The Miracle Season tells the true story of an Iowa high school's volleyball team that struggles to continue with their season following the tragic death of the star player, Caroline "Line" Found. In the movie, which comes out on April 6, Helen Hunt plays an inspiring coach who motivates the team to carry on, and the real coach from The Miracle Season was every bit as invested in motivating her team as Hunt's performance portrays.
In an interview with Iowa City's Press Citizen, the real-life coach, Kathy Bresnahan, said that she and the team "shed a lot of tears together" following Found's death. As The Miracle Season portrays, the Iowa City West High women's volleyball team tragically lost Found in 2011, before the teen's senior year. "Before the season, 'Line' said we were going to win it all again, and I was about ready to (smack) her for that," Bresnahan told the Press Citizen. The year before, West High had won the Iowa 4A title, which earned Line an All-State pick, according to West Side Story — Iowa City West High's school paper. In that same publication, Line was called the "heart and soul of the team," making her 2011 death caused by a moped accident all the more impactful to her volleyball team.
Throughout The Miracle Season, the coach serves — no pun intended — as the driving force in motivating her team to honor the lost teammate's memory by playing their hardest, and by having fun. Bresnahan read the upcoming film's script, because, as she told the Gazette, "Our big goal was to protect the memory of Caroline, as well as all the other kids involved." Not only did Bresnahan want to make sure that the story of the 2011 volleyball team be told accurately, but the inspiring coach also made sure early on that it was told at all.
According to a 2012 article in the Gazette, Bresnahan contacted sports writer Frank Deford to tell him the story of her resilient team. "I thought what our kids did, and how special Caroline was, was a story that should be told," Bresnahan said. Deford responded by visiting the West High volleyball team, and he ended up making an HBO special called "Live Like Line: The Story of Caroline Found" for Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
Not only did Bresnahan ensure that Line's legacy get shared with the country, but she played an important role in helping the volleyball team navigate their grief during the season. One of Bresnahan's colleagues, Tom Keating, spoke to West's newspaper, saying "Kathy will tell you that so many people helped her and the team work through this incredibly challenging time but the reality is that Kathy was the rock." Keating continued, "She accepted each and every kid where they were and allowed all of them to grieve in a personal way. She never forced the issue but she also gently guided them back to what they knew and were comfortable with: competing."
Even though The Miracle Season centers around a tragedy, Hunt's portrayal of Bresnahan provides an inspiring reminder that with community, you can get through almost anything. It was no surprise that Bresnahan won National Coach of the Year in 2011 after not only leading her team to win the Iowa 4A championship, but for assisting all of the Line's grieving teammates in processing the shocking loss.
Not only will The Miracle Season have you crying over the recovering high school volleyball team's sorrow, but it will uplift you too, and that's thanks in large part to Hunt's performance. Knowing that the inspiring coach from the movie is based on a woman who's actually every bit as passionate in real life as she is in the film only makes The Miracle Season more impactful.