Inside HCZ: Syreeta Miller
Recently, a woman was strolling in the supermarket when she spied another a woman in a tracksuit with the Harlem Children’s Zone logo emblazoned on her chest. Her eyes widened, wondering if this was the coach she’d heard her daughter mention so often. The mother hadn’t yet met Coach B, but her reputation—and that trademark tracksuit—preceded her.
Coach B is a celebrity of sorts in Harlem. As the beloved coach to scores of athletes, ages six to 18, who’ve matriculated into HCZ’s schools and sites, Coach B has won many fans. Parents stop to greet her on the street. Children introduce her to their parents. Eyes light up when she calls runners one of her coveted nicknames.
Coach B has a record of nurturing runners to excel. Last year, the HCZ track team placed twelve semi-finalists and six finalists in the Colgate Women’s Games. In 2018, the team took third place in the Women’s Club 4X200 Relay at the 2018 Millrose Games and brought home several medals from the National AAU Club Championships in Orlando. However, Miller considers her greatest achievement to be the opportunity to coach ten of her athletes to compete at a collegiate level so that they are now successfully competing on their college track teams.
To Coach B, excellence demands athleticism and respect for team and self. Younger runners are paired with more seasoned ones to promote discipline and sportsmanship. Coach B encourages athletes’ unique strengths and builds self-esteem.
“I can make these kids feel like they are Flo-Jo out here!” she says.
Perhaps what makes Coach B so revered is the lengths she’ll go to offer guidance beyond sport—a practice she learned from those who did the same for her.
Coach B’s name is Syreeta Miller. The “B” is shortened from “BooBee” – a loving nickname from a childhood coach. A Long Island City native, Miller has been running competitively since she was nine; by twelve, she was making it to meets nearly every year.
She established herself as an athlete in the national Gazelle Track Club and The Jeuness Athletic Club in Brooklyn, which develop athletes and provide opportunities in local and national races. Her Jeuness coaches put her through private school, and, under their tutelage, Miller earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. “The leadership I got from those women was truly life- changing,” she said “Having strong women as leaders was instrumental in who I am today, and what I give back to the youth.”
Miller continues to draw inspiration from these women who went above and beyond for her. She trains alongside all her athletes and derives joy from watching them develop. She takes any opportunity to show her care for them, even listening to their favorite music. Miller often counsels them about personal struggles. It’s not uncommon for her to visit homes when a student is having a tough time.
“I love these kids, I really do,” said Miller. “I’m not restricted to just the sport – I support them in everything they do.”
After a 19-year hiatus, following the birth of her first daughter, Miller has started running competitively again. At first, she was nervous about competing as a mother – but relaxed when she realized she had support on the sidelines.
Miller is cheered on by her three children (all runners and HCZ scholars), her former coaches and her track students—and even the occasional supermarket fan.