HANOVERTON- United's Nancy Miller passion for connecting with kids has never changed - that's a big reason why she has been named the Fred Dafler Career Coach of the Year by the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches.
"I've always been very interested in sports. when I was coming up through high school and college, girls sports were just coming about.," Miller said. "I just felt like it would be another way outside of my classroom to connect with kids in high school besides the kids that I was having in class."
That connection with the kids has now spanned over 27 years in the classroom and on the track. Miller began her coaching career at Salem in 1980 and her style has yet to change now as the head girls track coach at United.
"I think whether it was in Salem or at United, the key to my philosophy was that you were teaching kids for life lessons and the winning was a byproduct," she said. "If you were fair and just, and did the right things, then the winning would always come."
Miller graduated from Stanton High School in 1974 and went on to the University of Findlay to receive a dual-degree in Elementary and Special Education.
After a brief absence from coaching to take care of her three young children, she couldn't ignore the urge to return for much longer.
"I really missed it," she said. "I really felt like I had a lot to offer. I was friends with the coaches at the time so when I went back as a volunteer. I just felt like there were things I could give to the kids."
When she returned, so did her high expectations and her dedication to the kids.
"Their response to me has always been pretty positive. I've had how many girls over the years and I've had very few bad experiences," she said. "When they know the expectations are high, they like to be challenged."
Miller makes it a point to have a vested interest in her athletes outside of track and she is often visible at other extra-curricular activities that her athletes partake in.
"I supported all of the activities they did and I encouraged them to do them because high school is too soon to narrow it down to one thing," she said. "I think they have always been appreciative of seeing my face around at various things and I think they appreciated the fact that I respect them as a person."
After learning she had been a recipient of the Fred Dafler Career coach of the Year award, she took the letter she receive when she was notified of the award and made an addendum to the bottom to send to her kids. The purpose was to serve as a thank you.
"You don't get something like that unless you have a lot of girls for a lot of years buy into that," Miller said. "They're all kind of sharing that award with me and they're excited for me."
Miller has also received the Ohio High School Athletic Association's Sportsmanship, Ethics and Integrity Award, marking the second honor she has garnered this year.
"I was so honored to be within that company," Miller said. "The banquet was a lot of history oriented because there were so many Olympic athletes and coaches that have represented Ohio."
United football coach Mike Ward also received the award earlier this school year.
"I think the fact that went through my mind was that we have two coaches who received that award at United this year," Miller said. "I felt pretty honored to not only be sharing it with Mike Ward, but that my school district has two of those coaches. That was pretty special to me."
Despite her awards, nothing can compare to the time that she spends with her athletes each day.
"My relationships with the kids," she said. "I have both guys and girls there, so I get a lot of young men and women that I get to have a great coaching relationship, and that is hands down the best part."