Never Stop Following Your Dreams

Text by Vaso Poulokefalos/
Photos Caroline Stephens Miles

Caroline Stephens Miles has dedicated her career to helping injured athletes. She is currently the head athletic trainer for Madison County High School and has recently decided to pursue her education to become a physician assistant.

Miles started her undergraduate degree at Georgia Gwinnett College in 2012 in hopes of becoming a physical therapist. What began as an interest in the human body and helping people became a passion and career. After visiting the Atlanta Falcons Physical Therapy Center, one of the physical therapists she met introduced her to athletic training.  

Miles has a love for sports and immediately felt drawn to the profession and how diverse each day would be for her. In 2014, she transferred to the University of Georgia to pursue a degree in athletic training. She double majored in athletic training and exercise and sports science. During her time at UGA, she completed rotations for the swim and dive, football and equestrian teams. After completing her undergraduate work at UGA, Miles accepted a graduate assistantship position at Florida State University and later became the head athletic trainer for the swim and dive team while completing her master’s degree.

Headshot of smiling, young, dark-haired woman standing outside in a field wearing a white top and two silver chain necklaces
Caroline Miles self-portrait. Photo: Caroline Stephens Miles

Her success didn’t come without challenges. As a female working with male athletes and coaches, she had to be firm and stand her ground. Athletes and coaches alike tried to intimidate her into complying with what benefitted them individually. She said it was important to remind them that she was advocating for their health and well-being and that, above all, she would always do right by them. 

In 2019 Miles completed her master’s degree in sports management from FSU and soon landed her dream job back at UGA. She initially worked as an intern for the swim and dive team and football program until she accepted a full-time position as UGA’s track and field athletic trainer. 

She was always passionate about working as an athletic trainer at the collegiate level and had many influences along the way. Her primary inspiration was her late grandmother, Dorothy “Dot” Crunkleton, who raised her. Dot’s strong-willed nature motivated Miles giving her the confidence to achieve her dreams and overcome any obstacles that got in her way. Another inspiring mentor for Miles was her first preceptor during her time with UGA’s swim and dive team, Paige Gearheart. Gearheart helped her through the different seasons of her career. After initially working with her as a student, Gearheart encouraged her to pursue grad school and ultimately worked alongside her as her equal. 

After nearly three years at UGA, Miles accepted a position at Madison County High School in Danielsville, Georgia. She wanted to see a different side of athletic training and work with fewer resources to enhance her rehab and evaluation skills. Miles’ choice to move to the high school level has been rewarding. The coaches trust her judgment, respect the limitations she sets for the athletes and share their appreciation for her. 

Never stop dreaming: Young, dark-haired woman in black college graduation gown standing next to older gray-haired woman in navy blue print jacket holding clear plastic purse with University of Georgia logo
Caroline Stephens Miles with her grandmother and inspiration, Dorothy “Dot” Crunkleton, at her college graduation. Photo: Caroline Stephens Miles

Miles is driven by helping athletes who hit rock bottom to recover and regain their love of sport. The bonds she forms with her athletes are unlike anything she’s ever experienced, which has been the most rewarding part for her. Miles hopes she can instill in the athletes a sense of pride in what they do and provide them the resources they need to be less dependent on trainers. 

Miles said that she would advise women and men alike who aspire to be leaders to “GO FOR IT.” 

In her experience, she found that people struggle with chasing an opportunity due to fear of rejection, but her advice is to be confident.

“Confidence goes a long way, and even if you don’t feel 100% secure, present yourself in a way that those around you believe in you,” she said. 

Miles finds that positive self-talk and listening to a song that hypes you up are great ways to make yourself feel good and increase confidence. In reflecting on challenges in her life, she found that even though she may not be the most intelligent person in the room or have all the answers, she always owns her success and failures. 

Miles said if she could go back and advise her 20-year-old self, she would tell herself to “keep pushing and challenge yourself. The only failure comes when you don’t try, everything else is just a minor setback.” Miles has done just that. 

In her career as an athletic trainer, her desire to help people has only grown. Her passion is in helping the underprivileged, and she hopes to go to physician assistant school to help serve those who do not have access to quality healthcare. Despite how difficult the journey may be, her relentless determination to keep pushing and pursuing her dreams won’t stop until she becomes the best physician assistant she knows she can be.

Never stop dreaming: Headshot of smiling, dark-haired young womanStudent Biography: Vaso Poulokefalos graduated from Kennesaw State University in December 2021 with a major in Psychology.

Women’s Leadership through Virtual Exchange: Youth Sharing Digital Stories (WLVE) is a project engaging 100 undergraduate and graduate students from Hassan II University Casablanca with 100 undergraduate students from Kennesaw State University in a unique cross-cultural virtual exchange experience focused on better understanding women’s leadership through research, analysis, and digital storytelling. This virtual classroom-based project will collect biographical stories of successful women leaders in both countries written by the students and publish them online on Bokeh Focus. 

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