After almost two decades at the helm of a program he created, Mick Harper is taking on an entirely different challenge.
The former Chapel Hill (Georgia) head softball coach is headed roughly 20 miles west to Bremen High School to replace the departed Amy Pointer.
Harper led Chapel Hill High School to a state title in 2015 and five straight regional championships.
After coaching at a higher level, Harper will be now be in charge of a team that is dropping down from AAA to AA.
Pointer, who is moving on to a position with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, guided her alma mater to the Elite Eight last season.
Harper understands how integral it is to lay the foundation before the season starts.
“When I came to Chapel Hill 19 years ago it was a brand new school. I was not following a coach. I was creating the culture,” Harper said. “Now, I’m going into a system where I have to learn what the culture was. It’s about me gaining the trust and respect of everyone in the community.”
Even though he’s changing schools, his values remain the same.
“Expecting the best and expecting to win,” Harper said. “Playing with full effort. Being a good role model for your teammates and the people around you.”
Harper intends to use the lessons he’s learned at Chapel Hill to form a tight knit squad at Bremen.
“Understanding that every athlete is different. Don’t turn a team of individuals into robots,” Harper said. “Let the kids understand their different roles are just as important as anyone else’s.”
Harper is eager to devise a strategy that will benefit the roster.
“There’s a lot to be learned about the athletes. Who are the leaders? Who has the influence of the team and sets the tone for the kids? How do you go about setting up the right lineup?” Harper said. “You use what you’ve learned about them having seen them play because the school is only about 20 miles west. There’s just a big, huge learning curve in these first few weeks as you move into a new situation.”
Harper is impressed with the returning talent on the roster and believes Bremen is certainly in position to contend.
“I go into every season by looking at the talent level. They were in the Elite Eight last year and have a large chunk of their lineup back. They’re changing classifications and moving down,” Harper said. “But the expectations are always to take it one game at a time and remain focused. You want to set yourself up for the highest seed.”
Harper admits the largest obstacle will be acclimating to the changing of opponents in the lower classification.
“In this scenario you’re learning five new teams from top to bottom,” Harper said. “So that’s going to be our biggest challenge.”
Harper is already acclimating himself around town as an active participant, such as attending a soccer playoff match and becoming visible to residents.
The veteran coach has definitely taken to heart the words of wisdom from his predecessor.
“She said to get involved. Don’t just come in and focus on softball. Get involved in the community and get to know the people supporting you,” Harper said. “It’s a family type atmosphere. If you support the others, it’ll make them want to support you and will make you fit in a lot quicker.”
From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa
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