By Steve Sears
As much fun and success as Roxbury High School alum, Doug Miller, had playing the sport of soccer, he now enjoys much more the joy of coaching and teaching the sport to others, especially youngsters.
Miller was born in 1969 and was raised by his dad, James, and mom, Jackie. He has three sisters; Kim, Tracy, and Tammy. He attributes much of his success to his mom, who often drove him all over to play the sport he grew to love. “She was a stay-at-home mom,” Miller says, “and she really sacrificed getting me from point A to point B, and not just for me, for my three sisters as well. She was always available to sacrifice her time for us.”
Miller, the youngest child in his family, initially played baseball. “My uncle Raymond was going to pitch for the Milwaukee Braves in 1957, and he ended up with cancer and he passed away at age 19,” Miller explains. “My mom’s brother was a heck of a baseball player, and I never got to meet him. I enjoyed playing both baseball and soccer growing up, but when I was 14, soccer became more prominent to me because it was more active. It was always moving, you’re always running around, and I think it just became the joy of chasing after a soccer ball instead of getting hit with a baseball.”
Miller was one of the first freshman ever to play varsity soccer at Roxbury High School. “I remember going to a game. We played, I think, at Roosevelt Elementary School. And there was a game where the referee was counting down. 10…9…8…, and I ended up scoring the tying goal or the game winning goal with a second left. And that was the pivotal time for me, coming into my own as a freshman, playing varsity, and then it was three more years of playing high school soccer where we weren’t very good. All four years, I think we might have won 10 games. But it’s not always being on a winning team that means success. You can be on a team like I was and still find your way out of it.”
And he did. Miller turned his eyes and heart towards playing soccer year-round, and at age 18, had committed to County College of Morris, when his friend asked if he’d like to head for Rutgers University in New Brunswick and try out for the Olympic Festival team. He was the youngest player there, but his skills were impressive – so much so that the assistant coach of Loyola College soccer called Miller’s dad and asked them to visit. While there, he was offered a full scholarship to attend the school.
In his senior year with Loyola, his club gave up two goals the entire season. “We routed teams in that year when I was Player of the Year in the conference,” Miller says. He also finished 10th in the nation in scoring.
His professional career, in a somewhat brief rundown. Miller was initially drafted by the MSL’s Kansas City Comets, who eventually folded. The Baltimore Blast of the Major Indoor Soccer League signed him next. “I was very fortunate enough to play indoor in Baltimore pretty much every other day in the wintertime,” Miller says, “so I knew the game much better than most of the other guys who were coming in.” After playing one season in Baltimore, the MISL folded, and Miller then moved on to the National Professional Soccer League’s Harrisburg Heat, for whom he played 1 ½ seasons.
In March of 1994, Miller was traded to the Cleveland Crunch soccer team, and while there, the Crunch team went on to win the NPSL championships in 1994 and 1996. After is years of sparkling for losing teams, Miller was now the member of a winning squad.
However, he didn’t have much time to rest with that success. Miller then headed to Rochester and its Raging Rhinos (who would become simply the Rhinos). It would change his life. “It was a brand new franchise,” Miller says. “Indoor was my passion, but outdoor gave me another opportunity to play six months outdoors, six months indoor. And so, we went there and probably the best thing that happened to me was that I met my wife. She was a dancer for the Rhinos. I met her probably the first month that I was there. A year and a half later, I married her, and the soccer part of it was the secondary part.” In addition to his ability to go out and score goals, Miller also started teaching kids how to play the game of soccer in Rochester, and he was also a winner again. “I spent 1996 to 1999 in Rochester, where we won two championships, the USL (United Soccer League) championship, and we won the Open Cup Championship.”
Miller didn’t play for the Rhinos again until 2003, and played with them until 2005, when he started his Doug Miller Soccer Academy (now known as Rochester Lancers Academy) in Rochester, New York.
In 2011, Miller returned to the field at age 42, coming out if retirement a second time to play for the Rochester Lancers of the newly begun MISL. He played for the Lancers until 2013. “I played for the Lancers in another coming out of retirement party,” he recalls. “And I was an MVP in that league and broke every scoring record. I had a lot of successes in different decades playing the game.” In 2018, Miller coached and was President of the soccer operation of the Indoor Rochester Lancers of the MASL (Major Arena Soccer League) and for the NPSL (National Premiere Soccer League) and UPSL (United Premiere Soccer League) teams. “I coached until last year. We continue to provide a product for the community. We have 400 kids who play for us in my program in Rochester, New York. I really focused on the youth business and teaching. Sport teaches life, and for me it was all about ‘How do we transition from sports and teach life lessons through that?’ That’s been my goal ever since turning pro in 1991.”
Miller recognizes the desire to win is much more important than size and speed. He explains. “There’s always somebody who’s going to be bigger, badder, stronger, faster, which is nice, but how do we take adversity and turn it into opportunity? I think my whole career I wasn’t always the best player, the most technical player, but I had a desire that I wanted it more than anybody, and I was willing to sacrifice more for that. Most people would. When I talk about teaching the kids, the three D’s of Doug Miller are desire, determination, dedication: desire to be your best, determination to work hard, and dedication to never quit.” And he didn’t quit, even when in 2019 the dome to his soccer academy collapsed and he had a complete loss with the multimillion-dollar structure. “How did I rebuild? That adversity that I went through during my career allowed me to have that fight to rebuild something even better.”
When asked if he would consider coaching and perhaps even playing again, Miller says. “The coaching? Absolutely. There’s a time in your career, however, when you ask, ‘Can I go and compete?” He did in 2020, playing the last indoor games in Rochester against Florida, and Kansas City, and against Kansas City he ended up with two goals and two assists at age 51. However, for Miller, it’s more important to focus on coaching.
Doug Miller and his wife Kari have been married for 24 years, and just like their mom, the Miller daughters, Kayla and Kalista, are dancers. “They were a part of the entire journey,” Miller says. “When I went back and played for the Lancers, they were the Junior Lancers dancers, and my wife was the choreographer. When I started coaching the team, they were the Lancers Dancers and my wife was the choreographer. It was a very family atmosphere, the better for me because my family was still involved in regards to that. So, it wasn’t like I was doing something and they were at home. They were with me through that process and that journey.”
Miller now lives full-time in Florida with his family. “It’s the next portion of my journey. The sun shines every day, I still have my business in Rochester, New York, and my staff is running it. I go back and forth when I have to, but God has blessed me immensely.”
For more information about Doug Miller’s career and his soccer academy, visit www.dougmillersoccer.com.