Long before he took over as the women’s soccer coach at Northwest College in 2019, Aaron Miller was familiar with Powell, Wyoming.
As the former head coach of the men’s and women’s teams at Trinidad State Junior College, a fellow NJCAA Region IX program, his teams consistently played against the Trappers. Miller even won a Region IX men’s title back in 2014 on the NWC campus.
And that’s when he fell in love with the school.
“It’s always been in the back of my head,” Miller said. “When I won here, I thought, ‘This is somewhere I could coach one day.’ It’s great to now coach here.”
After a four-win season coaching the women’s team in 2019, Miller will now lead both the women’s and men’s teams at NWC in 2020. It’s something he did for multiple seasons while coaching Trinidad State — and he was able to sustain success while doing so.
Having the same coach for both programs helps create a stronger bond between the squads, he said.
“Working with both side by side helps build a program culture,” Miller said. “In the past, I’ve identified that culture and used it to build chemistry. Everyone looks out for each other on both teams. For both soccer and school, we now have that sideline support, which is great.”
Miller’s first year coaching both programs will be anything but normal. Back in July, the NJCAA decided to postpone fall competition to the spring semester, including soccer.
The regular season will now begin in early April with spring practice permitted to start in mid-March. NWC will train from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31 for its 60-day fall practice period.
While Miller and others were hoping for a fall season, this extended offseason could benefit the team when spring rolls around.
“Everyone was forecasting it, and it is what it is,” Miller said of the postponement. “It gives us an opportunity to build a team chemistry before the season and get familiar with strategies. It’s different than the past, but it could help us out.”
Students are back on campus, and the fall practice season is now just weeks away. But there could be challenges for Miller in the months leading up to the season.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made some of his players apprehensive about returning to campus, Miller said. And with a handful of international student-athletes on both the men’s and women’s side, arriving in Powell could be difficult amid the stressful travel conditions resulting from the pandemic.
“With all of this, it may be a bright spot that soccer is delayed to the spring,” Miller said. “We hope everyone can get here in time.”
Between the delayed season and the ongoing effects of the virus, no one knows what the season will look like. But Miller hopes the community is invested when the time arises — the same community he fell in love with back in 2014,
“It’s important for these student-athletes to have a good experience,” Miller said. “I hope the community stays ambitious. We want them to feel that community connection.”