For most sports, the coaches are the older, wiser adults who come to guide the team to glory. For Ann Arbor Huron High School’s football and wrestling teams, the age gap may be smaller than most.
Eastern Michigan University sophomore and special education major JaBree Harris, 20, began his coaching career this year as the River Rats’ head wrestling coach. His career expanded as he recently became the coach of Huron High’s freshman football team.
The 2011 St. Clair Shores Lakeview High School graduate attended summer classes at Macomb Community College and was given a real life assignment thatstarted everything. Harris had to revamp his resume and use it during job hunting. While doing research, Harris found an opening at Huron High.
“My family, wrestling and football, in their entirety, have given me so much, so I really didn’t seek anything from it,” Harris said. “I just want to give back to the sports that gave so much to me and had a huge role in molding who I am today.”
After applying, Harris was called for an interview just a couple days after fall 2012 classes began at EMU. This wasn’t just a random experience though. Harris has dipped his foot in various coaching and mentoring opportunities.
“Two days after graduating from high school, I was offered the position of freshman offensive coordinator and that winter, I served as a varsity assistant on the wrestling staff as well as the first head coach of the Jefferson Middle School,” Harris said. “And I am also the student outreach coordinator for Mentor2Youth at EMU and vice-president of the student organization.”
Before coaching for wrestling, Harris attempted many other sports.
“In high school I played just about every sport from golf to rugby,” Harris said. “But I excel in contact sports so rugby, wrestling and football were the big three.”
During his senior year at Lakeview, Harris marked over 35 wins. He received multiple offers to play collegiate football and even wrestling, but he had something else planned.
“My heart was set on becoming a lawyer, so I thought the effort I would have inserted into being the best student wouldn’t allow me to be the best on the field,” Harris said. “And [my] biggest fear is not being [the] best I can be in both aspects.”
Harris gave a good chunk of his life to athletics and feels like he missed out on a lot.
“I missed out on a lot of fun because of my dedication to being the best,” Harris said. “I believed if I went out and did what everyone else did, I would lose the edge I had over my teammates and opponents.”
While confidence is still a big part of Harris’ wrestling, it has now become part of his style of coaching.
“I always coach and teach with the mentality of ‘confidence is key,’” Harris said. “And I try to instill confidence and the words I live by, ‘The only thing you deserve is what you earn,’ into my athletes.”
Even though Harris hasn’t had much time to define his coaching style, he has a great deal of advice to go off of.
“When I got my first coaching job, I was told by one of my mentors that as a coach, your athletes aren’t looking for another person to judge them or constantly scold them and etc., but someone who knows when to pick the moments like a big brother, someone they respect but relate to, so I embrace that concept wholeheartedly,” Harris said.
Harris tries to challenge his athletes and himself on and off the mat. Using his college standing to his benefit, Harris encourages his team to earn better grades in school than him for rewards such as no conditioning for a period of time.
His fear of his young age causing problems with the team’s respect towards him has not come true. If anything, many of the wrestlers and parents are on board with Harris’ goal of returning the program to the glory it once had.
“They took a shot on me and I love it here,” Harris said about the athletic program. “I plan to retire here, coaching and teaching.”
For more information on the team, fans can check out the team’s website at jabreeharris7.wix.com/a2huronwrestling, their Twitter @AAH_wrestling, or the team fan page on Facebook at River Rat Wrestling.