January 2009: Interview with Coach Glen Harris
I’m pleased to introduce you to Boston University’s head coach of strength & conditioning, Glenn Harris. Coach Harris has been in charge of strength and conditioning at Boston University since 1997. From January through May of 2007, I had the privilege of interning for Coach Harris and his staff at BU. Since that time, he’s not only been a mentor to me, but a good friend. Even with demanding hours and a 2-month old at home, Coach Harris was kind enough to give me some time recently for an interview. Here’s what he had to say...
PC: Thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to introduce yourself to my readers, Coach. I know you have a very hectic schedule, so trust that I speak on behalf of my readers when I say I appreciate your time. Let’s start off by having you tell me about your upbringing and your education.
GH: I grew up in Tewksbury, MA, about 25 miles north of Boston. I went to Tewksbury High and graduated in 1990. The sports that I played were football and track. From there, I went to Springfield College. I began college majoring in Physical Therapy, but changed my major during my junior year after realizing that I wanted to focus on sports performance. After graduating Springfield College with a BS in Health Fitness in 1994, I went on to get a MS in Exercise Science from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. I graduate from App in 1996. The graduate program at App was a tremendous learning experience. My advisor in grad school was Mike Stone, one of the leading researchers in Strength and Power development. PC: Coach Harris, as you know I like to say, we’re a product of our mentors. Who were your mentors as you came up in this industry?
GH: There have been many people who have mentored me in the field of strength and conditioning. First off, I would have to say Mike Boyle. Mike was the first person to give me the opportunity to intern for him back in 1993 at Boston University. I think I may have been his first intern as well. Interning for Mike was a great learning experience and it also solidified my choice of changing majors during my junior year. Other people who have had an impact on my professional development would be former Appalachian State strength and conditioning coach Mike Kent. He was the strength coach there during my graduate assistantship and I had the opportunity to intern for him prior to grad school and eventually work in the weight room there during grad school. On the academic side of things I would list Mike Stone, Harold O’Bryant, and Alan Utter as the people who have impacted me professionally. All three of them were professors at Appalachian State during my grad school.
PC: Can you tell my readers how BU came into the picture?
GH: I came to BU first as an intern back in 1993. I then continued to come back during the summers and work for Mike Boyle with his strength and conditioning camps. Once I finished grad school at App in 1996, a job opening happened with strength and conditioning at BU. Mike asked if I would be interested in coming back to Boston and I told him that I was. So I applied for the job and in July of 1996, I became the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Boston University. In September of 1997, Mike had decided to step down as the head strength and conditioning coach to pursue other endeavors. I applied for the position and I have been the head strength and conditioning coach since that time. I am in my 13th year of coaching at BU.
PC: What are some of your day-to-day responsibilities at BU?
GH: My daily responsibilities will depend on the daily schedule. We have a schedule of team workouts throughout the day. The weight room schedule on some days can be “organized chaos” as I like to term it. On those days there may be 75-100 athletes in the weight room doing their workouts. Of course, I have surrounded myself with a great staff which allows us to handle high volume periods throughout the day. Other responsibilities include designing programs for specific teams. My staff and I deal with 22 varsity programs. One of my other responsibilities is choosing which volume of PC’s mixes I will put into the weight room CD player!
PC: Nice Glenn. Your responsibilities with your athletes are challenging enough and you don’t need me pressuring you to put on good music, but I am happy to provide the music for the athletes. If it helps push them during their workouts, not to mention yours and mine, I know everyone wins so I’m happy to do it. Lucky for me, you appreciate good hip-hop so it’s my pleasure!
PC: Can you tell us what you like most about your role @ BU?
GH: One of the best things that I like about my job is watching an athlete attain what they had previously thought was impossible. Seeing the satisfaction of achievement in their faces is great. Figuring out ways to get them achieve that goal is exciting for me because that’s where the program design comes in to play. Finally, having to deal with different teams creates constant change in the specificity of design in the program. We design the programs for the athletes to compete in their sport. We do not have a cookie cutter, one size fits all workout.
PC: Excellent approach Coach Harris. And how about what you like least?
GH: I would have to say if I were to choose something it would be the hours. They are long.
PC: I had a felling you’d say that. You’re in early and leave late. Do you have any advice to others who are considering getting into this profession?
GH: Some of the best advice that I can suggest to someone trying to get into this field is to intern and network as much as possible, right, PC? Also learn as much as you can through continuing education in seminars and conferences. The great thing about the field of strength and conditioning is that there is constantly new research coming out. Some of it is great and some of it is not so good, so it is important to be able to filter the knowledge.
PC: It’s important to have support at home with such demanding hours. Can you tell us a bit about your spouse and your children?
GH: I am married to my wife Beth. We got married on June 23, 2007 up in Wells, ME. On October 18th, 2008 we welcomed our son Owen into the world! They are great and they bring smiles to my face every day. We live in Stoneham.
PC: How do you like to spend your time outside of coaching? GH: I like to spend time with my family. I also like doing things outside. Whether it’s riding a bike, walking, going to the beach or doing yard work, as long as I am outside I am happy. PC: Share with me the best advice you’ve ever received.
GH: The best advice that I have received would be, “Don’t ever think you know it all.” Translated: once you think you know it all, then there is someone else out there learning more. Also, don’t be afraid to ask “Why?”
PC: So true Coach. Lord knows I ask you and your staff “why” all the time. I’ve had many questions and you and your staff continues to be helpful. That being said, what messages would you give your teams?
GH: To all the athletes: I will get you stronger for your sport…Guaranteed. Other than that, I don’t really have specific messages that I give to my teams. One of the great things about my job is that I deal with different teams. Different teams have different make-ups to them, so any message given to them has to be specific to that team.
PC: We both know I enjoy writing my blog (http://pcconditioning.blogspot.com). I recently got you on board with the whole blogging thing, so can you tell us the link for your blog?
GH: My blog can be viewed at the following URL: http://glennsgym.blogspot.com.
PC: Time for some word-association. I’ll say one word and tell me exactly what pops you’re your mind. Here goes…
o BU TERRIERS o Nutrition T.Anthony’s (The best food in Boston!) o Intensity WORKOUT o Happiness FAMILY o Strength TRAINING
PC: Let me close by asking you where do you see yourself in 5 years?
GH: I see myself still working in the weight room training athletes. PC: And 10 years? GH: I will probably be a consultant for PC Conditioning!
PC: Love the sarcasm, Coach! That’s why you’re so well-liked on campus. I really appreciate your time. Best of luck to you and your teams for continued success in the New Year.
GH: Thanks PC. I’m glad we could do this interview for your newsletter.