Miller previews IRAs at weekly press conference


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May 21, 2012

Watch Miller's Press Conference Small Video Graphic

MADISON, Wis. - Women's lightweight rowing head coach Erik Miller met with the media at Monday's weekly news conference. Archived video of Miller's appearance can be found above, while a complete transcript can be found below.



Erik Miller: The team raced pretty well two weeks ago at the Eastern Sprints. It was nice to see the varsity eight put in a solid race. The freshmen eight with six inexperienced kids ended up with a first place in their event, and then our two V got second which was enough to get the team trophy for us again.

So overall it was a good team effort, and I was really happy with the results. Looking ahead to the National Championships, you know, we've raced against all the schools that we're going to see at the IRA, and we've beaten all of them at least once this season.

So it's encouraging to go into the National Championships with that under our belt. Obviously it's going to be a tough race with Stanford, Radcliff and Bucknell. Those are going to be the top competitors. But I think things have been going fairly well for the team and I like our chances.

Question 1: When you go and recruit athletes for your rowers, what's your selling point?  What's your philosophy that you're trying to get them to come here on?  You've won National Championships, but what's your personal stamp on that presentation?  

Miller: Well, Wisconsin, once kids come out here it really sells itself. It's a fun place to go to school. We get a lot of support from the athletic department.

And the reason I think kids want to come here is they know they're going to be part of a really successful program. Even if they were sort of a top dog in their high school program, they're going to have to sort of up their game if they want to be a big player here when they get to Wisconsin.

It's a talented team. And we're strong nationally every year. So it's people who are looking for a challenge that want to come here, and most of the people that are looking for something easy and are looking for a spot in a boat when they get to college without having to work for it are going to come and watch one of our practices and see that that's probably not going to happen here.

So we get a lot of kids that work really hard and want to push themselves when they get here.

Question 2: Having just raced on the Cooper River, does that help at all going back there on -- it's the same course, I would assume, right?

Miller: Yes, last time I was here -- sort of like our home course, we race there three or four times a year every year. So we definitely are looking at that every time we go back there. It's more our home course than any place else. We've raced in Madison one time in the last six years, and we've raced there three times a year. So it's definitely someplace we're comfortable with and someplace we know we can do a good job.

Question 3: What's the strength of this team?  And does it change from year to year, and if so, how is this one different from last year?

Miller: It changes a little bit. I think this year we've really been helped out with a strong hard-working freshman class. We've had talented classes before, but they've come in and not done quite as much work.

And this group has really pushed kind of from the bottom. Even from the walk-on kids who had no experience before they came here, they sort of saw the good example set by some of the experienced freshmen, and it's really sort of fed off of itself this year. The upper classmen are pushing and setting a good example but the underclassmen are doing a really good job, too.

And I think that's been our biggest thing this year is just top to bottom, there hasn't been the same -- there hasn't been a big drop-off in talent. It's been really solid from the top person right on down, pretty much through the fourth eight of people that we have. So it's been a solid team.

Question 4: How would you describe your coaching style?  Are you a task master?  How would you -- you've rowed before. You've had coaches before. How would you describe your style?

Miller: That's a good question. I'm not a big yeller. I'm fairly laid back. I think what I'm trying to get people to do is to get the most out of themselves, trying to get people on the team to take responsibility for each workout, make sure they're pushing themselves each workout and pushing their teammates.

And ultimately I can prescribe as many hard workouts as the next guy, but if the team's not doing a good job of excelling in those workouts, we're not going to get the benefit from it.

So I think I'm fairly methodical and not too up and down, fairly level headed.

Question 5: The Olympics are coming up, and I know you are part of the U.S. team for Athens. Can you describe what that's like for an athlete getting ready for Olympic games, because obviously people -- every four years -- they look at this and get enamored with it and there's a lot of hype and television exposure, international television exposure, what's that like?

Miller: It's a pretty big deal when you're taking part in it, too. And it's interesting in that it's played up every four years. But it's definitely not just a one-year process. It's a process that starts four years or eight years ahead of time for most people.

So we've got a couple of Badgers getting ready for it. Coach Clark might talk about the James brothers, they're racing tomorrow or the next day to try to get it into the men's eight. We have an athlete, Kristin Hedstrom, who will be racing; if she gets top four this weekend she'll secure her spot on the team. And the biggest thing is you race the same people, you go to the world championships and the World Cups and you see these crews every year.

But each year, you know, from the year after the Olympics, right on up to the Olympics, it gets a lot tougher. The speed gets higher. People get more focused and there's a lot of work that goes into it to making sure that on this day four years from now that's going to be your fastest performance. So it's really a progression over four years or even longer to get yourself to your best performance on that day.

Question 6: You've raced Stanford three times this year already. You guys are 1-2 in the polls. You each have the same number of first place wins, separated by one point. Are you guys really that close?

Miller: Yeah, I think we're pretty close. Stanford's done a great job. When I first started Stanford wasn't that close. That was six years ago. And their coach, Alec Costa, has done a good job building speed in their top eight and now their second eight. And they're definitely a strong program and are going to give us a good run.

When we went out to California we beat them in eights and turned around couple hours later beat them in fours and went to Boston beat them on Saturday and they beat us on Sunday. So we've been trading races back and forth. So they're definitely a strong program, and I'm expecting a pretty good race.

Question 7: Has it evolved into a rivalry under the circumstances, has that become a pretty good rivalry?  If so, what's been the standout moments of it?

Miller: Yeah, I think so. They got close what was it in 2009 they led us most of the way, at least halfway down the course, when the IRA was out in California.

And then they came back the next year, and we had beaten them early in the season and they beat us at the end of the race. And then last year they had our number pretty much the whole year. We didn't have quite the same crew we had previously or this year. And so I think that it's definitely one of the situations where you know you've got to bring your best game when you're going to be racing against them.

And as we do our race walkthroughs, our race simulations, that sort of thing, that's definitely the crew we're focused on.

I think there's a lot of respect between the two teams. Some of our rowers know their guys, and I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff. So it's fun to race against them. And we are hoping to get the better of them this time around.

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