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Sports Column | Braden Fogal: Having Zach Miller in Massac County equals success

Sports Column | Braden Fogal: Having Zach Miller in Massac County equals success

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Welcome all, to another week where I realized how old I was on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

I made the responsible decision of setting up a vision exam about a week ago and today I ordered my first pair of glasses. This is significant news because a) it led to me discovering a new column topic and b) I used to wear glasses when I was a kid until I simply stopped wearing them.

That decision remains in the gray area of my memory where I assume I did it because I didn’t like the responsibility of wearing glasses. That has since changed now at the age of 26 and complaining about tired eyes to my girlfriend on a daily basis.

The new column topic I came up with today will be named “Lost Quotes,” a subcategory for me to share quotes from interviews that either get lost in the shuffle or didn’t make a story. These quotes will come from coaches, athletes, all-time sports legends (that I hope to meet soon), etc.

This week's entry comes to us from Massac County volleyball coach Zach Miller. Miller is entering his 15th season with the Lady Patriots; he has a 346-144 record and five regional championships in the previous seven seasons.

You might have seen this note in this week's Prep Sports Notebook, but if Massac County is given the chance to compete in 2021, the the volleyball program needs at least 28 wins to average at least 30 wins over the last decade. Miller’s first season with the program ended with a lackluster 6-20 record; and it even took a few more years to get over the hump of finishing .500.

But once the 2010-11 season came around, Massac County’s program flipped a switch and has recorded no less than 21 wins in a season since. In fact, over the last nine seasons Miller’s teams have finished below 28 wins just once — his 2016 team that finished 25-9.

I’m surprised Miller didn’t lose his job for that debacle of a season. He’s lucky he’s averaged 31 wins over the past four seasons, otherwise you might have found him working at the Metropolis McDonald’s.

Again, no shade towards McDonald’s. I worked in the food industry for six long years and everyone that has, knows it ages you double the amount. Hence, why I’m turning gray and my girlfriend has her fingers crossed I turn out looking like Richard Gere — my fingers are crossed too.

Back to Miller, because that’s who we’re really more interested in. He and I spoke about what it means to become a successful coach, and how to sustain success like he has over the last decade.

“I think as a coach...consistency starts at the top with practices and the offseason,” he said. “Preparing yourself as a head coach trickles down to your team captains, who then set an example for the underclassmen.”

Miller discussed the importance of creating a ‘culture,’ which he admitted is a token word most successful sports programs like to throw out.

“It really is an important thing to discuss, when you have a culture of consistent hard work and attention to detail,” he said. “I’ve been here long enough to establish practice routines and I get to watch the kids grow up. They come to my program in the seventh grade and leave at 18; it’s where I’m able to watch them become the individuals they’ll take into adulthood.

“I love it and wouldn’t change it.”

Massac County’s future in volleyball is clear, if your student-athletes have Miller then it equals success.

Like a great sports philosopher once said, “numbers don’t lie.”

Braden Fogal covers prep sports for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at 618-351-5118 or at braden.fogal@thesouthern.com.

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