Hanna “Hoops” Hoopingarner was excelling in her junior season. She was playing so well that head coach Liz Doran moved her to the starting line up. Thirty-seven seconds into her first starting game of the 2011 season, Hoopingarner tore her right ACL, effectively ending her junior season.
When Hoopingarner tore her ACL, there was no certainty as to whether she would ever contribute to the team again. She came to Colorado College with hopes to play basketball, and had the expectation of playing a full four years of collegiate ball. Now, however, she contributes in other ways in her student coaching position.
“Hanna was always one of our hardest working kids. When she was an underclassman, we would put her in whenever we needed a burst of energy and she’d make something happen on the defensive end. By her junior season she was playing the best all around basketball of her career on both the offensive and defensive end,” Head Coach Liz Doran said.
Hoopingarner quickly underwent the reconstruction surgery on Jan. 1, 2012 with the hopes of playing her senior season.
“I did all my rehab and recovery, but in the middle of June, I took a weird spill down the stairs. Originally I thought I just tore my right meniscus, but when I went in for surgery in August, they found that I’d partially re-torn my ACL. I was supposed to just have my meniscus stitched, but after they discovered the partial tear, they did the meniscus repair and another ACL reconstruction.” Hoopingarner said.
Had Hoopingarner only had a meniscus tear, she would have been able to recover in time to play this season. Now, the entire program feels the loss of her presence as a player.
“Before I went into surgery, I thought I’d be able to play by December or January, but after I woke up I knew I wouldn’t be able to play because the recovery was going to be seven to nine months,” Hoopingarner said. “My reaction after waking up wasn’t good. First of all, I woke up in a lot [of unexpected] pain, and second, I realized basketball had been taken away from me.”
Though she does not have an official title, she has taken on three key responsibilities that are central to team practices. On a weekly basis, Hoopingarner is responsible for recruiting practice players, as the team only has nine players on the roster. This task requires contacting individuals who like to play and may want to practice with the team. She has also taken on the duty of leading pre-practice warm ups for the girls, and cooling them down at the end of practice.
“Giving her a couple pieces of practice that are exclusively hers has really proven to be ideal,” Doran said. “Having her on the sidelines has been a great addition. As a former teammate for most of these kids, she can talk to them as more of a peer than any of the coaches can. When she says, ‘pick it up,’ or makes a suggestion [regarding defense] or how someone should get open, she has a lot of credibility because she’s been there, done that, and been a liaison between the team and the coaches.”
Although her situation isn’t ideal, Hoopingarner feels good about where she stands.
“So far I think it’s really going well. I still get to be around the team, but it’s allowed me the freedom to take on a few more things than I’m used to. I’m grateful that I’m just as much a part of this world as I was before. It’s a strong, small group, and I think I’ve found a good niche among the staff in which I can participate in all activities,” Hoopingarner said.
Hoopingarner is focused on staying connected to the team and remaining part of the program that has been central to her Colorado College experience. Her effort and presence have not gone unnoticed:
“She’s incredibly important to the team,” senior teammate Marissa Gradoz said. “Even though she’s not playing, which we know is hard for her, each and every one of us needs her around as much as she can be. She’s a huge part of what we are.”