MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It starts with a text. Then five more arrive in her phone, all in clear and simple statements.
The texts arrive around the same time each week – Friday afternoons and Sunday mornings.
This is the routine West Virginia women’s soccer senior Blake Miller goes through each fall.
The messages have become a regular form of good luck communication from her parents, Gary and Anita Miller.
In a technology-crazed world, the messages are far beyond the OMG, LOL and TTYL statements kids use to talk to their parents. The messages submitted between the Millers, you see, link the family from their home in St. Louis, Mo.
“We are very close,” says Miller, a captain in her final season. “My dad sends me five texts before the game. It’s the same texts, with the same message. His texts though are things I can do on the field to be a difference maker. He just knows me.”
Think Messi. Everything with speed. Good luck! Love you!
Stay high. Demand the ball. Get to the goal!
Be a captain. Play simple, one and two touch.
Play with a passion!
Call me after the game. Love you.
The interaction doesn’t stop with her dad. There’s also one from her mother each time out.
You’re awesome. I love u!
“It’s neat,” said Miller of her game day correspondences. “I appreciate it more than they know.”
Miller grew up around the game of soccer, and started kicking a ball at around age three. And she didn’t have to travel far for instruction. She just asked her dad.
“My dad started coaching me at age six,” says Miller. “I played up and when I got moved back down, my dad and another guy just created a team. I played under him all the way until I left for college.”
Playing for a parent has its positives, but if often can lead to added pressure of being the ‘coach’s kid.’ That label, however, never lasted for Miller.
“Sometimes I think I got a little bit annoyed. And it was probably in my head that he was always picking on me. But I never felt pressure because my dad was my coach.”
As the middle of five children, each sibling took their turn learning the game in the household. In fact, Gary and Anita surprised the children with a game field of their own one Christmas in the backyard.
“It was pretty cool,” smiles Miller. “It was a great Christmas gift. It even had two goals, and we thought it was the greatest thing.”
Being around the game, each sibling enjoyed their own success on the field.
“All of us played at one point growing up,” recalls the multidisciplinary studies major. “We played at different levels and had different goals. Alexis [her older sister] was serious about it and played at Eastern Illinois.”
Miller followed with a serious approach and developed into being good enough to be recruited by schools from across the country. Programs now had to not only call Gary, head coach of the St. Louis Scott Gallagher club team, but also a recruit’s father.
“He handled it well, and to be honest, he treated my process like he would for any other player on my team being recruited,” says Miller. “He made phone calls for any teammates that wanted him to, who had a desire to play in college. He just had more experience than the regular, first-time parent would I guess.”
As the recruitment process played out, it was West Virginia where she felt most at home, opting to move away from her family and friends. Miller knew she was only a phone call away from hearing a familiar voice.
“My dad knows my game probably better than anyone. He knows what to say to be me when I’m in a rut or what to say when I’m playing well,” offered Miller, a second team all-Big East performer last year. “And I still have those mother-daughter talks as well. I’m lucky to be as close to my parents as I am.”
And when Marquette heads to Georgetown for Friday’s 3 p.m. tilt, you can count on one thing – Blake Miller will be waiting on a message from home.