On the south coast of England in Portsmouth, one will find a plentiful amount of rugged beaches with many different types of pebbles lying in the sand. One will also find Ohio field hockey head coach Neil Macmillan’s roots. Macmillan is the main man in charge to lift the program to unprecedented heights.
Coach Macmillan has not only coached field hockey for a number of years, but he also had a long and successful playing career.
“I started between ages seven and ten,” said Macmillan. “My dad played rugby and I did not like it. He knew a few people at the local field hockey club and he sent me to try it out. I have loved every minute of it from day one.”
Macmillan, a native of Havant, which is near Portsmouth, spoke about the area which he calls home.
“I am from Havant, which is near Portsmouth,” said Macmillan. “It is a coastal area, which is surrounded by water. The beaches are very different than they are here (in the United States). They are more rugged with pebbles in the sand. It (Havant) is right off of the south coast.”
Before becoming a high-profile coach, Macmillan had a solid playing career as a goalkeeper back in his native England.
“I played field hockey until I left for the United States,” said Macmillan. “I started at the under-12 level and I have played for almost every club. I then moved up to play for my University team (Loughborough) and was successful there. I also played in National League games, as well.”
Macmillan started his coaching career at a young age, which has helped him achieve 100 career victories in Athens.
“I started coaching when I was in high school,” said Macmillan. “I was coaching the under-7 and under-8 teams. I taught mathematics for three years at a high school, and also coached cricket along with field hockey. At Wake Forest, the job started out as a short-term plan and then turned into many successful years.”
Macmillan eventually made the jump from Winston-Salem to Athens and he liked what he saw and heard.
“A former player told me about Ohio University,” said Macmillan. “I came here for a visit and I loved everything about this place. The facilities, staff and people are all great. I felt like I could be successful here.”
Macmillan has also lead an amazing turnaround in the Ohio field hockey program, which has seen the team become one of the best teams in the conference year in and year out.
“We have made strides every year that I have been here,” said Macmillan. We were about the 4th placed MAC team every year (out of six) and now we are in the top two of our conference. I hope we can maintain our level in the conference. I want to be recognized by my peers and be ranked nationally on a consistent basis. We want to keep climbing the ladder and become competitive nationally.”
Macmillan also has many hobbies he partakes in when he is not coaching his team. He loves to partake in many different outdoor activities. Among these, he really enjoys riding his bike. He likes to take advantage of the many hills Athens possesses. He also loves to spend time with his family, which includes his wife and two sons, who are seven and four.
“I want to involve my family as much as I can,” said Macmillan. “I have two boys who are really interested in sports. As a family, one of the best aspects of campus is the many sporting events that take place here (in Athens). We go to many football and basketball games and because my kids are so young, they take up a lot of my time.”
Even though Macmillan has coached and played field hockey nearly his whole life, he is a big soccer fan. Even though he is from Portsmouth, they are his second favorite team. His favorite team is North London outfit Arsenal.
He said he has supported the club since he was in school, and is disappointed at seeing his favorite players leave the club, which include Robin van Persie’s controversial switch to Manchester United.
Portsmouth may be his second favorite team, but Macmillan will never forget their F.A. Cup triumph against Welsh side Cardiff City in 2008. He said it was really fun to see them win one of the most prestigious trophies in world soccer.
After the F.A. Cup win in 2008, Portsmouth has struggled to deal with a troubling financial crisis that has seen them plummet to the third tier of English soccer. Macmillan said that it is a shame to see the club where they are at now because Fratton Park (Portsmouth’s home ground) is a great place to play soccer and Portsmouth is a great club.
With the season coming to a close, Macmillan has hope that his team will capture momentum and clinch another NCAA tournament berth.
“The first thing we have to do is get into the MAC tournament,” said Macmillan. “This is our final home game of the season. We will try our best to be successful the rest of the season. We will take every game as it comes.”
Coach Macmillan and his squad will look to improve to 8-6 (2-1 MAC) as they welcome Missouri State to Pruitt Field on Saturday. Start time is set for 1 p.m.