Extraordinary Perseverance (One Woman’s Journey Towards Her Dreams)

by Kenny Eller on November 10, 2011

Alicia Milyak

Nine years ago, with no intent, a person unknowingly became a permanent reminder in the life of a young woman striving for success.

Having already achieved the kind of acclaim that had shown her the World in her field of expertise, a deep seed of motivation was planted into the soul through one pain filled eight-letter word.

That word was mediocre.

It had been the vocabulary of choice used to describe the effort put forth towards an individual offseason workout.

It was then; in that very moment of disappointment and anger in oneself, that a decision was made that no person would ever again utter that word in relation to her name.

This post has nothing to do with basketball, but everything to do with the dream.

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Two Friday evening’s ago, amongst the small puddles left over from the day’s rain and the cooler than usual Florida breeze, I took in my very first soccer game at any level.

I honestly don’t know all that much about the game of soccer.  I’m a hoops player!  Besides the goalie, I really couldn’t tell you what any other player on the field is responsible for and yet still, I sat there in the last row at Barker Family stadium in Winter Park, Florida and was overwhelmed with emotions at times.

I cheered, hands raised, as the Rollins College Women’s soccer team scored goal after goal, in what was a 4-0 shutout of Eckerd College.

I clapped and yelled for young women I’ve never met and was inspired by their teamwork and cohesiveness as a unit.

Truth be told though, I wasn’t really there to see them.

I was there to see how a real life dream had become a reality.

The Dreamer

Have you ever met someone before and you really didn’t know anything about him or her, but after meeting them the mere goodness of who they are, not only inspired you but had you anticipating the next time you would be in their company?

That’s how I felt the first time I met Alicia Milyak in a department store at a mall in Orlando, Florida, over six and a half years ago.

One of the best friends of my then girlfriend and now wife, Alicia was energetic, warm and inviting and for anyone meeting “the friends” for the first time, you can understand just how welcome that positive energy is.

An enthusiastic smile and a hug

Over the six plus years I’ve known her, every single time I’ve come in contact with Alicia I’ve been greeted with a 1,000 watt smile, tons of energy and a I’m going to make you feel good kind of hug.

She overflows with upbeat, positivity.

A Humble Soccer Star

In a time where most, including myself, tweets about every single thing that happens to or for them, up until recently, I could have told you very little about Alicia Milyak’s career as a soccer player and from what the record books show, it was an amazing one!

Imagine knowing someone for as long as I’ve known Alicia and never knowing that she scored 173 goals during her four years of high school, including 66 her senior season (ranking her 5th and 3rd respectively overall in Pennsylvania high school athletics, even some 13 years later)!

Imagine having talked to a person tons of times and never knowing they are their college’s (Rollins College) all-time leader in scoring with 51 goals and 121 points!

Imagine knowing someone that played for numerous teams in the W-League, the highest level of women’s soccer in America at the time, and professionally overseas and them never really discussing it!

Imagine being around the only person in her college’s history to be inducted into the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame and all they want to talk about when you’re around them is YOU!

It’s hard to imagine such a thing in today’s world, isn’t it?

It kind of makes you want to emulate her, doesn’t it?!

The Dream and the Struggle

For as long as I’ve known Alicia she has had big dreams.  From playing professional soccer, which she did, to one day being the Head Coach of the women’s soccer program at her Alma Mater, Rollins College.

For six years she was the team’s top assistant coach.  A team that since 2008 had won two Sunshine State Conference Championships, one Sunshine State Conference tournament and made three straight appearances in the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament.

For six years she has traveled all over the state of Florida and the Country for that matter, scouting player after player, putting in countless hours for the betterment of the team and program.

With a travel schedule that would make even George Clooney cringe, she gave up time with family, friends and for herself.

True Wealth

I honestly don’t know how much she was monetarily compensated each of those years, but I’m sure it wasn’t much.

She most likely wasn’t able to build up a 401k or throw money into a Roth.  She probably didn’t have too many high-end meals or five star vacations.  She didn’t drive around in a fancy car or live in a big house.  She most likely couldn’t afford the latest fashions or “must have” gadgets.

And make no mistake about it.  Had she given up on soccer and pursued a different path, with her education from one the top schools in the entire state…SHE COULD HAVE HAD IT ALL!

But she never complained or seemed envious as her friends and peers began attaining worldly success.  Instead, like always she smiled and cheered on their achievements.

Alicia may not have had a lot of money, but she had true wealth.

Blessed with an inspirational outlook on life, she was fueled by passion, a source that requires no real financial compensation.  The, I’d do it for free, because I love it, stuff.

The Passover Blessing

Two years ago, the long time head coach of the Rollins’ program left for another opportunity.  Anyone that knows Alicia felt that her dream was about to come true!

But it didn’t.

Instead, the school hired someone else and Milyak did what Milyak does.  She pushed forward, upbeat and full of energy the whole way, viewing it as another opportunity to learn and better herself.

The team had another successful season and Alicia was left, I’m sure, to wonder if her dream of being a head coach would ever come true.

After all, head coaching positions at successful colleges just don’t open up all that often.

Then it happened.

The Dream becomes a Reality!

In an unexpected turn of events, the new coach, there just one season, took off to coach elsewhere.

Within hours of his departure, Alicia’s time had come.

Her dream had become a reality!

She’s now in her first season as Head Coach of the Rollin’s College women’s soccer team!

Why YOU CAN’T QUIT!

Most people FAIL at endeavors because they GIVE UP right before success is achieved.

They give up because it’s hard.  They give up because they lose faith.

Most people only see the success, but never know the struggle.

They now see a young woman leading an entire program and yearn to be in her position, but the overwhelming MAJORITY would never go through what Alicia has gone through for their dream.

I don’t think any person that truly cares for her would have blamed her or called her a quitter if she had chosen to walk away a year ago or even well before then.

Let’s face it; most of us would have quit, but quitting never crossed her mind.

Walking Inspiration!

Before the game that Friday evening, as Coach Milyak led her team across the field, I got up from my seat, hurried down to the railing and took a couple of pictures of walking inspiration.

With my eyes, welled up with tears, I watched inspiration do what she’s always dreamed of doing.

It’s something I’ll always remember and something that fuels my own path here at mevsMJ.com.

Did Kenny Tell You What He’s Doing!?

As Alicia walked off the field that Friday night following the team’s 13th win of the season (13-1-1), she greeted us with that smile and that hug.  I told her I’m so proud of her three or four times.

After some small talk, I asked her about all of the goals she scored in high school and being Rollins’ all-time leader in scoring, facts I had learned only moments before from her Mom, who we sat next to during the game.

In typical Milyak fashion, she smiled, said she wasn’t sure how many goals she scored and instead wanted to talk about me.

She asked her Mom, “Did Kenny tell you what he’s doing?” (Referring to this site and my goal of playing Michael Jordan of course.)

With a smirk I shook my head and was off discussing my journey thus far, just as she would have it.

An Inspiration and a Reminder

I’ve always admired and rooted for Alicia Milyak.

When all I chased was money, her journey always grabbed my heart and pleaded, “PAY ATTENTION YOUNG MAN!”

She was a real life example and reminder to me of what life should be about.  What life CAN be about!

She followed her passion and through it has realized more than one of her dreams.

That’s right, there is plenty more to come in this story, but I’ll let Alicia tell the rest.  I’m just so thankful to be able to be around for the journey!

It’s going to be a fun ride!

NCAA Division II South Region Tournament

This Sunday, at home, Coach Milyak will lead her #2 seed Rollins College team (14-2-2) onto Cahall Sandspur Field for a second round game of the NCAA Division II South Region tournament.

She will do her best to coach, inspire and motivate a group of young woman chasing a dream.  At the same time, through years of perseverance, she will continue living hers.

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Note:  Alicia Milyak may not show anyone this post, because that’s just who she is, but I hope that you, those reading this, do.  I hope that you share her story of perseverance and triumph.  I hope you use it as an example for what is possible in your own life, as I do in mine.

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Hoops Update

After nearly two weeks of being sick, I’m almost back to myself which means I’m ready to get back after the dream that is mevsMJ.com!

One game, me vs. Michael Jordan!

It’s going to happen!  As always, thank you for following along!

Connect:  Twitter (@KennyEller) and Facebook Fan Page.

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