Author: Rick Dunetz
February 7, 2008
By Mike Walter, Channel 9 News
Movies like Rudy, or Remember the Titans are the kind of sports movies where teams or players defy the odds, they beat adversity and come out on top.
Both of those are based on true stories and if Hollywood is looking for another, their next stop may be Springfield Virginia.
For years coaching a sports team was his dream. But when Rick Dunetz finally became a head coach of a high school volleyball team, it was anything but a dream come true.
“It was a bittersweet season in a lot of ways,” he said. “I was overwhelmed with all the stuff I had to deal with.”
Rick got the coaching job, because the head coach at West Springfield abruptly resigned. His team was in turmoil, and loosing, and Rick was pre-occupied.
Rick’s mother who had beaten breast cancer before, had found out it had returned. He recalls, “It blindsided her. She was in such a negative place that I wasn’t convinced she would be able to fight this thing.”
His mother says, “I mean I was going to die that’s all I could think.”
With his team struggling on the court, and his mother struggling with cancer Rick was at practice one day when he finally realized he’d reached his breaking point.
“I think the kids were surprised to see a 33, 34 year old man get real emotional,” he said. He told the girls about his mother.
“We got emotional also. We love our coach, he’s the best. He stepped up when we needed him the most, and the fact that he could step up for us and his mom at the same time inspired us to do the best that we could,” one of the Spartan players said.
The team suddenly had the will to win. “It made me work a lot harder because I knew he was giving it all he had so I felt I had to do the same.”
The Spartans fought and scraped and beat teams they weren’t supposed to. And by winning, the coache’s mother who he convinced to come and watch the games decided she had the will to win too.
So inspirational were the players, that the underdog Spartans made it to the district finals. In the history of the school the girls volleyball team had never beaten the Robinson Rams, they had never won a district championship.
“We got on that court and we all just decided, we chose to win, we decided it was our time. It was our time to be champions,” one player said.
They played their hearts out, and won. Rick said, “I actually fell down on my knees and I was like I can not believe this is happening.”
The girls call it their miracle season. A season when they came together to win on the court and they gave Rick’s mom all the inspiration she needed to win off it.