Mormon Olympian Ryan Millar
For Ryan Millar, the Olympics are a familiar experience. The Beijing Olympics were his third Olympics. Before winning the Gold with the U.S. Olympico volleyball team at Beijing, Ryan had never won an Olympic medal. He came to the Beijing games with a championship player’s understanding, but he is also a former head coach at Brigham Young University, a university owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering yet another perspective on competitive play.
The Indoor Volleyball team for the United States is filled with former BYU students and staff. Millar is joined by Rich Lambourne, a former BYU player, and Hugh McCutcheon, formerly an assistant coach at BYU, and now coach of the Olympic team. In addition, a former BYU coach, Carl McGown, assisted McCutcheon as coach at the Olympics. Finally, a volunteer assistant coach, Rob Browning, was also with the team.
When Ryan was in eighth grade, he decided to emulate his high school brother, Jon, by leaving basketball and taking up volleyball. This was followed by a growth spurt that gave him the height needed to do well. By his junior year in high school, he was already a champion, named state player of the year and was playing varsity with his brother.
Many colleges wanted Ryan, but he chose Brigham Young University, because he is LDS and because he felt comfortable there on recruiting visits. On his personal website, his official biography adds this explanation: “Most people might think that he picked BYU merely for religious reasons, being that Ryan is an active member of the LDS church (Mormon). In truth, Ryan was still only 17, and he thought he needed the more strict lifestyle of BYU to help him out physically as well as spiritually.” This led to being named national freshman of the year and the setting of a great many records for the school. He was named All-American three years in a row.
All of this is more remarkable by the fact that BYU was not a volleyball school and the freshman team consisted of four freshman, a sophomore, and a junior. And yet, whith Ryan’s help, this inexperienced, young team won two NCAA championships during his time there, and he was named National player of the year again in 1999. That year, he led the nation in hitting percentages. He was a triple AVCA First-Team All-American, a very rare accomplishment. That same year, he played in Japan on a Team USA tour.
He was the youngest player on the team at the 2000 Olympics, but the team didn’t manage to win any games. Now married, he left the National Team for a year to play professionally in Italy. He graduated in 2001 and in 2002, went back to the National Team in the United States. The 2004 Olympics gave him a fourth place finish. Following the 2004 Olympics, he accepted a position as assistant coach at his alma mater, BYU. When the head coach resigned unexpectedly, Ryan was given the interim position as head coach, but declined to be considered for the position permanently. He returned to the national team prior to the birth of his first child.
He is married to Suzanne and is the father of a little boy named Max. When done with volleyball, he intends to switch to professional golf, and in fact, lists his golf clubs, not his volleyball, as his most prized possessions. He also enjoys snowboarding.
Ryan is now a businessman when not playing volleyball with the National or Italian teams. He owns The Next Level Volleyball Camps, which presents camps all around the nation and tap into Ryan’s love for coaching.