Woonsocketâs Brooke Coderre (left), a sophomore guard on the Franklin Pierce University womenâs basketball team, was limited to just 16 games this past season and was unable to play after Jan. 17 due to plantar fasciitis in both feet. Photo by Richard Orr.
Even her simplest of motions had become a tall order. No matter that she was gingerly pressing her feet against the hardwood â Brooke Coderreâs âdogsâ were barking loudly and incessantly, begging her not to continue.
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Play through the pain, she kept repeating to herself. Toughness defines athletes, just as their skills and talents do. In that regard, no one has the right to question the resolve and fighting spirit of Coderre, the Woonsocket native whoâs strung together a pretty nice basketball career for herself, first playing for father George at Woonsocket High (2006-10) and before moving on to Franklin Pierce University, a Division II school tucked in New Hampshireâs wilderness.
The rise from Interscholastic League competition to the collegiate ranks has featured more rough seas than smooth sailing. A staggering list of injuries have befallen Coderre including a broken thumb (suffered during her senior year of high school), dislocated shoulder along with countless high ankle sprains. Talk to those close to the youngest of George and Donna Coderreâs five children and youâll quickly discover that Brooke Coderre has hardened herself to the point where her tolerance for discomfort is very high.
âSheâs never missed a beat,â George Coderre gladly pointed out.
There comes a point, however, where the pain becomes intolerable. As much as Brooke Coderre wished to prolong the inevitable, she reached the point where surgery for the plantar fasciitis that had been festering in each foot was the only option she had left. Just like that, her sophomore season at Franklin Pierce â one that began with so much promise â went up like a cloud of smoke.
Coderre has already gone under the knife to repair the right foot with the left foot scheduled for surgery later this month. For the first time in her young life, she could not overcome an affliction like she had done so numerously in the past. The coil springs that never had a problem of bouncing back into place simply would not co-operate unless drastic measures were taken.
âItâs been tough, but at the same time Iâm doing whatâs best for me and for the long run whatâs best for the team,â Coderre stated when reached over the weekend.
Below is an account that reveals just how determined Coderre was to suit up this season and why in the end she was unable to outrun something that caused her great anguish every time she put one foot in front of the other.
THERE ARE DIFFERENT degrees of plantar fasciitis, also known as âpolicemanâs heel.â Itâs a maddening injury that can crop up at a momentâs notice, the pain according to one medical website âoften manifesting as pain at the base of the heel on the sole of the foot rather than the back of the heel where the Achilles tendon inserts.â
Brooke Coderre first brushed up against plantar fasciitis during her junior year at Woonsocket High. Back then the flare-ups were painful yet manageable, her quick-heeling tendencies allowing her to return to the court following a month of rest. The prescribed respite did little in terms of eroding her skills, as Coderre was an all-state performer on the Woonsocket High teams which went on to capture the Division II title in 2009 with the Villa Novans once again experiencing success a year later, this time on the Division I stage.
A player whose best attribute might just be her ability to impact the game in so many areas, Coderre parlayed her Swiss Army knife role with the Novans into a roster spot at Franklin Pierce. Coderreâs freshman season for the Ravens saw the 5-foot-8 guard appear in all 32 games with 14 starts while averaging 5.6 ppg.
âShe was probably our best perimeter defender we had coming back this season,â noted Steve Hancock, Coderreâs head coach at Franklin Pierce. âThere were signs, albeit sporadically, that she could become very good on the offensive end.â
Franklin Pierce ended the 2011 season with a 64-62 loss to Pace in the Division II NCAA Tournament, with Coderre netting 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. The bitter conclusion only fueled her desire to take the Ravens on a deeper run. Preparation for 2011-12 began almost immediately following the Pace game, preparation that was anything but typical for a basketball player looking to stay sharp in the offseason.
FROM HIS VANTAGEPOINT in the stands, George Coderre stared out at his daughter in a Ravens uniform before arriving a most disturbing conclusion. Something wasnât quite right with Brooke. The bursts of acceleration along with her free-flowing tendencies that granted her ability to get to any spot in the floor in an instant âŠ none of those attributes that had come to define Brooke Coderre were on display.
âShe was becoming paralyzed and unable to function,â was the grim picture George Coderre painted.
January 2011 marked the return of plantar fasciitis and the timing couldnât have been any worse, what with the season nearing the midway point. Still, Coderreâs mind was made up: no way was she going to miss time. Soldiering onward and forward, Coderreâs play suffered to the point where in the final 14 games she connecting on only 34 percent (23-of-67) from the field.
âI just wasnât playing to my potential,â Brooke noted, a crushing reality that was probably masked somewhat due to the success the team was enjoying.
Just like the first time she dealt with plantar fasciitis, rest was deemed the best course of action. The summer of 2011 saw Coderre make every effort to stay off her feet as much as possible, a near impossible task considering she had a job lined up as a waitress. Attending physical therapy became mandatory with visits scheduled twice a week.
âNothing was getting better,â Coderre said. âEventually I thought that it was going come down to having surgery.â
âIt reached the point where she couldnât even walk let alone run,â added Hancock.
With that the next conundrum arose. Would Coderre be able to get through another season functioning at less than full capacity? Certainly it was a risk she was willing to take.
THE PRECAUTIONAY MEASURES continued upon Coderre returning to Franklin Pierce beginning with new insoles tucked into her sneakers. Instead of joining her teammates for preseason drills, Coderre would sit off to the side, sticking her feet into an ice bucket.
âAnd I hate ice,â she said with a slight laugh.
On the eve of ringing in the new season, she had a cortisone shot. Another injection took place shortly after Christmas, but as her coach stated, âNothing was doing any good. She was in serve pain.â
In keeping with her mantra of not letting injuries completely sidetrack her, Coderre appeared in five games (all starts) after the calendar flipped to 2012. Those five games served as her official swan song, the last straw coming Jan. 17 in a 67-46 home loss to Assumption. Coderre ended up logging 202 minutes spread over 16 excruciatingly painful games with her key numbers falling off dramatically compared to her freshman season.
âI thought that I was going to be able to get through the season, but it got too bad,â Coderre stated. âI was always taught that if you work hard, everything will pay off. Sometimes, though, hard work doesnât make up for being injured.â
George Coderre added that, âAll of her mechanics â her back and legs â were affectedâ
âCertainly it was a trying situation for her, very mentally challenging,â Hancock said. âYou feel pretty good for a couple of days and next thing you know youâre down in the dumps. It was a natural process because of Brookeâs love for the game and her desire to be out there and participate.â
Naturally, the topic of why Brooke Coderre simply wasnât redshirted came up. All concerned parties said the possibility of sitting out the entire season was discussed prior the first game with the general consensus reached that if Coderre felt she could give it a go, she should be allowed to play.
âWe talked about not playing her at all and getting everything taken care of after the season,â Hancock pointed out. âIt was a tough call to make but we decided to move forward and see what we could get out of Brooke.â
Under NCAA Division II rules, a player cannot apply for a redshirt waiver if he or she participates in 20 percent of the teamâs games. Such finite criteria made the consequences of seeing Coderreâs season cut drastically a bitter pill to swallow. She now has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
âHer heart was willing but the body wasnât,â George Coderre remarked. âItâs too bad that her season was a total wash.â
âI was looking forward to having a great season,â Brooke Coderre conceded.
THE SURGERY TO repair the right foot took place Feb.8 in Needham, Mass. under the supervision of Dr. Richard Cullen, DPM, a board-certified podiatrist with a concentration in sports-related foot injuries. Brooke Coderre noted that Dr. Cullen had experience in treating members of the Boston Celtics with former great Kevin McHale once serving as a patient.
Coderre recently discarded the crutches and has improved to the point where sheâs walking around and putting pressure on the heel with the aid of a protective boot. March 29 is when sheâll return to Needham to take care of the left foot. Baring an unforeseen setback, Coderreâs aim is to pick up a basketball by the end of May with the hope of ratcheting up the training by mid-June.
At this point, whatâs done is done. The consolation prize that Brooke Coderre has to realize is that she still has two more seasons of competition to look forward to.
âIâm going to have to ease in,â Coderre, acknowledging that thereâs a sense of relief knowing that when the training begins in earnest, the next game is months away, not tomorrow or the following day. âI have to understand the full process and realize that itâs going to be worth it.â
âWeâve gone this far,â Hancock said. âIf it takes another three or four weeks to let the healing process occur, then weâll have to wait.â
âI know Brooke wants to take advantage of the time she has remaining,â was how George Coderre chose to sum up the road ahead for his daughter.
If the past has taught us anything regarding Brooke Coderre, her ability to overcome injuries speaks volumes about her burning desire to be successful. Such a trait is something she can hang her hat on as she attempts her comeback.