As if the Friday night lights didn’t pose enough stress on a high school athlete, imagine feeling the additional pressure of your head coach also being your dad.
Fairmont senior Braden Miller and head football coach Dave Miller are more than player and coach, they are father and son.
Miller took over the football program in 2016 after leaving Covington High School. With both of his sons in Centerville schools, Miller was faced with some tough decisions in regards to his coaching career.
“Part of the deal with me coming to Fairmont was having the entire family on board with that decision, especially Braden and his younger brother Connor because they would both more than likely end up playing football for me,” Miller said.
The support of his family played a major role in Miller interviewing for the job at Fairmont.
“When my wife Sarah gave me the okay to interview for the job, I had to make sure Braden and Connor were on board with that decision. They both were 100 percent behind the move and were very excited about the opportunity,” he said.
As a new head coach, Miller had enough on his plate, and now added the stigma around parents coaching their own kids.
“I think the toughest part about coaching Braden was trying to keep my role as dad and Coach Miller separate, especially in those moments where I was trying to challenge Braden to be a better player,” he said.
As a starting quarterback and the coaches son, Braden knew that there would be chatter and pressure.
“He probably made it harder on me to earn stuff, he didn’t wan’t people to think I was playing just because I was his son,” Braden said.
As a coach, Miller had some normal concerns upon arriving and how he would build his team.
“When it became apparent that Braden was going to be our quarterback, I was very concerned that would be seen by many as me trying to play “daddy ball” with my son. Nothing could be further from the truth. Simply put, Braden was the best we had for what that position demanded for our offense to run efficiently,” Miller said.
More than just on the field success, this father and son duo took away a lot more than just Xs and Os and wins and losses.
“My favorite part of coaching Braden was the daily contact we were able to have with each other,” Miller said.
Braden also enjoyed the connection with his dad during the season.
“Just to have that relationship with him on the field and getting to talk to him during games as a dad and as a coach,” Braden said.
A major task on the Firebird’s schedule each year is taking down the Alter Knights in their week one matchup. It is no secret that the Birds have struggled in this game for many years, but since the Miller era began, the Birds have prevailed … twice.
“Seeing Braden’s ear to ear grin after our first win against Alter last year is something I will never forget. That night our family also re-watched the game together on TV because it was FOX 45’s Thursday Night Lights. It was a really special moment for us as a family even though we all had school or work the next day and everyone was exhausted,” Miller said.
The Miller’s will share memorable moments for a lifetime and be able to look back on their experiences together as Firebirds.
“My favorite part would probably be beating Alter for the 1st time in 13 years and getting to share that experience with him,” Braden said.
With a record of 14-8 over the last two seasons, their time together has come to an end.
“I am still in a state of mourning because I know that part of our relationship has ended,” Miller said.
While it is hard not to take certain things for granted, Braden learned to appreciate the situation.
“I think looking back at it now, it was definitely a great experience.”
Despite the challenges and chatter, the Miller’s came to Fairmont and conquered as a dynamic duo that will go down in the record books.
“Being able to coach my sons is one of the greatest experiences of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Miller said.