GERMANTOWN, Md. (WUSA 9) — “Nothing is impossible.” That’s what Seneca Valley girls’ basketball coach Katie Caldwell told her team last season. Her mantra was: if you work hard enough on and off the court, you can do anything you put you mind to.
Her players listened. In Caldwell’s first year as varsity head coach, the Screamin’ Eagles finished 14-10. They didn’t make it to states, they weren’t ranked first in their conference, but Caldwell’s team did become a family.
“We were very close,” said Caldwell. “The girls called each other sisters, a couple of them called me mom … you spend so much time together that it really becomes a strong support system … it is like being another family.”
To Caldwell, who was voted Maryland Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year by her players, fans and members of the Seneca Valley community, that bond was what fueled her team’s success on the court last season.
Caldwell’s love of the sport comes from her older sister, Brean Vaske. Watching Brean play basketball as a child inspired Caldwell to hit the hardwood. She began her high school coaching career at Paint Branch under former basketball coach Heather Podosek.
“Those two were the biggest influences on me,” said Caldwell, who led the JV team at Seneca Valley for three years before switching to varsity. The change allowed Caldwell to mentor many of her former JV players at the varsity level.
“As a JV coach, you don’t always get to see [your athletes] make that transition into finally being a mature athlete,” said Caldwell. “It was nice to see.”
Caldwell ran an alternative education program at Seneca Valley and will be continuing her career in Turkey as a special education teacher over the next two years.
She will miss her team, but has complete confidence in the program’s future under last season’s JV coach, Jenn Hoffmann.
“She’s a very positive role model and she had a lot of experience working with the girls this year … I think they’re really going to be ready to take Montgomery County by storm,” said Caldwell.
As she moves on to the next step in her career, Caldwell says she will always value her coaching experience and the lessons she learned from her players.
“They’ve taught me to be resilient, to never give up and the importance of being a support system for a group of people,” said Caldwell. “It wasn’t just me being there for them, they were always there for me too.”