Tuesday, July 23, 2024

In the Cards: Kolesar overcomes injuries for hoop dreams

Caitlin Kolesar served as the team’s manager in her senior year.


By Kamiko Chamble

Caitlin Kolesar is a senior attending Plattsburgh State university majoring in psychology, Kolesar is also the women’s basketball team manager. But really, who is Caitlin?

Coming to Plattsburgh from Hillsborough, New Jersey, Caitlin was a basketball player her whole life. She started playing the sport when she was 5 years old.

  “She played multiple sports at a young age, but she gave them all up because she loved basketball so much,” John Kolesar, Caitlin’s father said.

When Caitlin was in high school, she experienced a tragedy. During a game against Franklin High School in her junior year, she suffered a concussion mid-game.

Mary Kolesar, Caitlin’s mother, described watching the injury as “the worst feeling as a mom.” It left her feeling “hopeless.”

“I recorded the concussion and how it happened and my heart stopped. She got a fist to the jaw, then the ball came down and hit her in the head, then she got another hit and she went down,” Mary said. “As a parent, you can’t move, you can’t do anything, you’re not allowed to go out to the court. My husband was standing next to me holding me.”

After Caitlin went down she sat out of the game for a short time, but eventually continued playing. At the moment, no one noticed the severity of the injury. She needed to go see a neurosurgeon. 

Caitlin was diagnosed with a conversion insufficiency as a result of her concussion and couldn’t handle harsh light. She was unable to finish her junior season, and the doctor said she wouldn’t be able to go back to school, much less play basketball again. She studied from home, and needed to wear a baseball cap and sunglasses as protection from light, Mary said.

Another issue Caitlin had to go through was that no one took what she was going through seriously.

“My coach wouldn’t give me the time of day because everyone thought that I was faking it. I barely got the chance to play my senior year, so it was rough,” Caitlin said. “That’s when SUNY Plattsburgh came in. They were recruiting me whether I was able to play or not because of my work ethic and determination. They still wanted me to be a part of the team because I still had something to offer.”

The struggle permeated more than just Caitlin’s basketball career.

 “As her mom, my biggest issue was trying to get anyone to take it seriously,” Mary said. “They kept saying ‘Oh, she’ll be OK, oh, she’ll be OK,’ but she wasn’t OK.” 

Caitlin continued to work hard and strive back to where she needed to be. She went to her physical therapy and there was nothing that was going to stop her. 

“One thing you have to understand about Caitlin is ever since she was young, nothing really ever stood in her way. If she came across a problem, she would find how to get straight through that road block,” John said. “Nothing ever stood in her way or stopped her from achieving what she wanted.” 

Caitlin wasn’t only an athlete. She made sure to always be a student first. Academics is the most important thing to her. 

When Caitlin was young, she’d said no to shooting hoops with her father when she knew she wouldn’t have time to study later in the week, John said. 

“She just always had it all figured out,” John said. 

Plattsburgh State recognized her potential for academics and basketball, which is why the school was committed to waiting for her to heal.

“Plattsburgh was the only school that stuck around. The other schools couldn’t wait for her to get better,” Mary said. “At the time Cheryl Cole was the coach. Cheryl wanted Caitlin. She admired the fact that Caitlin fought back on what she went through and she wanted her on the team.”

Caitlin’s drive has carried with her throughout her life.

“She makes me look good, I never had to ask her, ‘Is your homework done? Did you study for your test?’ She has always been focused on everything that mattered,” John said.

Caitlin averaged three points and 2.5 rebounds in a bench role with the 2021-22 Cardinals. She grabbed 10 rebounds in her career high vs New Paltz. 


Provided by Caitlin Kolesar

Caitlin Kolesar during her sophomore year with the Cardinals.


During her junior year, Caitlin suffered another concussion during practice.

“My very last hit was in my junior year of college. We were in practice and I stole the ball and I thought I was running down the court by myself. I was going up for a left-handed layup and my teammate came out of nowhere and kind of blocked the ball, but she ended up hitting me in the nose and I instantly knew something was wrong.” 

Caitlin was taken to the hospital, where they diagnosed her with another severe concussion. She had to go home to see her neurologist and they told her that she was lucky to be alive.

“When she got hurt again in college, I knew she was done. The neurologist said if she took another hit, there was no guarantee of anything, and we decided that it wasn’t good for her to play,” Mary said.

Caitlin’s struggles weighed heavily on her and everything happened to her fast.

“It was terrifying, I didn’t want to go through what I did. I just wasn’t human, I wasn’t myself. I just felt like a zombie,” Caitlin said.  

Caitlin struggled with not being able to basketball anymore, her passion since childhood.

“It was hard as a parent because I knew that her dream was leaving her,” Mary said.

Her senior year, the team asked her to be the team manager, allowing her to stay close to her basketball family.

This season, with Caitlin as the manager, the team reached double-digit wins for the first time since 2019. 

“I’m very proud of my daughter,” Mary said.

Despite the hardships she faced, Caitlin has still striven to be great and worked to make the most out of her situation. 

“Me being team manager really wasn’t in the plan, but I couldn’t say goodbye, so being the manager was me still being close to my teammates and me having the chance to enjoy it for one last time before it’s really all gone,” Caitlin said. “I’m thankful for my teammates and for my coach for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the team for one more year.”


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