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Gripping, ripping and preparing for the next level; Miller brothers help high school lacrosse players reach their college dreams

Sports

Gripping, ripping and preparing for the next level; Miller brothers help high school lacrosse players reach their college dreams

Former Yarmouth High boys' lacrosse standouts Jon and Sam Miller had different experiences as they transitioned from high school stars to playing at the next level, but the brothers agree that one thing lacking for local college aspirants is someone to help with the recruiting process.

Jon Miller, who led the Clippers to their first state championship back in 2004 (and was Yarmouth's Spring Male Athlete of the Year that season) and Sam Miller, who played on a pair of title winners before graduating in 2008,  have created a way for those who want to play in college to learn and improve their chances.

Last week, the first annual Grip and Rip Lacrosse Camp was held on Yarmouth High's turf field. The Millers gave 19 local players, of varying ages and abilities, advice and insight, while also honing skills in a fun and competitive environment.

"One of the things we really wanted to do was help kids understand the
recruiting process for playing college lacrosse," said Sam Miller, who just completed his freshman year at Hobart College. "It's quite a
nervewracking, confusing process at times. When to talk to coaches, how
to approach them, things like that.

"My recruiting process, I was looking at all levels. I ended up getting
recruited by a particular school, but didn't get in because of my
academics. I was planning on getting in. It was a setback. This is
another reason we're doing this. I don't want kids to get (affected)
like I did. I went to Hobart, not knowing if I would play college
lacrosse. I ended up walking on to the team and now I love it. I'm
extremely happy."

"There aren't many camps for high schoolers in this area," said Jon Miller, who helped Union College rise from an also-ran to a powerhouse in his four years, which culminated with a team captaincy, a Most Outstanding Offensive Player award and a mention on the Division III All-American team. He also spent a year playing and coaching in England before coming home to help coach his alma mater to last month's Class B championship. "We wanted to
have a place where all the kids in the area could come to. It makes for
a friendly, fun atmosphere.

"When I was looking for schools, I wanted to play Division III and I was looking for a school with engineering. I had a list of a bunch of liberal arts schools that had engineering. I really just picked the school that was the best match for me. Union wasn't a good program at all when I went there, but it turned out to be a great experience for me. By the time I was a senior, we set a record for most wins in a season. We took the program from 4-11 to 12-5 when I graduated. It was pretty cool. I might have been able to play Division I or somewhere better, it still was a great experience."

The sport of lacrosse is still relatively young in the state of Maine, but it's popularity has exploded and the state has produced no shortage of college talent. With more and more players looking to compete at the next level, the Millers feel the time is right for a camp such as theirs.

"To be honest, Sam's quite the little entrepreneur and wanted to start a
camp," said Jon Miller. "We had to think of a name and ideas. It's good for the young
players to have an idea of what they're coming into. We have one kid going into his freshman year and a couple kids who are still pretty young. There are a bunch who are trying to get better and improve and learn the process and play somewhere. We have one kid, Jake Gallagher, who just graduated from Yarmouth, but isn't sure if he wants to play in college. He came to get some final tips and learn how to talk to coaches and maybe walk-on."

"We've accepted all kids who have played a year of high school
lacrosse," added Sam Miller. "Freshman and sophomore years are big for improving. Junior
year is the biggest year for high school players. By senior year,
you're often accepted to a college, so junior year is big. We also take
seniors. Just because you're recruited, doesn't necessarily mean you're
on a team. There's still things you need to improve on."

One of the unique selling points of Grip and Rip is the concentrated ratio of coaches to players. While many kids will attend a showcase camp and be one of hundreds, here, the Millers work individually with every participant.

"We're really trying to work one-on-one with a low
coach-player ratio," Sam Miller said. "That's a big aspect of our camp. Jon and I were both really good power shooters and outside shooters
when we were in high school.  Jon was a great shooter at the college
level too. "

"(Sam) was attack and I was a middie," said Jon Miller. "He's been taking kids one-on-one and doing very technical stuff and I've been doing other stuff like power shooting, shooting on the run. You know, stuff that kids want to learn for the girls! I'm trying to teach them to be aggressive and showcase themselves for the coaches. For high schoolers, there are always recruiting camps where the college coaches go, but they're not learning technical stuff, there's like 500 kids and they're just trying to play. The camps aren't teaching them how to get better."

While the one-week camp has come and gone, the brothers aren't resting on their laurels. They're planning a youth clinic later this month, aimed at younger kids. For five Tuesday evenings, beginning July 21, players in grades 2 through 8, will learn the sport in a fun setting. The Millers are already looking ahead to the summer of 2010 as well.

"I think one thing we ultimately want to do is work with younger kids," said Sam Miller.
"We're really going to try next year to build it even more and have two
camps, one for younger kids and one for high schoolers. There really
aren't many opportunities for kids to play in the summer. For a lot of
kids, it's a one-season sport. That's what we really want to do.
Ultimately have it be something that kids go to each summer to improve
their skills."

Look for this unique idea to flourish going forward. It stands to reason that before long, players of all abilities, from those just learning the sport, to those eager to compete in college, will be influenced by two brothers from Yarmouth.

"Personally, I feel like we know enough kids to take as many as we can," Sam Miller said. "Jon and I both have teammates not only from Yarmouth, but I have
friends from Hobart and he has friends from Union. We feel we could get
a staff to support a large camp and still have a one-on-one approach. We really want to get the different communities together. Not just Yarmouth."

"We have 19 kids this year and our goal for next year is 35," added Jon Miller.

For more information on Grip and Rip camps and clinics, visit gripandriplacrosse.com.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net