For some, Harrisonburg is simply the town they went to college in.
The Friendly City is home to James Madison University, Eastern Mennonite and Bridgewater College. It’s the place to escape home, be with friends and walk the stage with a diploma in hand, ready to leave for the next chapter.
For EMU’s senior forward Constance Komara, Harrisonburg is home. It’s where she grew up, played high school basketball and now leads a young EMU women’s basketball team on the court.
“Harrisonburg is home to me,” Komara said. “It’s where I’ve grown up, lived with my family and not played basketball — that played a role in my decision to come to EMU.”
Komara’s experience with basketball is simple — it’s about family. Throughout her life, she’s had her father coach her on the basics: stance, aggression and work ethic. But even with her coaches in high school, she said it felt like working with them as family.
Family is one reason that Komara stayed in the Friendly City for college. They could attend every game.
“Having a dad that never gave up on me and always helped me on the side with my confidence, my mental game too [was important],” Komara said. “I’m a family person. My family’s really tight-knit and they mean the world to me.”
As a freshman, Komara said that she was in a shell. She didn’t intermingle with her teammates often and was taking in what it was like to be a college athlete. Komara was away from the people she grew up with, even if they were still in the same town.
As a senior, it’s the opposite. She’s working with a team almost entirely affected by COVID-19, the separation it brought and the challenge of creating consistency and rhythm with a group that hasn’t played with each other before. So, Komara said she’s grown in her leadership.
“As I went through my sophomore and junior year, I got out of my little bubble,” Komara said. “I started talking to my teammates, like getting to know them on a personal level and I felt that really brought onto the court with chemistry.
That chemistry is what Komara said she’s worked on as well. She laughed when asked how much of her life is dedicated to working on her game and improving. Komara said that the Royals are her family and that she doesn’t really have “outside-of-basketball” friends.
The leadership and chemistry EMU’s standout has developed over the course of her career isn’t going unnoticed. Royals head coach Jenny Posey said Komara is the first player she’s trained with all four years and that her leadership now is better than it ever was.
“[Komara] has always risen to the challenge,” Posey said. “[Komara’s] always looking to do extra, always wanting to please.”
Komara said a couple of things contributed to how she’s grown as a leader. It’s partly due to the continuous practices and time spent together but after the 2020-21 season, spending so much time with each other has contributed to the on-court chemistry.
Komara said that, as a captain, she knows what shot her teammates like to take and what their best positions are. With her new leadership role, she’s learned how to get everyone best set up to put the players in the greatest position to produce positive results.
“There’s never a dull moment with [her teammates],” Komara said. “It’s something that’s going to be held for me for a lifetime.”
Komara and Posey both emphasized how this season feels like its a complete family. The senior said this season, she went onto the court having all of her teammates’ backs and talking to them on the court to work things out.
Posey said sometimes she doesn’t even need to call a timeout in the face of adversity. Komara’s got it handled.
“[A family atmosphere] is definitely something that’s grown in [Komara’s] years I think,” Komara said. “Her mom supplied a pregame meal for us, so it’s creating that environment where the girls feel like they have a support system.”
What might be the most interesting part of Komara’s growth as a leader are her post-EMU plans. Posey said that Komara wants to be a teacher and that seeing her work on the court now, putting in the time to help the underclassmen and make them realize that it’s OK to make mistakes is an important part of her future endeavors.
“I think [leadership] will be her best skill as a teacher,” Posey said. “The fact that she always has that heart where she seems to be looking out for other people. Trying to pull them along, trying to make them feel welcomed in whatever environment.”
Komara’s grown from a Blue Streak at Harrisonburg to a top scorer and leader for the Royals. For the forward, the most important lesson is family — that’s what she works with her teammates on and off the court and through that is how the chemistry grows by the day.
“We have seven freshmen on our team so she’s told them, ‘This is what our culture looks like,’” Posey said. “This is what’s expected of you and that they’ve fallen in line and fallen behind her is awesome.”