Just because Avery Miller couldn’t play didn’t mean she couldn’t be a huge contributor.
Miller is a sixth-grade student at St. Martha’s, and she’s one of the best players on the Coppa Storm U12 soccer team, where she stars as a defender and a striker. During a game recently, she went down hard and ended up with a broken collarbone.
The pain was bad, but wasn’t near as bad as finding out she was going to miss a lot of time in both basketball and soccer. It was especially bad because she was scheduled to head to Florida for a tournament.
“We went to the hospital and they told me I broke my collarbone and I couldn’t go to the tournament, so I was mad,” Miller said. “We had to cancel everything. The tournament was in Florida, so I was mad I couldn’t go.”
When the team returned home from the Sunshine State, their teammate was still healing, but when you have a player with Miller’s attitude, you want her around the team.
That’s why coach Chris McKenna got the idea to use Miller’s knowledge of the game and her great demeanor to help the team from the sidelines.
She officially became a coach.
“We call her bulldog because she’s so tough, she’s a hard-nosed player,” McKenna said. “The game means so much to her, so when she was down, we had to come up with a way to keep her involved. She is such a big part of her team.
“Injuries are tough. It wasn’t a cheap shot or anything like that, it was just an unlucky play. We wanted her around, so we made her a coach. She knows a lot about the game and she’s been a big help.”
McKenna is known for pushing the right buttons on the field, but he also made a great decision adding Miller to the coaching staff. He doesn’t have to worry about losing his job just yet because she has a lot of soccer left to play, but she is catching the coaching bug from her new position.
“I loved it, it was a great experience, but I can’t wait to get out there and play with the girls,” she said. “I’m out for two months, so I’ll keep helping them as long as I can’t play. I think we’ve coached two games and it was fun.”
Not only is she doing a great job as coach, she looks the part, too. She has a cool shirt that says coach and has her number on it.
But when she’s on the sidelines, she’s the same person she is as a player.
“I am really positive and encouraging to my teammates,” Miller said. “I give them positivity when they’re down. I try to make sure they’re always up and happy. I loved doing it. They were happy to have me there, I was right there by their side, and whenever they needed help, I was right there.”
The coaching has done a great job of helping Miller bridge the gap from the time she got hurt until the time she gets back on the field. She predicts she’ll be back early next year, which would put her in position to help the team during the indoor season.
It will also get her back for her other sports.
“I play soccer, basketball, lacrosse and sometimes volleyball,” Miller said. “I just love playing sports, I like playing all of them. But my favorite is soccer. I hope to be back soon for basketball season, though.”
It hasn’t been easy, but Miller continues to recover.
It helps that she has the heart of a warrior and enjoys being around her teammates. It also helps that she had the coaching stint.
“She did the subbing, she did the lineups, she would say, ‘You two stay, everyone else off,’ she was really having fun,” said her mom Amy. She would yell, ‘Great play, great hustle,’ I’m so proud. Oh my God, she battles. Like I said I played sports, she’s 10,000 times better than me. She’s so tough. You can’t teach that.
“It meant so much to her to be able to do this. I can’t thank coach Chris enough. It’s hard to get hurt and not be able to play, especially when you love the game so much. It just meant everything to her that she was still a big part of everything.”
It helps that she has a great role model.
“I try to help, I’m a good leader to my team,” Miller said. “It just comes naturally from me and my mom teaching me how to be a great person. I try to be like my mom, I look up to her.”
And while she looks up to her role model, she’s becoming one herself. Some day, she might be taking over for McKenna.
“I’m very proud of coaching, I feel like I”m ready to get back on the field, and help my teammates even more,” she said. “They’re all doing a great. I’m happy I was able to help them.
“I would love to coach. Just how my positivity is, how I’m growing up to be a great kid and friend, I want to share that with other people.”