Volume 16, Number 28 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 9-16, 2003
Downtown kicker juggles school & ball (552 times)
By Judith Stiles
Nathan Miller has been affectionately described by his teammates at the Downtown United Soccer Club as the “Master Juggler.” What comes to mind is a guy from the circus struggling to toss several rubber balls, bowling pins or sticks of fire from hand to hand. However, Miller is an expert at juggling one soccer ball off his feet (sometimes knees and head) without the ball landing on the ground. To be specific, his all-time record is 552 times! If you think it is easy, just put the newspaper down right now and try it just three times for starters. Did you say easy?
To master this skill, as any soccer player knows, it requires focus, stamina, and practice, practice, practice. This young man who plays in both the Downtown Soccer League and DUSC, perfected the art of juggling in the months following 9/11 when he was abruptly dislocated from his home at Battery Park City and his school, P.S. 89. According to his mother, Judy Fox, Miller lost everything from his room: his beloved books and toys and clothes. However, he did not lose his love of soccer, and with a new ball, he moved with his parents to temporary housing at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. Juggling in the hotel room was “tricky” with lamps and breakables at arms’ length. Fortunately, due to his great ball control, Miller did not break a single thing and eventually moved his relentless practicing outdoors to a nearby courtyard. Playing with his U-10 (under 10 years old) team at DUSC and being with his buddies kept a shred of normalcy going during that enormously difficult period in his life.
Two years later, Miller is back in his home, loving his new school and thriving in the world of youth soccer. He was selected for the prestigious Eastern New York State Soccer Olympic Development Program after five grueling tryouts. The aim of the program is to identify players of the highest caliber and develop their talent. It is hoped this program will eventually lead to increased success for the U.S. national teams in the international arena.
In January, Miller will be going with four of his DUSC teammates (Danny Sholtz, Andres Fernandez, Matthew Cooke and Spencer Brown) to the Disney Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., to compete in the national “GOT MILK — 3 v 3 Tournament”(no goalies, three players on a side). Between these types of big events you are likely to find Miller at his U-12 DUSC games, tournaments, local pickup games or just about any game in town where the team is short of players. Wherever he plays, he’s known for his understanding of the game and his fancy footwork.
How far will Miller’s talent take him? Only the future can tell. However, recently on the sidelines of one of Miller’s games, a self-ordained “childhood expert” proclaimed “that many children have natural ability, but to excel at the violin, gymnastics and even soccer, a child has to work hard at his or her ‘craft.’ ” Immediately a heated debate ensued about whether or not children today are overscheduled and treated like little adults on a mini-career path.
The debate about the intensity of youth sports has become a nationwide one, with some towns such as Montclair, N.J., having prohibited soccer from being played in schools year round in order to lessen the pressure of children being overscheduled from, for example, playing baseball and soccer in the same season. However, if you ask Miller if it felt like “work” to get to the point of juggling the ball 552 times in a row, he says, “Juggling the ball is really fun and I love soccer!”
There is a buzz among the coaches at Downtown United about Miller’s juggling record. Seasoned trainers are scratching their heads trying to guess how many minutes it took Miller to reach 552. One thing they are certain about is that he has the drive to go far in the world of youth soccer and they are betting if there is a world’s record of juggling, Miller will break it.
(The Guinness Book of World Records’ Web page lists the record for juggling a soccer ball on one’s head as 548, set by John Evans a few years ago at a Leeds, England, shopping mall. Guinness’ Web page didn’t have a record for juggling a soccer ball by combination of foot, knee and/or head.)