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Coaching runs in the Miller family
Written by Brian Bergner   
Thursday, 11 August 2011 08:00

Dave Miller, left, and his wife, Debbie Miller, stay still for a moment to take a picture at a soccer barbecue for alumni players Saturday, Aug. 6. The Millers coach at Camp Verde High School. Dave Miller is the head man in charge for the varsity boys soccer team and Debbie Miller coaches the varsity softball team.For Dave and Debbie Miller, coaching is a part of life.

Ask any athlete who thanks them for their recent success on the field, or in life, and nine times out of 10, they point to a past coach.

The Millers have gone the distance and beyond for the hundreds of kids they’ve coached in the last two decades at Camp Verde High School.

More times than not, the significant other of a coach is usually on the sidelines cheering his or her loved ones on in full support. People see it on television, with coaches’ wives sitting in the stands, living every moment just as their husbands are on the sidelines.

Sometimes, roles are reversed, and people see the husband in the stands, cheering on his wife and her respective team.

Rarely do people see both the husband and wife so enthralled in a community of sports, coaching two separate sports in two different times of year. That’s what the Town of Camp Verde sees in the Millers.

Both have won state championships in Camp Verde, the first coming in 2004 for Dave Miller when his boys soccer team won the 1A-3A conference state crown. The second came in 2009 for Debbie Miller, who watched her team jump for joy on the softball diamond after earning the school’s first state title in nearly 30 years.

Both watch on the sidelines, living through every moment, then going home and talking about it, bouncing ideas off one another. Both have been around long enough to earn the respect of their peers and the kids they coach.

When asked what it’s like to have a wife who is just as competitive as he is, Dave Miller said it keeps them both from driving each other crazy.

“After the soccer season is over on the bus ride home, I always pull out a blank pad of paper and begin writing a projected lineup for next year’s squad. That drives her nuts, because most of the time she’s sitting right next to me,” Miller said with a smile. “But then she sits back and completely understands, because she goes through the same thing.”

When Debbie Miller was asked the same question, she had a little different answer, but the thought process was still the same.

“I think we use it to our advantage,” Miller said of being a married couple who coaches kids. “We bounce things off one another, and we complement each other. He gives me a male’s point of view because he coaches boys. It can be very helpful. It’s a unique situation, but it’s special. He’s always been supportive.”

Dave Miller, who is originally from Ganado, grew up in Flagstaff and eventually graduated from Coconino High School in 1971. Debbie Miller graduated from Coconino in 1973, but the two didn’t date during that time.

“I look back, and I barely remember him. I didn’t know who he was. It was only after high school that we started dating,” Debbie Miller said.

After high school, Dave Miller took a job stocking for a local grocery store, which is where the two met and began dating before tying the knot in 1976.

Dave Miller ran for the cross country team in high school and was a wrestler.

“I actually never played soccer. I didn’t even get involved in soccer until my kids did years later when they were young,” Dave Miller said.

As for Debbie Miller, she played two years of varsity volleyball for Coconino before graduating, but the school did not offer softball for girls at the time.

The two eventually went on to Northern Arizona University, but Debbie Miller was the only one to graduate, getting her degree in physical education and health management in 1977, a year after the two were married.

“I actually played volleyball, basketball and softball for NAU. My senior year, however, I didn’t play any of those sports, and looking back at it now, I wish I did,” Debbie Miller said.

Debbie Miller started substitute teaching but was more concerned with raising her kids while Dave Miller worked as a grocery store manager.

Eventually, the Millers bought a house in Camp Verde in the summer of 1993 and brought all five kids with them.

Debbie Miller began working at the local elementary school after earning her certification, and the two began their coaching careers at Camp Verde not long after.

Dave Miller was quick to add how he got involved in coaching high school sports.

“At the time, the boys had a varsity and a junior varsity and the girls were just adding a team. In a parent meeting, the coach said we need volunteers to help out or we’re going to dissolve the team. My wife raised her hand and said, ‘My husband will do it,’” Dave Miller said with a laugh as he recalled that night nearly 16 years ago.

Dave Miller began as a parent volunteer for a year, then coached the junior varsity before eventually taking over in 2000 as the head coach for the Cowboys.

Since that time, Dave Miller has won six regional championships and one state title in 2004, one of the most successful runs for a coach at Camp Verde.

As for Debbie Miller, she started coaching softball for the Cowboys as a junior varsity coach, then took over the program in 1996. During her time, the Cowboys have won seven regional titles and one state title in 2009, and qualified for the state playoffs nearly every season.

“When he won the state title, all I could think about was I wanted to win one too.

We support each other, and we work together,” Debbie Miller said.

In a few weeks when the soccer season gets under way, Dave Miller will be pacing the sidelines as always, barking out orders to his troops while Debbie Miller sits calmly in a lawn chair, doing stats for the Cowboys as she has done for a decade.

When softball season comes in February, Dave Miller will frequent the stands, cheering on the Cowboys, but more importantly, cheering on his wife.

“This is what we do; it’s our life,” Dave Miller said.

It won’t be long before one or two of the couple’s five children or 11 grandchildren are doing the same. Coaching runs in the family.


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