They say you judge a man by the clothes he wears, by the car he drives, by the company he keeps. In football, you can judge a man by his program.
The ELCO football program has taken on the personality of head coach Bob Miller. Not only does it mirror him, it reflects Miller’s morals, his loyalty and his upbringing.
A figurehead, a spokesperson and a facilitator, Miller preaches and teaches accountability, doing the right thing all the time, and first and foremost, family. His players listen, then talk the talk, before walking the walk.
“I think part of it is allowing the kids to have ownership of the program, and personalizing the experience,” said Miller. “They have their music. They have their mouthpiece colors. It’s allowing them to have their own personalities. I hope these kids are reflections of what we preach. We have a lot of kids who are stand-up members in the school community.
“These kids are walking away from the program after having a lifetime experience, and that’s important to me. We have kids coming back and speaking about the program. They want to give that back.”
This season, ELCO is 5-3 overall, 2-3 in rugged Section Four of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. The Raiders are currently positioned ninth in the District Three power rankings for an AAAA classification which takes 10 teams for its postseason tournament.
But you would need more than one hand to count the number of things more important to Miller than winning. He simply sees it as a byproduct.
“Creating winners is more important than winning,” said Miller, who’s in his 12th season leading the Raiders’ program. “If you don’t have winners, you’re not going to win on the field. Our mission is to create winners on the field, better men and better teammates.”
“I feel like the season has gone better than it has in previous years,” said ELCO’s emotional leader, senior Elliott Kreider. “We’ve been more prepared, from watching film, from being in the weight room, from the things we did over the summer. We are all on the same page. We have that championship mentality, and we give 100 percent every play. That’s really what we’ve been doing all season.”
Another way to quantify ELCO’s success is through participation. The Raiders’ roster of 67 strong represents the most players ELCO has had out for football in the Miller era – and quite possibly in program history.
“I think the kids are breeding a culture for the program that other kids want to be a part of,” said Miller. “They walk it. They talk it. It’s an accepting family atmosphere that people want to be a part of. Our kids are the best recruiters.”
“The culture we bring to the team, I think it has spread throughout the school,” said Kreider. “We bond as a team. We just have a really tight bond with each other. We trust the guys next to us.
“We’ve pretty much rolled the same way since I’ve been here,” he added. “When I first came to the team I was welcomed by seniors. This year, I tried to do the same things myself. I want to build relationships and have fun.”
Family and its concept have always been important to Miller. Because the lines between his immediate family and football one sometimes become blurred, you could say he has two daughters and 60-plus adopted sons.
“It’s pretty important,” said Miller of his family. “I think it’s all I do. If I’m not here, I’m with them (wife and daughters). My assistant coaches are my extended family. All of these things with coaching, I’ve had the luxury of being around my best friends and family. I think it’s best to hear life lessons from dads. Sports can be an incredible excitement to have your kids around.”
“Family’s really important to him, and he brings that aspect to us,” said Kreider. “We puts others ahead of himself and that really means a lot to me. He’s always there if I need anything. To me, he’s basically a second dad. He always want to have fun, but he’ll tell you if you’re wrong.
“He makes me feel like his son, which I really enjoy. It’s about football, but it’s also outside of football. He’s trying to get us better as people. He pushes us to be better people at the end of the day.”
In 2012, Miller inherited the ELCO program from Mark Evans. That doesn’t seem like all that long ago, but much has changed since then.
“I guess it was an air of brash excitement,” said Miller. “I always wanted to be a head coach and I just couldn’t wait to get started. We had a small roster. We had 26 dressed kids and I just remember being proud of how they competed. I remember finally getting my shot and wanting to take on the world.
“I think the program has really elevated since 2018 and made continual steps forward, on and off the field,” he continued. “In 2017, we had a very poor season. I had to reassess what was important so the kids could come away with a better experience at ELCO.”
Over the past dozen or so years, Miller has matured as a person, evolved as a head coach, grown as a human being. The ELCO football program has followed that lead, and there are hundreds of young people who are better for it.
“Being a better dad has made me a better coach,” said Miller, who also heads the Raider track and field program. “Following my kids’ sports experiences is important to me. As a parent, kids are the most important thing you’ve got. That’s how I look at these players.”
“When graduated kids come back and look at practice now, they’re a bit taken aback at how loose things are,” concluded Miller. “When I took over the program the focus was so much on making players mentally tough. I was always trying to dig for more toughness.”
In that way, football imitates life.
Head Coach: Robert Miller
Assistant Coaches: John Carley, Robert Williams, Wyatt Hall, Earl Thomas, John Wetzel
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