Inside the Miller Athletic Factory
Carrie and Saul Miller of Riverside are like most parents when they say they’d do anything for their kids. But in their case, the efforts have been unusually successful, producing several All-American athletes.
The trophy-covered walls in their den attest to the fact that the five Miller children have achieved prominence in a variety of sports, and excelled academically and musically as well.
Daughter Cheryl, 22, a junior at the University of Southern California, is perhaps the best known of the Miller offspring. A record-breaking basketball career at Riverside Poly High School attracted national attention, and Cheryl has continued her success on the women’s basketball team at USC.
A member of last year’s winning Olympic basketball team, she has also received numerous All-American awards, and recently won the Naismith Trophy, awarded to the nation’s outstanding college player, for the second year in a row.
Reggie, 19, a sophomore at the University of California, Los Angeles, came home from college basketball’s 1985 National Invitational Tournament with the Most Valuable Player trophy to add to the impressive array of silver in the Miller home.
Darrell, 26, a college All-American at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, is now a utility player with the California Angels; while Tammy, 17, a junior at Poly High School, is on the track and volleyball teams, and also plays the flute.
Eldest son Saul Jr., 29, chose a musical career and is now playing saxophone with The Airmen of Note, the U.S. Air Force’s premiere jazz ensemble. He is stationed in Washington, D.C. with his wife Glenda.
His father says, “He may have been the best athlete we had, but he didn’t have the right temperament to play sports, so now he’s strictly the musician.”
The Miller children grew up participating in a variety of sports, and were also encouraged to learn music, according to Saul, who says that eventually “all filtered out in areas of their choice.”
Having to choose which sport to pursue may have been one of the toughest decisions each Miller had to make. Saul points out that in 10th grade, Darrell was playing baseball, basketball, football and track, as well as maintaining a 3.5 grade point average.
Saul was an All-American basketball player himself during his high school days in Memphis, Tennessee, and also played baseball and the saxophone. So it’s easy to see where the Miller children inherited their talents.
And Carrie says she used to play baseball with her brothers, although she didn’t participate in organized sports. She grew up in Florida and attended nursing school in Atlanta, later working in a Memphis hospital as a registered nurse.
One of her classmates was Saul’s sister Julia, who introduced her brother to Carrie, and it was the beginning of “a long friendship,” as Carrie laughingly describes their 30-year marriage.
Saul has been the director of computer operations at Riverside Community Hospital for the last seven years and spent 25 years before that working with computers in the Air Force, starting in “the punch card stage.”
His military career brought the family to Riverside when he was transferred to March Air Force Base in 1963.
Today the Millers live in a comfortable modern home in the Canyon Crest area of Riverside. Only their youngest daughter, Tammy, still lives at home, but Darrell, Cheryl and Reggie are still close enough to visit frequently.
The back yard is dominated by a concrete basketball court, where the Miller children spent countless hours practicing their game. Whenever their father felt they needed a little work in one area, it was out to the back yard for an intense session in basketball technique.
If practicing on the court wasn’t enough to produce the desired results, they also had to run up and down the steep hillside at the end of the yard, or do laps around the neighborhood, which has another hill to climb.
But what is it that sets the Miller children apart from hordes of other athletically talented youngsters who also train long, hard hours?
Saul characterizes it as “having a spiritual background” that enables them “to utilize the ability that was given to them in a positive manner.”
The family attends First Baptist Church in Riverside, and Carrie says firmly, “That’s a must. We need that guidance to keep everything in perspective.”
Discipline is another factor. “We believe in kids really minding,” says Saul. “Having a high respect for other people – not just your parents, but for anyone’s parents, and for the individual.”
Carrie says that “the togetherness that Saul and I displayed when the children were growing up” was an important influence on the family.
“They’re all so close,” says Saul. “People think there should be some animosity. They’t get on each other’s cases if one of them isn’t doing as well as he or she could be, and get them out in the back yard to work on it. They each give a lot of advice and help to the other ones.”
That kind of team spirit is essential in a family with five children competing in assorted activities at the same time, sometimes in different areas of the country.
The Millers have learned to organize, and try to have at least one family member at each child’s game, but often have to leave early to travel to the next event.
They have a big calendar devoted exclusively to their children’s athletic schedules, and carries says, “The first thing we do each day is check what’s out there and who’s going to do it.”
But sports aren’t everything. “We stress academic, too,” says Carrie, and the Millers are proud that their children have done well scholastically, in addition to their athletic achievement.
What does the future hold for the busy Miller family? Well, Tammy still has to decide on a college career, and the other children have promising futures that seem likely to keep them occupied for the next few years.
“It’s still a lot of fun keeping up with the kids,” says Carrie with a smile. She admits she does like to relax by working ith her plants, and the house is filled with examples of her green thumb.
Saul, meanwhile, has been known to “adopt” other youngsters in need of a little coaching, and still spends a lot of time out on that basketball court. Last summer he had the U.W. Women’s Olympic Basketball Team over for a cookout and says, “I’m kind of known as the basketball barbecuing guru.”
“We don’t want to leave Riverside,” he says. “It’s the kids’ home, and they’re happy that we’re about to follow all of them. Our life is surrounded by the kids and their activities.”
Carrie says she doesn’t mind the long drives on the freeway, constantly washing uniforms or fixing food for the whole team. “It’s all worth it because they’re all doing positive things,” she says of her children. “They’re worth everything we do for them.”