Katie Holloway Bridge celebrates after scoring a point at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016 on Sept. 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
Helping people has always been in Katie Holloway Bridge’s DNA.
As a captain for the U.S. sitting volleyball team since 2017, she helped the U.S. defend its Paralympic gold medal from Rio with another last year in Tokyo. It was her fourth medal, after previously helping Team USA to silvers in Beijing and London.
Now 36 and expecting her first child this December, Holloway Bridge is taking her first extended break from volleyball since 2006. She’s also embracing her professional nirvana, having now passed her one-year anniversary of working in the Stanford athletic department, where she helps student athletes make the most of their opportunities as the assistant director for name, image and likeness (NIL) services.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Whether on the court or in the workplace, Holloway Bridge has never let her disability define her.
In high school, she had played both basketball and volleyball with a prosthetic foot, her normal since before the age of 2 when her lower right leg was amputated due to a condition called fibular hemimelia, essentially born without a fibula.
A native of Lake Stevens Washington, she went on to play basketball at California State University, Northridge, where she was a four-year letterwinner and the first female amputee to play the sport at the NCAA Division I level.
She had chosen the school because the coaches promised they would treat her like the rest of her teammates. By karmic chance, CSUN had a longstanding relationship with the U.S. sitting volleyball team, and Holloway Bridge learned of the sport when the team came to campus for a training camp in February 2006.
“At the time I was in basketball season,” Holloway Bridge recalled. “My athletic trainer asked me to go meet the girls because he had taken care of some of them in the training room.”
One thing led to another, and eventually the volleyball coaches reached out to invite her to a training camp. Holloway Bridge had been aware of adaptive and Paralympic sport, but as she was playing able-bodied sports her whole life, the need wasn’t there. Her coaches encouraged her to give it a shot.
“This was definitely a unique opportunity in that my (CSUN) coaching staff saw way more potential than I would have ever seen at the time for myself, which was opening myself up to playing a sport with people with disabilities,” she said.
Another aspect of her time at CSUN was serving as a mentor to younger student-athletes, something she enjoyed as she worked towards a bachelor’s degree in sociology. It was a rewarding experience that would influence later decisions.
“After I got done with undergraduate (studies in 2008), my next step was Oklahoma to train for volleyball,” Holloway Bridge said. “It was also, ‘What am I going to do next with my life?’
“Based on my experiences with a lot of the Paralympic Movement, in being asked to teach sitting volleyball to different groups, a lot of which was to injured service members, I was influenced to move into recreation therapy, which was my masters (program) at Oklahoma State.”