The Millers – Gregg, Carlotta, Mike and Dan – can certainly be considered a “First family” of East Brunswick soccer
We have created a new feature called “Q&A Corner” and we will be posting interviews highlighted often by people who have made a significant mark in the East Brunswick Soccer program.
The Millers – Gregg, Carlotta, Mike and Dan – can certainly be considered a “first family” of East Brunswick soccer. Gregg, a former collegiate player, coached in the East Brunswick Soccer Club, while sons Mike and Dan had great collegiate careers. And many in town know mom as well – Carlotta Miller, former principal at Bowne Munro. Former EBSC President Ron Brandsdorfer caught up with the Millers to talk about growing up in a soccer-crazy household.
But, first, some quick resumes:
Currently: Retired Middle School Principal
Collegiate: Defender and goalkeeper at Jacksonville University; player on Jacksonville University’s 1969 undefeated team; voted to JU’s All Decade Team of the 60s as a Defender
Currently: Supervisor, Education Dept., Kean University; retired Principal of Bowne Munro Elementary School
Currently: Assistant Soccer Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, Duke University; selected as one of College Soccer News’ Top Assistant Coaches, 2013
Collegiate career: Goalkeeper, Jacksonville University
Currently: First Vice President One West Bank, Santa Monica, CA
Collegiate career: Defender and mdfielder for Duke University; defender on the 2004 Final Four Team
EBSC: Gregg, How did Mike and Dan become interested in soccer?
Gregg: When they were between three and seven years of age, we used to kick around a 7-inch light playground ball in the yard. They enjoyed kicking, running and falling. Tiny goals were built and added for additional thrills and enjoyment. They loved scoring, playing against each other and of course trying to beat dad. We called this playtime, not soccer.
EBSC: What are your fondest memories of the East Brunswick Soccer Club?
Gregg: I enjoyed the instructional and recreational level games. This was the first time Mike and Dan played soccer on an organized team. They had fun while starting to learn about teamwork and making decisions. I recall Danny being extremely fast with a tactical awareness of the game. Mike volunteered to be in the goal when others didn’t raise their hand. Although he still played on the field, he loved the goal.
As an EBSC assistant coach I was able to work with dedicated people in the community who loved making soccer a very positive experience for children. I also remember being in charge of cleaning the bathrooms at the fairgrounds during the Labor Day Tournament. The success of the tournament was always built around everyone assisting each other. That is the true value of being a part of EBSC.
EBSC: Mike, What did you enjoy most about playing for the East Brunswick Soccer Club?
Mike: I enjoyed the camaraderie of the players and coaches which lasted through high school. Playing in the EBSC at such a young age helped to develop my skills and interest in the game. I remember players would support their teammates and also their friends playing the same day on other EBSC teams. A special example of this is the Labor Day Tournament. A group of us would walk around the fairgrounds watching games and supporting friends.
EBSC: What about you, Dan?
Dan: The Instructional League gave us our first opportunity to play on a team against good competition. I remember having fun passing to my teammates, running after the ball and experiencing the thrill of scoring goals. Many of us grew up playing with and against each other in EBSC games. Our high school had all players developed through EBSC and we were very successful.
EBSC: Mike, What was your most memorable college game?
Mike: My first start in college was my sophomore year against nationally ranked Maryland. I remember being very nervous but after my first save I settled in for a good game. It was a thrill to compete against a national contender so early in my career. The other game was against Mercer University in the conference final during my junior year. It was a close intense game for the entire match since the winner would receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
EBSC: And, Dan, you were an all-America player in high school and one of the top recruits in the country when you went to Duke. What was your best performance in a college game at Duke?
Dan: Playing against top-seeded University of Virginia in the quarterfinals of the 2004 NCAA Tournament was probably my most enjoyable and best performance. The win enabled us to advance to the Men’s College Cup Final Four in Los Angeles.
EBSC: Mike, you have become one of the country’s top collegiate soccer recruiters. What do you tell players about the importance of being a true student athlete?
Mike: We look to recruit student athletes at Duke that have a high level of academic excellence and are among the elite soccer players in the country. Many of these players have aspirations of playing professional soccer but they realize the importance of a degree from Duke University. We discuss with recruits how to manage the academic and athletic demands at Duke University. I believe there is a strong correlation between being an excellent student in the classroom and an outstanding soccer player.
EBSC: Dan, even though you pre-dated Mike’s arrival as recruiting director at Duke, your career underlines Mike’s point about the importance of finding the right balance between athletics and academics.
Dan: Taking challenging courses at Duke taught me how to budget my time and prioritize tasks. I had to allocate time for my studies in between soccer practices, games and the actual class schedule. My responsibilities at One West Bank require me to work as the leader of a team of bankers, each of us having specific tasks to accomplish. Just like at Duke, effective time management and striving to achieve a common goal are imperatives to achieving success.
EBSC: Let’s give mom the last word. Carlotta, how did you manage having Mike playing in Florida and Danny playing in North Carolina?
Carlotta: Actually, it was a very busy household before college since both played other sports. Mike played singles tennis while Dan played basketball and golf. We had to have a precise schedule in the house since there would be a soccer game and a basketball game or tennis match on the same day. The combination of sandwiches and homework in the car was a staple during those years when they both played multiple sports.
Since Mike was in college first, we would take long weekends to see him play while Dan stayed with friends since he played in EB. Eventually Gregg would go see Mike play while I stayed to watch Dan. When they both played in college the same year, we basically went to a few games on a Friday and returned on Sunday.
I enjoyed every minute watching them play and then sharing a nice dinner later on. We were very fortunate to have two sons who loved soccer and excelled at it. Gregg and I miss those years. Now we watch Mike coach and Danny play in a Santa Monica soccer league.
Justine Barbato has been around East Brunswick soccer almost her entire life. Now the junior varsity girls’ soccer coach at East Brunswick High School (as well as a physical education teacher at Churchill Junior High), Justine reflects on her playing and coaching career with former EBSC president Ron Brandsdorfer.
EBSC: You come from a soccer family, with you and your twin sister playing soccer together as well as your other sisters. How did your family get so into soccer and what did you like most about it?
Justine: I am one of five sisters in my family, and we are all soccer players! I played both EBSC and EBHS soccer with my twin sister, Jenna. My other three sisters -- Ashley, Gabby and Frankie -- all played EBSC and EBHS soccer as well. Honestly, soccer was something very new to my family when we moved from New York to East Brunswick when I was about 7-years-old. At first we were all dancers (can you believe that!) and then tried soccer and really loved the game. I think the trend caught on and that helped influence my younger sisters Gabby and Frankie to want to play as well. It was great to all be able to play on the same high school team at some point, too.
EBSC: You played on those great EBSC teams with US National Team player Heather O’Reilly– the EB Dynamite. You won the NJ state cup and then lost in the regions at Giants Stadium (I was there) on some controversial goal, if I remember. What was it like playing on such an amazing team and playing with Heather? What are your best memories from those days?
Heather was one of those players who I always knew would go far in her soccer career. Even as kids, she was always the fastest player on the field and really stood out over literally everyone. It was great to represent EBSC on the Dynamite as a really successful club team and then be able to transition with Heather to high school soccer our freshman year as well. I still keep in touch with Heather and help out at some of her Heather O'Reilly Soccer Academy workshops each year. A bunch of the girls from that original Dynamite team are still close friends, and it is really exciting for us to watch Heather in the World Cup or Olympics every few years.
EBSC: I know you had to overcome an ACL injury. That’s so common, unfortunately, among the girls (in your family, too!). How did you bounce back from that kind of serious injury? What advice would you give other players – girls and boys – who have suffered knee or other injuries?
Three of my sisters and I have all torn one (or two!) ACLs from soccer and basketball. It is a difficult injury to come back from and takes a lot of physical therapy to rebuild your strength. Luckily, though, it is possible to make a full recovery and come back even stronger. My advice to younger players would be to start at prevention. There are a ton of ACL- specific stretches and strengthening exercises that coaches have recently integrated into their team warm-ups. Stretching and warming up are very important to not only ACL, but any injury prevention.
EBSC: You played beyond high school. What was that like?
I played soccer at Montclair State University for three seasons. It was an incredible experience to be a part of a very successful women's Division 3 team. We won the NJAC championship my sophomore and made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. I still keep in touch with my teammates on a regular basis and attend the student/alumni games each year.
EBSC: Did you always want to teach and coach? What is it like for you to coach at EBHS, where you won a state championship and which has had such an amazing track record of success over the past 30 years?
The girls’ soccer tradition at EBHS is so strong and it is great to still be a part of that today. As a coach, I see the same passion and desire in my team to uphold the winning tradition that I had when I was a player over 10 years ago. A lot of girls I coach come from big soccer families like I did, so I can easily relate to the girls each year. It is really impressive to me that we have been able to transition through so many new players and coaches and still uphold the EBHS soccer success. I think a lot of that can be credited to what these girls learn from EBSC at a young age.
EBSC: How would you describe yourself as a coach? Do you have any specific coaching philosophies? What do you enjoy most?
I work a lot with underclassman on the JV team, and I like that I get to see them grow as players before they head off to the Varsity level. I try to take a relaxed approach to coaching, because I know most of the girls have already been well trained and still play on their club teams as well. I really trust their skill and am never surprised when I have winning seasons each year.
EBSC: What advice would you give young players? What advice would you give youth coaches, both rec and travel?
My advice to young players would be to keep working to improve because there is always room to grow. Make sure to condition and warm up (even though it is everyone's least favorite part!) and remember to be smart about staying healthy. I would tell youth coaches to learn from their peers and from coaches on a higher level. Most importantly, have fun! East Brunswick is a great place to grow as a soccer player.
Bob Bigos is a very familiar figure on the pitch in East Brunswick. A former coach in the East Brunswick Soccer Club, Bob has become one of the state's most highly regarded referees. He recently took some time out from his busy game schedule to talk with former EBSC president Ron Brandsdorfer.
EBSC: Bob, you went from coaching in EBSC to becoming a referee. Why the transition? What appealed to you about becoming a ref?
Bob: I actually became a referee early on in my coaching career. I felt that if I understood what the referees were looking for it would help me as a coach. During that time I would referee a couple of games a season and I gained a greater respect for what the referees were dealing with in a game. Back then it was usually a one-man referee system with parents as the assistant referees (on the lines). It was a tough way to cut my teeth, so to speak, but I think it helped me a lot.
During my son’s U-16 season he told me it would be his final season. I was a little sad about it, but I told him he had a nice, long career as a player. I wanted to stay in the sport and I had my referee patch so it seemed like the logical path to go. I got to stay in a sport I love, and it kept me in relatively good shape. So this seemed like a winning combination for me.
EBSC: Many of us remember when you first started that you used to ask both coaches, “How did I do?” after the games. You always seemed very interested in improving. Now you are considered one of the top referees in the state, regularly handling championship games and tournaments. How have you been able to achieve such success?
Bob: I was very fortunate that I was seen by referees who have been involved with soccer many more years than me and they saw something in me. I was recommended for an upgrade, which opened the door for me to work many State Cup quarterfinals, semifinals and final matches. During this time I was invited to referee at the Region 1 ODP Tournament. This is where I first got to referee with referees from the New England and Mid-Atlantic states. I was then asked to be the Head of Delegation for New Jersey at the Region 1 ODP and Championship Tournaments. At these tournaments I was surrounded by many great up-and-coming referees from the same states I mentioned earlier. The training sessions at these tournaments were second to none and I continued to learn more about my trade.
I was also personally mentored by many referees who were at higher levels than I was. One day after I got off the field in Tampa, Florida, I was talking to some other referees. When the other referees left the table, Mark Geiger, Olympic and World Cup referee, sat with me and we talked. Mark told me I should not be so humble around other referees and that I should stop telling them that I was honored to work with them. Mark said, “I have worked many games with you, Bob, and you are one of the strongest referees out there at your grade level. No one gives 100% in every match like you do, even on days like today when I could see that your knees were hurting. Still, you jumped into a match you were not originally assigned because the tournament needed an assistant.” Mark then said, “Because of your dedication I am honored to work games with you.”
EBSC: What do you find most challenging about being a referee? Most rewarding?
Bob: I think the most challenging thing about being a referee is not to take anything that is said toward me during the game personally. When the game is over, I hope that everyone -- referees, coaches and players – can shake hands and appreciate that everyone did their very best that day.
From a technical standpoint, most challenging for me is foul recognition – there’s always contact, after all -- and when to call Advantage and when not to.
There are so many rewarding moments for me. I think being able to manage the players and knowing that, when there is a hothead out on the pitch, trying to use my personality to keep them in the game and to keep the game under control and enjoyable for all the participants and spectators.
EBSC: I’ve seen coaches have good, respectful relationships with referees and I’ve seen real antagonistic situations. What advice would you give EBSC coaches and others about having a productive relationship with game referees?
Bob: Having been a coach for over 10 years, I’ve always felt that a coach is allowed to say his or her piece if they disagree with a call. But they should not overdo it and show up the referee’s authority. The referee crew does not wake up in the morning thinking, “What can I do to screw up this match?” We are doing our best -- just as the coaches and players are doing their best on the field.
EBSC: What is the one thing you would like to tell coaches and parents from your perspective as a referee?
Bob: Enjoy the game and let the kids play! On many occasions I hear either coaches or spectators yelling at the players. Most of the time this really upsets the players. When I see this I try to swing by the player and tell them they are playing a good game and try not to let the comments from the spectators get into their head.
EBSC Spotlight: Heather O’Reilly
Former EBSC president Ron Brandsdorfer recently connected with US National Team player Heather O’Reilly, who played most of her youth soccer for EBSC. Writing from Brazil, where she was participating in a tournament with the US National Team, Heather shared some thoughts on youth soccer, her start in the EBSC and life lessons garnered through soccer.
EBSC: Heather, when did you start playing soccer for EBSC?
Heather: I started playing for EBSC when I was around 4 years old (I think) in the instructional league -- Superstars. When I was young, I loved soccer because it got me out of my shell (I was shy, believe it or not!) and I had fun with my teammates. I remember that I loved soccer from day one.
EBSC: How important to your development was playing multiple sports (e.g., basketball)? Do you think that’s a good thing for a young player’s development?
Heather: I think it is an individual choice, whether or not to play just soccer or do multiple sports. For me, it was truly beneficial to play basketball because it was a way for me to cross-train in the winter, and it kept me mentally fresh for soccer (so I didn't burn out). Obviously, some very talented players have played only soccer, and think I this is what got them to a high level. So I think it is really up to the player and her or his family.
EBSC: What’s your fondest memory about playing for EBSC (and East Brunswick High School)?
Heather: I loved going to away games and trips with my club team, the East Brunswick Dynamite. Staying in hotels, swapping patches, having a cheer, growing up together … club soccer was a huge part of my youth and my development. I also loved playing for East Brunswick High School. I think one of my favorite memories of high school soccer was singing on the bus with my friends and teammates.
EBSC: What do you remember about the day you got “the call” from the National Team? You were still in high school.
Heather: My mom picked up the phone and I think she thought it was a prank! Coach April Heinrichs called me and invited me in. I was very nervous and honored.
EBSC: What’s the best piece of soccer coaching/advice you ever received (and from whom)?
Heather: I think "control what you can control" is probably the best piece of advice I have ever received and it was from Tracey Leone, my youth national team coach. She instilled in us the very valuable idea that if you bring your work ethic, fitness, discipline, and good habits to the table day in and day out, coaches will notice and it will benefit you on the field. I think those things have helped my career. The good thing is, it doesn't just apply to sports. In all things in life -- sports, school, work and otherwise -- if you worry about what you can control and complete that to the best of your ability, a lot of other things will fall in place for you. In other words, hard work and a good attitude pay off!
EBSC: What piece of advice would you give a youth player today?
Heather: I would tell all youth players to spend more time with the ball -- juggling, wall work, etc. I think if you are comfortable with the ball at your feet and put in time on your own, then when you are with your teams you are more prone to try things and experiment and get better.
EBSC: You have achieved so much in your career – as a youth player, in high school, in college, professionally, as a National Team player and Olympian. What achievement stands out in your career?
Heather: I think I am most proud of having so many caps (appearances) with the National Team. To suit up over 200 times for my country is just amazing. I have had 5 different coaching staffs with the National Team through the years and have played with many great players. Some are considered legends of the game. There are so many talented players in this country -- to be on the best women's national team in the world is a massive accomplishment and I am very proud of it. I hope there are many great achievements still to come!