The Miracle Season
By Greg Bach
On the evening of Aug. 11, 2011, 17-year-old Caroline Found was riding her moped to the University of Iowa Hospital to visit her terminally ill mother when she was tragically killed in an accident.
Her death, and that of her mom 12 days later, rocked the Iowa City community.
Caroline was a beloved student, an all-state volleyball player and the leader of the Iowa City West volleyball team that had dreams of repeating as state champions.
Saddled with grief, the team embarked on an emotional journey filled with tears and heartbreak. Along the way, they also showed amazing perseverance and strength as they played to honor their teammate and friend and “Live Like Line.”
Iowa City West volleyball coach Kathy Bresnahan wrote a book on the season – aptly titled The Miracle Season – which was made into a major motion picture now playing in theaters nationwide starring Helen Hunt and William Hurt.
We caught up with Bresnahan to talk about Caroline, that remarkable season, what she learned about coaching kids through that experience, and more:
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What made Caroline so special?
BRESNAHAN: I think first and foremost was just her exuberance and passion. She was so fun to be around and when she walked into a room everybody fed off of her energy – adults and kids alike. Once you got past that surface goofball-ness that was so engaging to be around you realized what a compassionate person she was and how much she loved being around people and making them feel important. She was always involved with Best Buddies and had several special education kids she would take Trick or Treating; or pick them up from school. She was just a kind-hearted young woman.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: Why did you decide to write a book about that season?
BRESNAHAN: I was so motivated by the amount of courage my players showed me that season, and I was so awed and inspired by their resiliency and their perseverance through their pain, that I just thought that it was a story that should be told.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How difficult was that season?
BRESNAHAN: We never knew how the kids were going to respond that day – if they were going to be crying that day or if it was going to be a good day for us. Every call we made that season was just based off our gut feeling.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What did you learn going through that season that could help others coaching kids?
BRESNAHAN: I learned so much. Those girls are like my daughters now. We talk all the time and we text all the time. I was always a barrier because you always worry about being too close with kids – but knock the barriers down. Don’t be afraid to show them that you care; don’t be afraid to show them that you love them. They have to know that you care about them as people first before they care about how much information you know about their sport.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: The team wanted to repeat as state champions to honor Caroline, so how difficult was navigating the season with all this self-imposed pressure they created?
BRESNAHAN: At the beginning I didn’t realize that that was the pressure that they were putting on themselves. We kept saying “Let’s play like Caroline” to play with passion to honor her that way. As the season went and we started winning a few games it became very apparent me – and I did not say it out loud – that their sole purpose for even being on that court, because they weren’t enjoying it, was to win a state championship. That’s when I had a difficult time keeping it together because I didn’t know how I could guide them to that point. Most seasons you can push and you can train but we weren’t in position to do that so I’m not sure – it was simply their determination. I think what that showed me was how when you really have connections with each other and really have the same mindset of what you want to accomplish anything is possible.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What made coaching fun for you?
BRESNAHAN: My goal every practice was for when the kids went home that night if their parents asked them what the best part of their day was they would say “volleyball practice, of course.” I wanted them to come to my practices because of their love for the sport and their love for their teammates. I’m out of coaching varsity now and I really miss practices; I miss being with my players. There was just that connection you get that can’t be duplicated anywhere in our adult world to the same degree. The relationships and the difference you can make in kids’ lives, I really miss that.
SPECIAL NOTE: A portion of the book’s proceeds will go to the LiveLikeLineFoundation which provides funding to students in the Iowa City Community School District who need assistance to overcome financial barriers in order to participate in school activities. Like Caroline, the foundation wants all students to feel included.
Please go to KCISports to see the HBO Sports segment on Caroline, the movie trailer and to read the prologue of The Miracle Season.
Embrace this philosophy for helping your athletes improve their performances while building all-important character and developing positive life-long habits
Jon Root – Olympic volleyball champion, Stanford great and youth coach – on managing mindsets, motivating players, teaching life lessons, and more
A new book co-authored by renowned sports psychologist Dr. Nick Molinaro spotlights how coaches and parents of young athletes can help enhance performance while cultivating those all-important life skills
Former New York Sharks professional football player and owner Andra Douglas on the power of sports in our lives