Coach Julie Miller is the essence of 'cool'
June 9, 2008 · Updated 8:33 PM
She dresses like her players, likes their music and helps them win.
Shes thought of as a cool mom, she acts like one of the kids she coaches, and she stays calm no matter what happens.
Whether its keeping one of her injured players company in a Yakima hospital as she did in the 2002 state tournament or trying to keep her team fed and rested after theyve played at 11:30 at night (which happened in the 2003 state tournament), Julie Miller always keeps her cool.
Well, almost always.
At Districts against Newport I got mad and I yelled, because there was a messup in the subs, the Spartan volleyball coach admits. When the timeout came, I yelled at them and told them what they were doing was unacceptable.
I cant say that helped them by any means, because we lost. But I think at that point that situation deserved for me to yell because they werent doing the things that they were supposed to be doing.
The Spartan volleyball team hasnt done many things wrong this season, and Millers demeanor is one of the reasons that Bainbridge is making its fourth straight trip to the state tournament at the Everett Events Center and are ranked ninth in the state in the 3A state coaches poll.
While Miller doesnt yell over every little thing, when its needed, its well-deserved, her players say.
Its not like a lose your temper type of thing. Its more like, frustrated, said junior middle blocker Marijke Schwarz-Smith.
Said junior Hannah Stewart of Millers unhappiness against Newport, It wasnt that we were losing, its that we werent playing how we could, Stuart continued. Shes always striving for us to play the best that we can.
Even her daughter Michelle, who played volleyball for Miller for four years, as well as youth basketball teams and soccer teams she coached, knows how well she works with others.
It just comes down to having confidence and faith in people to let them do their jobs, said Michelle Miller, now a member of the University of New Mexico volleyball team. She doesnt feel she needs to get in everyones face, which is a good way to deal with girls.
She gives you a lot of room to make your mistakes, which helps your problem-solving abilities when youre older and making decisions without your coaches around.
Growing up in Brown Deer, Wis., in a big family she had six sisters and two brothers Julie Miller was part of volleyball as a child, but as the middle child, didnt quite warm up to the game at first.
Maybe that makes me understand kids better, because I was a troublemaker when I was young, she said. I think it was more I was trying to be anti-whatever.
She finally took to the game in the fifth grade and quickly fell in love with it. She found success with Dominican High, played on a state championship team her sophomore year with her sisters, then took second in her junior and senior years.
At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, her team finished in the top five at nationals for three years, but she got sick of school and left college.
She got married, moved between Florida, Wisconsin and Seattle, then moved to the island for good in 1990 when her husband found a job.
She found work as a baker at Bainbridge Bakery while coaching youth area soccer and basketball teams.
A few years later, after moving on to the sports programs at the park district, she started coaching volleyball at the high school.
She started with the C-team, then moved up to the JV next year. When the varsity coach retired in 1998, she took his spot and has been there ever since.
The program was competitive, but it wasnt until girls who were involved in club volleyball began playing with the team Sarah Frazee started the trend that Bainbridge volleyball began its climb to greatness.
When you have a program that wins, it definitely makes people wanna go Whoa, maybe we can play that (sport), Miller said. Were not a hardcore sport where we demand you play out of season, but if you want to, its great.
Schramling said being around Milller is entertaining and she feels Millers demeanor is a key to helping the kids succeed on the court.
I do think she remains calm most of the time, she said. But when the girls are playing down or are playing scared because they arent doing well, she raises her intensity so hopefully they will, too.
Miller, who is by her admission a very intense and competitive person, knows that her style may not be for everyone, especially girls.
The kids know when the pressures on, she said. They dont need me to yell at them to tell them that.
Ive always decided the way to get kids to be motivated is to make them learn how to motivate themselves. Theyre not going to play volleyball forever, so they need to have that confidence and they need to motivate and problem solve by themselves, so its my job to translate volleyball into the regular life stuff.
Her daughter Michelle said shes done a fine job of that.
I know a lot of girls get along with her real well, she said. I always enjoyed spending time with my mom and you can talk to her about anything. Shes definetly a cool mom.
Julie Milller fits that cool part to a tee, dressing like many of her players and listening to much of the same music they do.
I have to say, I like all the kids music and I like a lot of the clothes, she said, as she shares music with her son Theo, a big fan of hip-hop. I dont ever feel the need to make a gap there.
It sounds stupid, but were all people and it doesnt have to be separated to where its kids and adults. The only real difference between me and kids is number one, Im older and number two, I have a job and they go to school. But other than that, the stuff you do is exactly the same. Its finding different ways of expressing it.
You can be yourself around her and you dont have to be Oh my God, its the coach! said Schwarz-Smith, who considers her just one of the kids.
Said Stuart, Its not like normal coaching. She treats us as equals.
And it wouldnt be the same if another person was there teaching them how to time that kill just right.
I cant imagine not having Julie as a coach, Schwarz-Smith said. I cant imagine volleyball on Bainbridge without her.
Even if she wins a title this weekend, Julie said she wont lose her cool. Well, maybe.
If we win, I might jump up and down, she said. I dont think Id cry. But Id be like, Sweet!