Everything seemed normal for Catherine Bruder while she was finishing another school year at Crowley during the spring of 2021. As the head volleyball; coach, summer was near and she was looking forward to the fall season.
She starts her seventh season with the program this week.
But things quickly turned upside down during an annual doctor’s appointment that May.
“After a mammogram and a biopsy, it was confirmed as cancer,” Bruder said.
Doctors told her that the great news was they caught it early and that there was a survival rate of 95%. She went to another doctor to remove the tumor and was told the same thing.
Things appeared to be OK as summer workouts were about to start.
Bruder wasn’t prepared for the call she soon received.
“It’s Stage 4 breast cancer, they told me,” Bruder said. “The cancer had already spread all over to other organs and bones. I was unprepared for the news mainly because I had no symptoms. I was just always super tired. But what coach isn’t always super tired?”
The cancer has spread to her liver, lungs and bones.
She said her survival rate now is anywhere from six months to three years. Chemotherapy is her last resort, but she is taking medicine.
She said this will be her final season.
“It really brought to light the saying ‘you never know what someone is going through.’ I feel like I did it well and no one really knew that my family and I were struggling with this all year,” Bruder said. “All I can say is that I received an outpouring of support and kindness from both the players and our parents.”
Going through the year
The 2021 volleyball season started in August, but Bruder decided not to tell her players.
She didn’t tell many people.
“Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t do emotions,” she said. “I saw how the news affected my own children. Emotionally, I had a really hard time in the beginning being able to talk about it at all, so not telling people became the easiest solution for me.
“I felt that there was no reason to cause any added stress to the girls in an already stressful school year. The plan became to just get through to this May (2022) and tell them once summer started. It was hard to keep it from them and it was hard for my own children not to be able to tell anyone.”
The team struggled in 2021, winning 10 games and finishing sixth in the district.
Bruder got through the year and finally shared the news with one of her assistant coaches.
The coach asked her to share the news with her players.
“Hearing about coach Bruder did hurt a lot. She has been more than just a coach to me,” junior defensive specialist Jasmine Quinn said. “She has helped me through some of my hardest times and I could go to her for everything. She has not only made me a better player on the court, but a better person off the court.”
Crowley moved up to Class 6A during the UIL realignment in February.
The Eagles are in District 3-6A along with Weatherford, Boswell, Euless Trinity, Fort Worth Paschal, Chisholm Trail, LD Bell and North Crowley.
They’ll be looking for their first playoff trip since 2007.
“I’m going into this season with a better attitude and to encourage myself as well as my teammates to push ourselves in this new district and making it to playoffs for here,” Quinn said. “We will give it our all and leave it all on the court for here.”
Crowley opens the regular season on Tuesday against Grand Prairie. Along with Quinn, other key returners include senior setter Jaden Polovina and junior middle Kinzley Brown-Riggins.
Crowley will also play Burleson on Aug. 19.
Burleson’s head coach, D’Anna Newton, is one of Bruder’s closest friends. Burleson and Crowley had been in the same volleyball district for the past 12 years.
“I was devastated,” Newton said. “I think I went through so many emotions because she is someone I consider a close friend.”
Newton and Bruder help coach the same club team at Texas Advantage Volleyball. Newton will have a pink-out game this season and all the money is going to breast cancer awareness.
“She is someone who I know would be there for me anytime I needed her,” Newton said. “I want to help and be the very best person I can be for her whether that’s talking volleyball or just someone she can call anytime and I’m there.”
Bruder didn’t rule out a possible return.
“We are going to play this season as though it will be my last and if my health allows me to try to get through one more then who knows,” Bruder said. “Everyone has to walk away from the game at some point and I feel like it’s my time to do that and focus on being at my kids’ sports for as much as I can be.
“All I can say with full confidence is that coaching at Crowley High School has given me the opportunity to be a part of so many amazing young ladies’ lives and I have met so many genuine people that I can truly say are my friends. I could never thank the number of people in this district who have wholeheartedly supported me and this program from Day 1. I hope to just take in every moment.”