just had us in recreational sports that you do on the weekends. … It’s always just been a thing in our family — nothing that we’ve ever been forced to do but something that I feel like we’ve always enjoyed doing.

IB: As a release — and we can do it together. We always would run around together outside.

EB: We have a close age range [as siblings]. We had overlap on teams a lot.

Were you close growing up?

EB: In high school more so than growing up, because I’m the middle child. My older two siblings are closer and my younger two are closer in age. It just ended up that they would always pair off, so in high school probably is when [Izzy and I] started to become close.

What are some personal and team-specific goals you have for the spring?

EB: I really just want to work on becoming an overall better defender in terms of body defense, one-on-one, and really improving my lacrosse IQ. And I think as a team we’ve been really fantastic at adjusting to having a new coach and really trying to focus on getting to know her and figuring out how to do stuff with her. So probably just improving and developing even more chemistry on the field.

IB: Team goal is obviously is to get to the conference tournament. We really want to get to conference and then win conference. Personal goal is … I can’t control if I’m the best player or not, but I want to be the hardest working player so I have a shot at improving and seeing the field.

What’s the best part of having a sibling on campus?

EB: We actually don’t spend a lot of time together, and I think that’s because of the age difference. Our classes don’t overlap. For me the best part is just having someone to text and be like, “Hey, do you want to hang out or get dinner or something?” Or vent. We know a lot of the same people now, so Iz will come over and be like, “Oh my god, did you hear about this?”

IB: It’s definitely nice to have someone to vent to if I get sick — it’s really hard being sick away from home — and it’s really nice to have someone who can go out and grab me soup and drinks and medicine and stuff.

EB: And I think you introduce me to new people. Because sometimes as an upperclassman, you don’t expand as much in terms of meeting a bunch of underclassmen outside of your team, and you’ve introduced me to a lot of people.

Emily, what are you most proud of Izzy for?

EB: Probably just how strong and persistent she is in the face of problems, and she’s able to work them out and keep pushing through. I mean, she works really hard and makes me really proud.

Izzy, what do you look up to Emily for the most?

IB: Emily is by far the hardest worker that I know. We talk about this as a family. We’re like, “Emily is the smartest out of all of us,” but the truth is that she just works so much harder than everyone else. She’s also really good at caring for people and listening to people.

EB: Thanks, bud.

IB: I love you.

EB: I love you, too.