University of Wisconsin-Superior
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Derek Miller, a 2006 graduate in Biology and Physics, is the CEO and owner of Next Generation HKY and FIT Inc., a company dedicated to player development. He and his staff of 25 part-time employees, work with approximately 3000 athletes per year, including youth, NCAA, semi-pro, and NHL hockey players. His company runs 25 separate annual youth programs, train 40 plus teams, and contract with four Canadian youth hockey associations as their development team. They do not target any specific person; rather develop the potential of clients ranging from age four to 64. Miller has also been the head of development and national team head coach for Scottish ice hockey since 2008.
Unlike many job seekers, Miller's segue into his profession happened relatively quickly and easily. As a student, Miller worked for the university and initially planned on staying here through the summer following graduation. However, his path took a different turn when he decided to research hockey development job openings. He remarks, "I submitted one resume and was contacted within 5 minutes of submitting it and hired on the spot with a flight to move to Colorado and begin training athletes all over the US for the entire summer."
In 2006, he also started his own hockey program. He did this while transitioning from being a student athlete to playing professionally. His program started off small, with only one program due to his busy playing schedule. In 2008, Miller decided to transition away from playing hockey and into another facet of the field. He accepted a position with the Ottawa Senators Organization, working in player development and training. That position made him realize he wanted to be his own boss.
When asked about the highlights of his position, Miller stated that his work could be broken down into a few categories, environment, people, and results. He said, "I have been able to take a game that I love and paired together with the education I received from UWS, they make my office a hockey arena." He continues explaining that, "I have been afforded the opportunity to travel the world and meet amazing people who I consider lifelong friends." He credits his results to "my tireless effort to give each person I train the same experience I have had with hockey as a youth player and pro player is what really makes me thankful for my job. Each session is a special session to me because it's another chance to make a difference in a player's overall fitness and skill set, which in turn, helps them be more confident and enjoy the game to its fullest."
Miller explains that Next Generation HKY and FIT Inc. experienced a 500 percent growth in the last two years. This means that he is forced to spend the majority of his time managing the company and only a small portion on player training. In order to be able to hopefully spend more time developing players in the future, he recently started working with a website and software developer to automate much of his business. His home also serves as his office, which means that he never really leaves work.
When asked what qualifications he needed to get into the field, Miller thinks the primary qualification is having knowledge of the area. He also credits being confident in the product and service he provides and continually educating himself on the field, to his success. Miller reflects on his own success, "I strive to always push my personal comfort zone. I was quite shy and always intimidated around groups growing up, but I put myself in uncomfortable situations so that I could learn to keep calm under pressure. I like being creative and always trying to view the training sessions from the player's point of view. This is something that has shot me to the top of my niche market. I think outside the box, and am always reinventing the training parameters to meet each person's needs and wants."
He also believes that his interest in biology is what led him in the right direction. He has a greater understanding of anatomy and physiology of the body from his classes at UW-Superior, which in turn helps him understand the mechanics of training athletes.
For students who are interested in the field of player development, Miller recommends that students take advantage of the variety of class offerings available at UW-Superior. Course subjects he would recommend include business, accounting, education, biology, and health and human performance.
His main advice for current students is to find a mentor. He explains that the field is very competitive, especially in Canada. By having connections in the field and drawing on the experience and expertise of a mentor will help students in their career. He states, "Often learning from others and those figuratively passing the torch along to you will help you along your own career path." He also wants students to know that being in a competitive field means that you need to have thick skin. You should always stay truthful and honest with your customers. Don't give in to pressure to slander your competition, instead look for ways to separate yourself from the rest of the field.
If Miller were to predict his own company's future, he would foresee three full-time employees, who would run the daily aspects of the business. In addition, they would serve as the full-time trainer for a NHL franchise and Canada's national teams.
Derek Miller was interviewed as a part of the Career Services Day in the Life project. His full interview and those of other UW-Superior alumni can be found on the Day in the Life website.
Interview conducted by Tashina Martinson on March 8th, 2012. Article written by Shannon Gilligan.
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