A passion for soccer

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 3, 2007

MURFREESBORO, N.C.—David Beckham aside, soccer is not exactly a household sport in Western Tidewater and most of northeastern North Carolina. Ken Miller, the head men’s soccer coach at Chowan University, hopes to change that — and improve his program at the same time.

During June and July, Miller held three weeks of soccer camps at Chowan with a total of 50 participants. A player and then coach at Carson-Newman College, Miller hopes this first-ever soccer camp at Chowan will begin to build interest in the community in soccer.

“This is a low economic area, and with that you don’t get the coaches coming to the area for certain sports, soccer being one of them,” he said. “Nobody has ever done a camp here at Chowan and me being passionate about the game and being hired here to turn the program around, I can’t turn the program around without the success of the community.”

Miller has a long way to go to turn the program around, which has been in existence for 11 years. Since 2000, the Chowan men’s soccer team is 15-98-3, a far cry from the Division II Top 25 teams he helped coach at Carson-Newman.

“I have the same aspirations in leading Chowan. I played there (Carson-Newman) and understand the small-school environment,” said Miller, who is in his second year with the Hawks. “I want to build Chowan to the same type of program that Carson-Newman has.”

Miller said improvement starts from the ground up, with area kids who might be Chowan’s future players.

“The best way to compete is to grow an interest for your sport. Historically, soccer is a third- or fourth-tier sport in the U.S., even though it’s probably one of the most played games by younger kids,” he said. “As they get older, the money is in football, basketball and baseball. You have to grow that support and passion and that starts at a younger age.”

“We need the support soccer-wise here to grow the passion and to grow the players,” he added. “Maybe these could be future players at Chowan, or at whatever institution they decide to play collegiately. That would be good for the overall growth and development of the game.”

During the camp, which ranged in age from under-5 to under-18, Miller used different tactics to keep kids interested. The younger kids played different games that stressed fundamentals “without them knowing it,” while the older kids worked more on drills. He said that keeping the younger kids’ attention is important in getting them hooked on the sport.

“If you can get kids hooked, the growth and development will come. If they enjoy the game, they will keep coming back, and then you work on the technical aspects and the tactical aspects,” he said.