NORMAN — If everything goes as planned, Norman High has found a long-term answer to its softball program and Andrea Harrison has received an express ticket toward her softball coaching dream.
“Did I think it would happen so soon? No,” Harrison said. “But a lot of people have a 10- or 20-year plan. This was my plan.”
Monday night, the Norman Public Schools Board of Education approved Harrison as the Tigers new fast-pitch softball coach. She takes over for Tim Gonzales, who resigned after the fall season concluded.
Not yet certified to teach, the expectation is that will be taken care of by the beginning of the next school year. If it seems odd that she doesn’t yet have certification, it shouldn’t.
This time last year, Harrison was getting ready for her senior season of collegiate softball at UCLA. Still, it wasn’t the only thing on her mind.
“I already had the intention of coming out here and starting my life over,” she said. “I went to college so close to home and I just thought that it would be best for me to start the next phase of my life somewhere away from home … Part of me said I had to do my own thing.”
She’s been busy since moving to the area coaching youth softball, offering her services as a private hitting instructor and becoming a teaching assistant and assistant fast-pitch coach at Southmoore.
NHS athletic coordinator TD O’Hara said it was Harrison’s energy, enthusiasm and wish to have a positive effect on students and athletes that most impressed her hiring committee.
“We’re excited to have somebody like her,” O’Hara said.
Harrison’s playing resume is very strong.
She was an All-American and a two-time team MVP at UCLA. She hit .359 with 15 home runs and 47 RBIs last spring. As a sophomore, she led the Bruins to a national championship, hitting four home runs and collecting 11 RBIs at the Women’s College World Series.
Harrison had the opportunity to play professionally but chose instead to chase her coaching dream.
“This is something that I thought might happen through the years, but the opportunity came up and I couldn’t pass it up,” she said. “I couldn’t be more excited.”
Harrison will continue with her duties at Southmoore through the spring semester but looks forward to taking charge of her new program just as soon as the rules allow, or a couple of weeks after all spring sports seasons conclude.
It is unclear if she will assume leadership of the NHS slow-pitch program. She isn’t looking forward to rocking any boats, but has made it clear she would be willing to handle NHS softball year round.
“I told (assistant superintendent in charge of personnel) Pat Nolen I want to make this program something different,” Harrison said. “I told him I have no problem taking over the slow-pitch program … If I can stay with them year round, that would be great.”
Gonzales, still the slow-pitch coach, said Tuesday he didn’t know what his future held beyond the spring. Also, he is a fan of Harrison’s hire.
“She’s young, she’s smart, she’s got a good background and she’s got energy,” he said. “I think that’s what the program needs.”
Gonzales believes Harrison is coming in at the perfect time, with most of the team coming back and new resources, including an indoor practice facility, becoming available.
“I think it’s a good fit,” he said.
Harrison can’t wait.
“My passion is working with young athletes,” she said.
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