GLADWIN – It may seem cliché but Brooke Chenette is living proof that adversity can make you stronger. Brooke, a senior at Gladwin High School has faced more adversity in her athletic career than most people face in a lifetime.
Brooke started playing basketball in third grade when her mom Marcie got her involved in the sport. By the sixth grade she was playing with girls from all over mid Michigan on a team called Fast Break, which was based in Midland. She added volleyball and track in junior high.
Adversity came in the form of injury. Chenette suffered her first significant one during the summer between eighth and ninth grades when she sprained her posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) while playing in a summer league basketball game at Morey Courts in Mt. Pleasant. After physical therapy, she was able to get back in action in time for the high school volleyball season. At this point, volleyball was becoming her favorite sport and she was determined to be ready for the season.
Head volleyball coach Tony Wetmore has a vivid memory of her showing up at practice with a big brace on her knee. “It was a summer scrimmage with just Gladwin girls,” he said. “I told her to take it easy and slow, I was very clear on this. The first play a hard driven ball comes at her, she dives across the floor and saves it. She doesn’t know how to slow down, her only speed was 100 percent all the time.”
She had received her introduction to varsity volleyball when she was brought up to the team for the state playoffs at the end of her freshman year. With making the varsity team as a sophomore a real possibility she had attacked physical therapy with a vengeance and was ready in time for the summer team camp at Ferris State University. She was determined not to let the opportunity slip away and worked extremely hard at the camp. Wetmore said afterwards “all of my hitters said that we need her on the team.”
After making it through the volleyball season Chenette was preparing for the upcoming basketball season when she suffered a much more serious injury. She tore both her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) in her right knee during a scrimmage in Grayling. While the injury was extremely painful she got what she thought was good news from her doctor. It is possible to play without an ACL so immediate surgery is not always necessary. With that in mind, she decided to attempt a comeback without it. After being cleared by her doctor she returned to the court, but things didn’t work out. Her knee shifted during the warm-ups of her first game back requiring her to undergo surgery.
Following her surgery, Brooke spent six months rehabbing the knee. Physical therapy three times a week for two months along with a lot of exercising at home got her knee back in shape. After three months, she was able to start running on her own. All the while she kept up with her schoolwork and served as the manager for both the basketball and track teams. By August she was ready to get back on the court.
Her junior year of volleyball went well. She was an integral part of the team, which went 11-3 in the Jack Pine Conference and won a district championship. She was also expected to be a major contributor on the basketball court. With her in the lineup the Flying Gs’ were sure to be one of the better teams in the area, but bad luck struck again in mid January when she tore the ACL in her left knee. While she mentioned that it didn’t hurt as much as the first ACL tear the damage was more extensive. She had also suffered a partial tear of the meniscus. Once again her basketball season had come to an early end.
“It was really weird the first time I tore it,” she said. “My whole body went into shock. The second time it hurt, but it wasn’t as bad. It didn’t look like it was torn at first.” After seeing the doctor and finding out the extent of the injury she once again attacked the rehab process. “Recovery was basically the same process because the meniscus wasn’t fully torn she could walk on it. It just took a few weeks longer before I could start running,” she added. “It was a more painful recovery this time, but I recovered a few weeks earlier because I wanted to go to a volleyball camp real bad.”
With the blessing of her physical therapist she began attending summer conditioning workouts leading up to the Ferris State camp. “I wasn’t technically cleared, but because it was the same stuff we were doing in therapy my physical therapist told me to go.” Once again hard work and determination paid off. She recovered in time to attend camp.
As luck would have it Gladwin was scheduled to play in a volleyball scrimmage in Mt. Pleasant on the day Chenette was cleared to play. She went straight from the doctor’s office to the scrimmage where she proceeded to make plays all over the court. “I wasn’t surprised when I heard about it,” said Wetmore who was on vacation at the time.
Looking back on her experience Chenette says “I don’t think I would change it if I could.” She mentioned that it helped her learn a lot about herself. “It was a real big character builder, you don’t realize it until after it is all done, and afterward it was like wow I just did that.” It also helped make some decisions about her future. “I want to work in the medical field. All of the medical personal did so much to help me I just want to be able to help someone else.”
Brooke is enrolled at Grand Valley State University for the fall. She is going to major in nursing and hopes to become Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. I am sure that she will be successful in this endeavor because if anything stands out more than her athletic ability it is her attitude and determination. She is a natural leader whose infectious spirit rubs off on those around her. “She changes the demeanor of a group of girls when she is around, she’s a natural leader and athlete,” added Wetmore “When she gets in the gym and starts working, everyone else worked harder.”
She is also going to be missed by the basketball team. “Brooke was our MVP, said Coach Jerome Smalley. “She is great ball handler and she controlled our offense. More importantly she is a great teammate who always encouraged everyone around her.”
Things finally started to go Brooke’s way this year. She completed a basketball season injury free for the first time since her freshman year and was looking forward to running track. After two knee surgeries she worries that she may not be as fast as she once was, but that doesn’t seem to matter to her. She was just looking forward to competing before the Coronavirus put everything on hold. A minor setback considering what she has gone through so far.