Player Profile: Mariah Miller
Not too long ago we spoke with Madison Dragons SC for a Spotlight article and at the end of the interview we asked if there were any players we might be able to speak with for a Player Profile – we were pointed in the direction of Mariah Miller. The ambitions student-athlete had to finish her term before she had a single moment free to answer our questions, but once she was able, Mariah was kind enough to tell us her story.
Where does your soccer story start? Did you play youth parks and rec and club? High School? At what point in your progression from youth to where you are, did you fall in love with soccer?
My story starts like a lot of four-year-old’s, not really knowing what I loved, but trying everything anyway. I had an older sister that was a dancer so my mom thought maybe I’d try that too! She soon realized that was not my thing, I had way too much energy and not the dancer coordination. I had some cousins that played soccer so we tried that out next. While other kids were picking flowers, I was scoring goals, and that’s when they knew I was where I belonged. I played a few years for the parks and rec program until I was too good and my parents signed my up for a select team. That’s when I remember really falling in love with the game. It’s crazy how a coach or mentor can really have such a great effect on your life and career. I remember my coaches like it was yesterday, Zoe and Larry, they were a father and daughter team. I remember how they wanted us to have fun and to win, but to still love the game, and that’s exactly what happened. I realized in those years that soccer was really my passion and I was pretty good at it. When I was 11 my family took a job in Ohio, and as a girl growing up spending all of my years in Washington, I had no idea what to expect of a place so far away where I knew no one and nothing. When my parents went to look for a place to live, they chose the town with the most soccer fields because they knew how important it was to me. That move was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. Soccer, and sports in general are bigger and more competitive in general than where I was from in Washington. I continued to play at a high level throughout high school and club and remember traveling hours into multiple states for a “home game.” I had a few offers going into college but decided to focus on my school and career and to continue to play soccer for fun.
What players or clubs do you follow? Has that changed as you've grown into the game? Speaking of support, who are your biggest supporters? Who, if anyone, do you inspire or hope to inspire?
The clubs I enjoy watching are Barcelona because of their style of play and because I try to model my style after Messi, the Columbus Crew just because they were the local pro team, and the US women’s national team of course. Tobin Heath is probably my favorite women’s player to watch right now. I like her speed and her footwork and how crafty she is. As for me, my parents have always been my biggest supporters. They’ve driven me thousands of miles to games and never missed me play. Since I now play in Idaho, they can’t travel to watch me play but always jump on our live stream to show their support. I would not be the person or player I am today without them. Soccer for women is still a growing sport and I hope that young girls will see us play and want to try it out and evolve the game even more! I have a 4-year-old niece that likes to dance but I try to make her kick a ball around with me in the backyard every time I see her so that maybe she’ll change her mind and want to be a soccer player instead, but we’ll see if that happens.
As a player, where are your strengths on the pitch? Where can you seek to improve? Off the pitch as well, what motivates you and where do you seek personal growth?
On the pitch, I’m the type of player that always thinks I can improve. I like to stay pretty humble about my abilities, but I think I do have some natural abilities that I like to utilize. I’m a natural forward but occasionally will play outside mid because of my speed. I’d say speed is my number one strength on the field. I can usually beat the defenders by just pure speed but would love to improve on my footwork with the speed. I like to think I’m pretty good at scoring goals because that what my role is, but I also take the teams corner kicks and occasionally free kicks as well. Off the pitch I’m a student and I work full time. I’m majoring in athletic training and love to help people heal and improve. One of my strengths off the field is serving people and helping others. I work on two campus jobs, one at the university store and one in the treatment room for sports first aid. I’ve been in multiple leadership positions and love to help lead people. I was also a captain of my club team last year and hope to be again this year.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Are you playing soccer just for the love of the sport or are you seeking a NWSL opportunity? Do you see yourself staying in soccer as a coach and mentor, or are there too few career opportunities and a non-soccer career beckon?
In five years, I’ll be done with school and have my degree in athletic training. I hope to always play soccer, but probably just for fun after a while. Soccer has been a huge part of my life forever and I don’t think I could ever just cut it out of my life completely. I would love to coach but hopefully with my career I will be able to be around the sport still and help athletes grow and improve.
If a new women's soccer club is starting up tomorrow, what's the best piece of advice you can give to the potential owners? Any advice you'd have for the women trying out?
If a new club was starting tomorrow, I think the best thing for potential owners would be to really get the name out and spread the news about the club. That’s what will really grow the club and help get good players and more competition. The club that I play for now is fairly new and our first semester it was pretty tough to have enough players and be competitive. We decided to get out in the community and spread the word about our club. We sought out sponsorships that helped pay for games and uniforms and those things also made us more competitive. This past semester we had more players try out and had a much more competitive team that did much better in our small league. These small steps were important in getting things started and to set a good foundation for the team. For players trying out I think the best things they can do are obviously to prepare for the season early, to get in the weight room and on the track and to be in shape, and to be coachable. It’s so important for players to know that even if they’ve been playing for 20 years, they can still improve and learn new things. Coaches want talent but they also want their players to be able to play together and for that to happen the players need to be willing to change and improve.
The 2019 World Cup recently ended. Who did you pull for? What's was the most exciting aspect?
I watched almost all of the women’s World Cup games and was really impressed with a lot of the teams and players. The US team is obviously very impressive and deserved to win. That team was fun to watch and had so much talent. I was also really impressed with France and wished they had made it further, but not further than the US of course.
Last question, and it’s a doozy, we ask this of many of our Spotlights; Chewy Chips Ahoy or Original? (If neither, what is your guilty snack of choice?)
Neither! I’m actually not a fan of chocolate. My guilty pleasure would have to be cheesecake or maybe a fresh Krispy Kreme doughnut!!