Chanel Harris ascension in the woman’s NCAA D1 Coaching Ranks as an Assistant Coach for U. of Arkansas has been without the slightest break. In a sport still dominated by men she serves as an inspiration for all woman and us men as well. A major topic of discussion during the 2016 Women’s Basketball Coaches Association National Convention, which is held in conjunction with the NCAA Women’s Final Four, is the decreasing number of female head coaches. With four male head coaches leading their programs to the 2015-2016 NCAA Women’s Final Four, the success of male coaches in the women’s game was officially in the forefront.
“Being an NCAA Collegiate Coach is a lifestyle. In recent years, there has been new legislation released by the NCAA permitting coaching to “do more”. “The challenge for many female coaches, including myself, is work life balance.” – Chenel Harris
Despite only being 28 years old Chenel’s has seen many of her peers leave collegiate coaching and pursue alternative careers. Chenel has set herself apart because she has managed to find balance within the unbalance of coaching at such a demanding level.
“To be successful in this industry you need to have a servants heart and a genuine desire to give. Being a coach is a selfless profession and the true joy is seeing the student-athletes grow as women and players. I have yet to find true balance but embrace the sacrifices because my joy comes from being around the players and giving back to a game that has given me everything.” – Chenel Harris
Chenel admits she feels she underachieved at the collegiate level and it wasn’t her personal accomplishments as a NCAA D1 player at Kent State University that made her special.
“I could have, and should have been a far better player at the collegiate level. As a student-athlete I lacked the maturity and understanding of the sacrifice necessary for me to maximize my potential and realize my goals. Throughout my career I struggled with an attitude of entitlement and at times stubbornness. The greatest blessing in my college career was playing under Head Coach Bob Lindsay and Associate Head Coach, Lori Bodnar. Both Lindsay and Bodnar played a pivotal role in my development as a player but more importantly as a young women. Their tough love helped me to understand the importance of hard work, selfless dedication to the team, and being accountable. The life lessons I learned at Kent State University extended far beyond the court and has fueled me throughout my career. As a coach I aspire to be as influential in the lives of my players, as my college coaches were in mine.” – Chenel Harris
As a 5’11 guard shooting guard, Chenel dominated the high school and AAU scene from her home in Brampton Canada to over a dozen American cities along the east coast. She finished her career as one of the best and most respected female basketball players in Canada. At the 2006 All Canada Classic-Rumble in the T-Dot National High School All Star Game she was named best defensive player in the Country and followed that up with player of year honors at the 2007 All Canada Classic-Rumble in the T-Dot. Her ability to dominate on both ends of the court earned her a full basketball scholarship to Kent State University.
A deeper look at Chenel’s early playing career gives us some understanding of what the ingredients that now separates Chenel from her peers. Chenel get’s excited when talking about her greatest influence, her best friend, lifetime coach, and the one who gave her the 1st opportunities in basketball…her dad!
“My father, Jason Harris is head coach of the JUEL Prep Brampton Warriors program in Brampton, Ontario. During my career at Kent State University, my father became more involved in coaching on the AAU level. Before I knew or even expressed an interest in coaching, my father believed in my ability to be a successful coach. I always laugh when I think back to my visits home during the spring, summer, or fall. He would bring me to the gym, ask me to speak with his team and then, without preparation, tell me to run practice or put them through drills. Those who know me, understand that this was way out of my comfort zone and made me a nervous wreck. Watching his players develop and go on to earn full scholarships made me so proud and gave me a joy that I had never experienced. As time went on, I looked forward to seeing the new group of girls, sharing my story and putting them through drills. To my surprise, I had fallen in love with coaching!” – Chenel Harris
“As a player, I started late and was definitely behind in my skill development. I was fortunate enough to work with trainers such as Wayne Dawkins during the fundamental stages of my development. Wayne’s P.H.A.S.E. 1 training programs introduced me to a more elite level of training and more importantly helped me to understand the “Why” behind the move, which increased my basketball IQ. I have taken from him many of his teaching techniques that have helped me develop my identity as a position coach.
Wayne Dawkins, and his P.H.A.S.E. 1 organization did a lot for the young student-athletes in Canada by providing a platform for us to compete against the most talented players throughout the provinces. Also P.H.A.S.E. 1 was the first organization to celebrate the accomplishments of both male and female athletes together on the same stage and that really did a lot for my confidence.” – Chenel Harris
Chenel also credits the negative coaching influences for her resilience as an NCAA Coach.
“I’ve had some very bad coaches that made everything about them. They didn’t express a genuine desire to see each and every player succeed and often stifled one players potential to promote another. I went through this during my early stages of playing. My coach was very demeaning and didn’t empower us to believe in ourselves and our skills. As a young skill deficient player this was definitely a road block in my maturation process. This experience encourages me to be the complete opposite for my players. I want to empower them, help them to see that they have full control of their experience and development. I want them to be aware of their deficiencies and have confidence in their strengths. This is extremely important for any and every player to be successful.” – Chenel Harris
Chenel sights several male coaches and trainers as her biggest influence in coaching, which unfortunately confirms the topic of discussion at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association National Convention. For Chenel this makes her Journey of an Elite 1 that much more important. The next generation of young girls who are making the decision to get involved with coaching will need her to stay the course so they will have a strong female role model to look up to. Follow Chenel’s journey through her Twitter, Facebook or Instagram where she posts encouraging messages for all of us at the cross roads of pursuing our greatest goals.