Feb. 27, 2014
During the first two games of conference play last season, Kate Zarotney remembers sitting on the Siena Women's basketball team's bench dreading the opportunity of not having the chance to play with her teammates. Chronic shoulder injuries dating back to her days at Berlin High School were the reasons why.
"I was a physical player who loved contact, I wasn't afraid of pain or anything," she said. "I've always been taught that you can't teach someone how to play with heart, that has to come from the player and that is exactly what I did day in and day out."
An all-out physical player through most of her career, Zarotney went through a total of six surgeries her labrum and both of her shoulders which continually re-tore and popped out. Then, during what was supposed to be her final season, the doctor gave her the news she feared the most. She could not play basketball anymore.
When Zarotney first heard the news, she was upset and denied the prognosis for a long time. Basketball was a game she played since she was young and she could not see herself giving up. That wasn't the kind of player she was.
"No matter how much pain I was in, I was going to ignore it and give it everything I had because I knew my team needed me," Zarotney said. "Coach Jaques and the rest of the coaches really helped me through the whole process. Coach knew I was not going to tell anybody that I was in pain so she told me what I was allowed to do in practice and what I couldn't do."
After some time of thinking and digesting the news, Zarotney understood that without surgery she wouldn't be able to play or return in time to be the same physical player she was.
It was time to think seriously about her future and Zarotney applied herself in the classroom to graduate early to get a head start on her peers in the working world.
"After some long talks and thinking, I thought it was in my best interest to take six courses last fall and graduate in January," she said. "I didn't decide to graduate because I wanted to leave Siena, it was simply because I needed to start focusing on my future and find something to keep me from thinking about what I was missing the most and I just hope everyone can understand that."
Her passion and the love for the game have helped her with life after basketball at Siena College. She has worked with Siena Athletics Marketing Manager Laura Menges, assisting in the department to gain some work experience to add to her resume.
Despite not being on the team, Zarotney has found a way to have an impact on the team, whether supporting the team as much as she can by attending games or keeping in contact with them.
"Even though I am no longer living up there with my teammates they are still a part of me and I want to support them as much as I can," Zarotney stated. "If I can't make a game then I will watch it on my computer or get updates to my phone. I want to be there for the team as much as I can because they have been such an important part of my life."
Meanwhile other than showing her support for her teammates, Zarotney's next goal is to get her coaching license. She is currently assisting with a girls high school basketball team and knows that if she cannot play then coaching is the next best thing to having an impact on girls.
In the long run, she hopes to open up a chain of restaurants naming it after her grandfather, who she says had a great influence in her life and it would live out his dream.
"Sometimes I think that without the surgeries I could have been a better basketball player, but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and that there is a reason why I went through what I did. It has made me into a stronger individual that's for sure."