Basketball coach helps mold scholar-athletes
A basketball coach at Mariner High School has developed a program that not only has his student athletes succeeding on the court, but in the classroom as well.
Basketball Coach James Harris just finished his 12th season at Mariner High School.
“We try and set our priorities for our players from day one,” he said.
Basketball falls fourth on that list of priorities after God, family and school.
“We don’t mind being fourth,” Harris said.
Through modeling those priorities, he said the kids understand basketball is a vehicle that can be used to reach success in life.
“What we have done over the last 12 years, (is we have) created a culture of kids who understand that grades are more important, family is more important and religion is more important than basketball,” Harris said.
The state mandates that students who make the basketball team have to keep a 2.0 grade point average to play.
“A 2.0 to us is coming to practice every day,” he said. “You can do the bare minimum, but you are not going to make it in this program.”
That culture, which includes Harris, his coaches, players and their parents, has been established and has generated a team grade point average of more than a 3.0 for the fourth time in six years.
One of the many success stories of the Mariner basketball team stems from a player who transferred to the school with a .7 grade point average. That player, Harris said graduated from Mariner High School with a 2.5 grade point average. He said in order for him to achieve that average he had to earn a 3.5 in just one semester.
“They are the ones that have to make that lifestyle change,” Harris said.
He said they try to give the athletes the tools they need while in high school, so they have things to work with when school is behind them.
One of those tools is not providing a study hall for the basketball players. Harris said if he gave them a study hall he would be handing them a fish.
“With a study hall you are giving them a fish and they are only eating for a time period,” he explained. “What happens when season is over? There is no study hall.”
Without a study hall, Harris said he is teaching them a high level of expectation which, in turn, is teaching them the skills to become a successful student.
When the player’s grade point average falls below the requirement, they have to sit out a game. Harris said when a student did not have his grades up to snuff; he missed games until he turned his three F’s into C’s.
“In that stretch we went eight and one,” he said. “He had to make the decision that his grades were more important than basketball.”
Only one student since 2005 has flunked off the basketball team.
Harris said those barriers are in place because if his players do not want to take care of their academics they will find someone else to play the position.
The team has also had success on the basketball court. Harris said in the first six years of his coaching at Mariner they won 58 games. In the last six years they have won 125 games.
“The goal is to create an environment where we have certain expectations and we are not going to deviate,” he said. “Competition creates a little bit of what we are reaching for . . . creating that culture.”