A coach approaching and addressing the opposition after a highly-contested game could be a recipe for disaster.
The gesture might be ill-advised and is rare at a time where grandstanding, smack-talk and confrontation seem more common than ever.
With the permission from West Liberty coaches and armed with good intentions, Solon Coach Kevin Miller did exactly that and talked to the Comets reeling from an 0-2 start, including a tough 7-0 overtime home loss to the Spartans last Friday.
“I just wanted to commend them on the kind of effort and gutsy performance they displayed that evening,” Miller said. “I was impressed with how the kids responded after a loss to West Branch by competing at an extremely high level against us.”
Miller is a surefire Hall of Fame coach, winning 183 games in 21 total seasons including the last 176 and 18 at his alma mater. The act of sportsmanship is indicative of his coaching philosophy, emphasizing the intangibles that are associated with sports more than victories or titles.
Miller takes his role as a leader seriously, preferring to do it by example. Last Friday was a lesson many could learn from.
“I want to lead by example. I want to promote high school athletics and the life lessons that it teaches,” said Miller, who has led Solon to four state titles. “It has always been my motto. We’re not about winning games and championships. That’s never been our philosophy. We’re about developing young people and if my example and message can resonate not just with our athletes but a few other programs as well that’s the kind of legacy I want to leave.
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“It’s not about championships we’ve won and players who have gone on to play. I hope when I’m gone that our players and the people I have had the opportunity to rub elbows with are better because of my involvement with them that’s how I am. I hope that comes through.”
After the eighth-ranked Spartans escaped West Liberty with a victory thanks to a 3-yard touchdown run by Cam Miller in overtime, the Spartans coach asked West Liberty Coach Jason Iske for a chance to visit the postgame. He had a message he didn’t have to share, but wanted to share.
“I know Coach Miller,” Iske said. “He’s a classy guy. I told him absolutely, if he wanted.”
Iske served as a student teacher at Solon about 13 years ago. He coached with Miller, Spartans longtime assistant Mark Sovers and others. He knows the respect Miller’s approach and accomplishments have earned from the football community. He had the attention of the Comets and made an impact.
“He isn’t one to want to hear this but it says something, too, when it’s Coach Miller from Solon with the reputation that he has,” Iske said. “I think the people who know him, who he is and what great character he has, especially our kids, they know Solon.
“They know Solon is a tough program and Coach Miller is a good coach. For him to say something, I definitely guarantee we had all eyes on him.”
Miller said he has attempted to reach out once a season, noting that he did something similar after a game against Fort Madison last year.
“It’s important to me as a coach to young people that our coaching staff, our fans and our community appreciated the way they played that evening,” Miller said. “It’s not just about how your community and your coaches view your performance but there are other people that can identify with your performance, appreciate and respect the way that you play.”
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Solon (2-0) hosts Marion (1-1) on Friday night. The Indians have his respect, regardless of whether he stops by their postgame huddle or not.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Miller said. “They’re a good team.”
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