“The athletes I’ve played the Jet Duel card game with, their jaws drop when they realize the effort and time it took to create it. And seeing that look is really what makes it all worth it.”Clark Castle
Human Resources Coordinator Clark Castle ‘18 created a card game that is more than just a fun pastime — it’s also a connecting factor for many members of the Newman University community.
A daily difference
It didn’t take Castle long to realize that he could make a positive impact on students, faculty and staff through his role as a student worker for the Newman Mail and Copy department in 2016.
His day-to-day job involved checking in campus mail, preparing and holding deliveries and, of course, interacting with students, faculty and staff as they visited. Castle made an effort to get to know each person’s name and a little about them.
Delivery boxes were labeled with students’ names in big, black Sharpie pens to ensure they were handed over to the proper person. Castle studied art at the time and saw the blank cardboard canvases as an opportunity to draw or write personalized messages.
“If someone’s last name was ‘King,’ for example, I’d draw a crown or a throne,” Castle said. “If someone was on a particular team, I’d make a caricature of that person kicking the soccer ball.”
Through these weekly conversations, Castle naturally befriended many of the Newman athletes. Castle doesn’t consider himself an avid sports fan, but he eagerly accepted Newman athletes’ invitations to attend games. He showed up to women’s basketball games wearing red and blue attire with handmade signs to cheer them on as they played. He even created different graphics for one-, two- and three-pointers — akin to an updated scoreboard.
“I received a lot of positive responses from people on the bench,” he said. “I could tell it really mattered to them and I felt good that they were feeling that love and fan appreciation.”
“Several Newman student-athletes are international, too, so that means they have even less of a family connection or circle of support nearby,” Castle continued. “I wanted to let these students know that they mattered, that what they’re doing at Newman has left an impression on me.”
Castle graduated from Newman in 2018, taught as a substitute teacher and returned to Newman as a part-time employee in Mail and Copy in 2021.
“When I came back, I picked up right where I left off,” Castle said.
Sharing the Newman spirit
Castle’s wife, Melissa, works as the employment specialist for human resources at Newman. Melissa was invited to serve as a spiritual companion for the women’s volleyball team at Newman during the 2021-22 school year, but was juggling the workload of being the only employee in the human resources department at the time.
“She was doing a lot to keep things in control and meet the demands of the job, so she asked for my help to not let the volleyball team down,” Castle said.
Castle came up with four unique ideas for welcoming gestures to give the volleyball players. He wrote a poem/ song to the tune of “Island in the Sun” by Weezer called “Road Game,” which he and Melissa sang for the team before their away game. Castle also bought and decorated candy apples with icing to look like volleyballs for each of the volleyball players.
For the third gesture, Castle wanted to do something that would surprise the team.
“I went to almost all of their away games,” he said. “I took banners and signs, anything to let them know that Newman was there in spirit — I was just the vessel at that time. I didn’t necessarily tell everyone ‘I’ll see you in Pittsburg,’ or ‘See you in Oklahoma.’ I’d just show up.”
Finally, Castle set out to make a game the team could play together on the road that didn’t involve much preparation or cleanup.
“I know they have homework, but I figured when they have downtime, need to get over a tough loss or just have that nervous energy when they can’t focus on reading a textbook, a game would be a fun activity for those long journeys,” he said.
Envisioning the Jet Duel card game
Inspired by the decks of cards Diana Stanley ‘17 created to celebrate Newman’s 2016 Heritage Month, Castle created his own card game prototype featuring members of the women’s volleyball team.
Stanley’s cards featured ASC sisters, and Castle thought, “Why don’t we make a deck of cards like that with Newman people?”
Castle designed the cards, wrote the rules and shared the prototype with various staff members, coaches and student-athletes.
Each card features the player’s athletic photo, jersey number, class status and height. Both sides of the card also feature the Newman Jet athletics logo, designed by Admissions Digital Marketing Manager Geoff Louvar.
“I wanted to acknowledge Geoff’s work and make sure he got the credit, maybe even get his blessing on it,” Castle said. “And he thought it was cool.”
For Louvar, the card game holds a special sentiment.
In 2021, Louvar lost his father-in-law and brother-in-law to COVID-19. Both were huge board and card game enthusiasts.
“My father-in-law had an online store where he sold the role-playing games he designed, and my brother-in-law had a store named ‘Sporadic Game’ in the Emporia mall, where he sold games and held tournaments for game playing,” Louvar said.
Now, when he sees Newman community members playing the Jet Duel card game with the athletics logo elements that he designed, “I know that they are looking down and are proud that I was to contribute to passing along the passion for role-playing card games.”
Supporting all of campus
Castle initially made decks of cards for the women’s athletic teams “because I feel like the women’s sports and some of the other sports like tennis or golf [due to the off-campus tournaments] might go without the fanfare or support that the other sports get,” he said. “I was trying to make sure they felt the love as much as everybody else and get their fair share of the limelight.”
Overall, Castle said he has received “very enthusiastic responses” to the card game.
Director of Golf Taryn Torgerson was particularly impressed by Castle’s creativity and support of all athletic teams at Newman.
“He came into my office one day, told me about Jet Duel and played against me with the volleyball team version of the game,” Torgerson said. “I loved the idea and Clark said he would make a golf one. I have loved challenging my players to the game.”
Because of the game’s growing popularity, Castle created decks for both the men’s and women’s golf, tennis and women’s basketball teams. To remain consistent with the number of cards in each deck, the golf edition also features a card for the Newman mascot Johnny Jet, St. Maria De Mattias, St. Newman and even Sister Therese Wetta, ASC.
Several individuals of Newman athletics have played the game, as well as various staff and athletics coaches: Executive Assistant to the President and Secretary of the Corporation Gabrielle Dodosh, Mail Center and Course Materials Manager Trisha Jester, Assistant Women’s Volleyball Coach Tanner Serowski, Head Women’s Basketball Coach Drew Johnson, Associate Head Women’s Basketball Coach Nicole Ohlde-Johnson and Associate Athletic Director/ Senior Woman Administrator Maureen “Mo” Rohleder, among others.
“Clark is such a bright spot on this campus. He is so friendly and makes everyone that he encounters feel special,” Torgerson said. “Creating this game has made coaches and athletes feel special and important knowing they are a part of a card game.”
Castle would love to see the game played even more among individuals at Newman. He also hopes to create additional decks featuring other Newman athletic teams, faculty and staff members.
“Since Mail and Copy is a nexus where you’ve got staff, faculty and students that all come in at some point, we could also be the place to distribute the cards. Then people who are either trying to complete a collection or trying to get their favorites would have an opportunity to trade with their friends and make new relationships.”
How to play Jet Duel card game
The Jet Duel card game is similar to the card game “War.”
The deck is shuffled and each player receives five cards (face down). Two of the players will then “face off” by choosing a category — Jet number, Jet height or Jet year — and decide whether the highest or lowest number in the selected category will win the face-off. Each player will then reveal his or her card to compare with their opponents. The winner keeps the played cards and then starts another face-off.
The first player to win three face-offs wins the game.
Interested in playing the game?
Email [email protected] for more details.
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Newman is a Catholic university named for St. John Henry Newman and founded by the Adorers of the Blood of Christ for the purpose of empowering graduates to transform society.