by Larry Ham
Saturday, December 18th, 2010 was a pretty normal day for Laine Brown. A week before Christmas in her junior year at Immanuel High School, Laine was playing in a basketball game at the Farmersville tournament. As was always the case, she was hustling up the floor, ready to knock the ball away from an opponent, when the opponent suddenly stopped, and they collided. What happened next is every athlete’s worst nightmare – a hyper extended knee that resulted in the worst possible injury for Laine – a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. The diagnosis came right after the new year – surgery and a long rehabilitation period.
A lot of athletes would have broken down and let the devastation of such a serious injury send them into a pity party tailspin. But Laine Brown is one tough cookie.
She was born in Hanford and was a sports junkie from an early age.
“At the age of three I started playing soccer. I continued to play soccer for the next eleven years. I loved soccer! I was on many different teams, including Class 1 travel teams. While balancing a hectic sports schedule, I was also involved with dance, where I did everything from ballet to jazz! When I reached Junior High I hung up the ballet shoes and joined Immanuel’s club volleyball team: River Cities. When I wasn’t playing soccer on the weekends, I was setting volleyballs in club tournaments.”
Enrolling at Immanuel High was a natural for Laine, following in her sister Maureen’s footsteps.
“Having an older sister attending Immanuel and meeting girls from the club team, I made the decision to attend Immanuel my freshman year. When I got to Immanuel, I decided to give up soccer and stick with volleyball along with trying a few new sports: basketball and softball. The moment I stepped on the basketball court my freshmen year, I knew I had found my new favorite sport.”
Phil Goertzen was in his second season as Immanuel girl’s basketball coach when Laine was a sophomore.
“Laine was a freshman when I took the head coaching position, so she’s been there through the whole process”, said Phil.
“She watched intently as her sister Maureen played for me and Laine began playing varsity as a sophomore. She quickly began to understand concepts and big picture schemes – she has the basketball IQ and gets “it.” I’ll explain something once and she immediately catches on to my thinking process and how it could possibly benefit her or more importantly the team.”
Laine became an integral part of the Immanuel team in her sophomore season, and quickly became known as one of those players who would do the little things to make her team better.
As the 2010-11 season began, she was a starter and team leader. Then came the injury. Laine remembers the moment vividly.“Oh, it hurt so bad! I remember banging on the floor and saying, “Oh please, no, not an ACL…” Being in a sports medicine class last year, I was familiar with that injury. After I was carried back to the bench I put ice on it and watched the remainder of the game. When the final buzzer sounded, I tried to move it and found that I had no trouble bending and straightening it.”
Those early moments of mobility gave her hope that it wasn’t as serious as it seemed. But such was not the case.
“I stood up from the bench and as soon as I put weight on my leg, my knee completely buckled and popped again. This hurt even more than the first pop, and at that point I knew something was seriously wrong. I was desperately trying to convince myself I was okay and I would be back out there in no time, but deep down I knew I was seriously hurt.”
Of course, a strong and loving family is an important part of coming to terms with a serious injury, and Laine’s family was right there for her.
“My Dad was the only one in the gym when I went down with the injury. I got in the car and called my mom and told her that we had won the game but I didn’t get to finish because I got hurt. When I got home I was greeted by my mom, my sister, who was home from college on Christmas break, and my little brother. Sports are a big deal in our family. All of us kids are very involved in our sports, as well as supporting each other. When we had found out it was for sure torn, I think my family was frustrated as well, but they only encouraged me. When I got back from the doctor’s appointment my little brother greeted me with a big smile and gave me a big hug and said, “I’m sorry Laine. It’s going to be okay.” I was fortunate to have such a supportive and loving family.”
The seriousness of losing an important part of his team was not lost on coach Goertzen. But he also saw the well rounded person that is Laine Brown shine through as well.
“The injury was a huge blow to our team last year, but she continued with the team throughout the remainder of the year and was very active on the bench supporting and peer coaching. I was very interested to see how Laine would bounce back from almost a year without basketball; she surpassed my expectations and almost picked up from where she left off – primarily due to her relentless pursuit of rehab.”
Anyone who has rehabbed from a leg injury knows that you get out of it what you put into it. Laine was ready for the challenge.
“I was well aware of the recovery time going into the surgery. Immediately as I woke up from surgery a physical therapist was by my side trying to instruct exercises to do. That’s when I really began to realize how much work it was going to take to get back to normal. My main goal was to make the start of volleyball season my senior year. Although I was frustrated with the situation, I was determined to get back on the court as soon as I could.”
The only way to get back as soon as she could was to dive into rehab full force.
“I did a lot of riding on a stationary bike, stepping up and down on a small wooden box, balancing exercises, leg presses, deep tissue massages, electric stimulation, and a lot of icing. It was a lot of work and most of the time very uncomfortable. I was only in physical therapy for about two months and then I was let out to go on my own. I got in touch with a trainer who gave me workouts and trained me for the next couple months. Eventually we were training three days a week in the Immanuel weight room. During the summer I would get up before work and go on jogs to get some endurance back and try to loosen up my stiff knee. I had lost a lot of strength in my right leg, but after eight months of hard work I had gotten some of it back.”
Laine is back for her senior season, and has been an important part of a team that has been the surprise of the Central Sequoia League. And quite honestly, since I have seen them play a lot, I can tell you that it’s a combination of superb coaching and a complete effort by the players that have been responsible. Coach Goertzen says Laine has been a central part of the success of this year’s team.
“She’s the glue, the details that make us good come from her hard work, and she holds the pieces together. Her leadership stems from how hard she works and pushes others to do the same.”
And as special players always do, Coach Goertzen says Laine has the uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time.
“Have you ever noticed when a ball comes her way in a crowd of players, she comes out of the mess with the ball! Her rebounding skills are built on positioning and desire, if the ball touches her fingertips it’ll be in her possession.”
As for the future, Laine has her sights set on a career in an area she now has a lot of first hand knowledge about.
“I plan to attend Sacramento State University and major in Kinesiology with an emphasis on Athletic Training. After experiencing a severe yet common injury, I think I will be able to excel in this field of study. I’m always being taught lessons through this injury, and I think that will continue in my years after high school.”
Coach Goertzen has no doubt Laine will succeed in whatever she chooses to do.
“Her character and drive to succeed is what sets her apart from the rest. She is extremely hard working, mentally as tough as any girl I’ve EVER coached. Her leadership goes beyond the court and she is a very well rounded individual – a solid student and of course, passionate about sports.”
As I said earlier, Laine Brown is one tough cookie. And she is not about to let a little thing like a devastating knee injury slow her down. I highly encourage you to see Laine and the rest of the Immanuel team play during these final days of the regular season, and the playoffs. They are fun to watch. Look for number twenty-five out there – the one with the big knee brace and the even bigger heart.
My thanks to Phil Goertzen for his help, and especially to the incomparable Wayne Wiebe for the great photos.