Pima Community College Track Coach Chad Harrison on Why Junior College is Often the Better Route for Recruits | 2aDays

Pima Community College Track Coach Chad Harrison on Why Junior College is Often the Better Route for Recruits

If you’re a recruit who thinks that JUCO is a lesser option than the NCAA or NAIA, Chad Harrison might change your mind. Harrison is the head coach of the Pima Community College Track and Field Team. He has been working with the program for 15 years and has been the Head Coach for 11 years, giving him a deep understanding of what it takes to be successful as a collegiate athlete. Here is why JUCO may be the best option for you.

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1. What is the biggest difference between competing at the high school level versus at the college level?

One of the biggest differences to Harrison is that everyone is extremely talented. People come from all around the world to compete at the college level. You have to be hyper focused in order to improve and be competitive.

2. What are some of the benefits of playing for a junior college program versus in the NCAA or NAIA?

What Harrison hears from his athletes is that at the JUCO level, you get a lot more attention from your coaches. On top of this, you get to compete at a level you belong at. A lot of kids make the jump to Division 1 out of high school and end up having to move down to the junior college level which can hurt their confidence. 

3. What is the most important trait to have as a student-athlete to be as successful as you possibly can be? 

“The biggest thing for all athletes is to be coachable,” Harrison said. This is in regards to all facets of life. This includes in your sport, in your daily life, and as a student. This includes another important skill, which is being able to work hard to improve. 

4. How have you seen the track and field team evolve since your days running for the team? What are some of the biggest changes that you have tried to implement over your 11 years as a coach at Pima? How successful have they been in improving the program? 

Coach Harrison said that since he has taken over he has been able to bring back the unity of the team that was around when he ran. He also brought back competitiveness to the program. He wants Tucson recruits to want to come to their program. He has been able to turn kids that weren’t even champions in high school into national champions as collegiate athletes.

5. What does a day look like for a student-athlete a part of your program? 

Outside of class, all college athletes a part of his program are required 7 hours per week in the athletics learning center. In terms of practice, in August which is not in season, practices are usually around 2 hours starting at 2 PM and then once the season kicks up the practices jump to around 3.5 to 4 hours.

6. What is the number one piece of advice that you would give high school athletes trying to make it to the next level? 

One thing Harrison said is to be realistic in terms of what your goals are. He went back to what he was saying about athletes jumping to the Division 1 level right out of high school and then ended up back at Pima. He said that it is always important to stay open to different opportunities. His other piece of advice is to understand that as a recruit, everyone is watching you. Coach Harrison himself has looked up recruits online and had to turn them down because of what they post on social media. He also does not give athletes the time of day when he notices them being disrespectful to other coaches as if they are beneath them.

7. What makes recruits stand out during the recruiting process and what things do you notice many student-athletes do to hurt their chances during the recruiting process?

One thing that makes recruits stand out to Coach Harrison is being personable. Examples he gave were being responsive when contacting him. Coach Harrison said he really likes when recruits text him everyday about their interest in his program. He wants athletes to keep in mind, especially in Track and Field, that you are not the only one with talent so it is important to stand out in other ways than just your athletic abilities. He does not like when recruits are looking for what schools are offering the most in terms of monetary value but instead are looking into academic programs and culture of the program or school. He wants young recruits to understand that coaches tend to communicate in different ways because of a generational gap. This makes it important to change your ways of communication when talking to coaches. One last thing he said he dislikes is when recruits discount his program and determine where they are going to school before getting any offers. 

Coach Harrison provided many interesting insights on how to stand out during the recruitment process and as a college athlete. On top of this, he settled the discrepancies on the competitiveness of junior college programs. Remember to never discount a coach, be personable, and work hard so that you can line yourself up for success.

Image Credit: All Sports Tucson
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