Harrington brings new attitude to Lady Highlanders
By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal
After a frustrating end to a highly successful run as head coach at El Modena High School, Steve Harrington feels reinvigorated and ready to take the La Habra softball team to the next level.
The Lady Highlanders new coach is wasting no time getting the team prepared and the girls are just as eager to get started.
“You’ve gotta believe, and it starts now with the very first drill,” Harrington said before the first official team practice.
The intensity, discipline and accountability that Harrington demands of his team fell out of favor at El Modena, but for La Habra, it was exactly what they were looking for.
Harrington stands behind his coaching philosophy of training the girls like elite athletes and preparing them for college softball.
Harrington describes his departure from El Modena like a relationship where two people just grow apart and want different things.
“When I first started there the support was incredible, but the last few years there was basically zero,” Harrington said.
Make no mistake about it, Steve Harrington runs a tight ship and demands accountability from his players. His power-lifter build and tattooed arms foreshadow the intense demeanor by which he operates, but coming from a football background that is par for the course.
What makes him so unique, is that he has devised a way to successfully translate the preparation and coaching techniques of football into softball.
Harrington’s approach includes strength building techniques that you might see at the CrossFit Games. Another facet he borrowed from football is advanced scouting. Harington breaks down the competition with detailed scouting reports on every opposing player.
Harrington first got into coaching softball back at Chaminade High School in 1990. At the time, he was coaching football for the school, when the athletic director coaxed him to try it out. He took the JV team all the way to a league title his first season and became intrigued by the strategy involved.
After the season, he absorbed as many softball books and videos as he could and transitioned up to varsity. He also began coaching a travel ball team in Orange County called the BatBusters. Harrington’s BatBuster team sent seven players to the United States Olympic Team.
In 2000 he took the job opening at El Modena, where several of his BatBuster players attended high school at the time. While at El Modena, Harrington became one of the winningest softball coaches in Orange County, compiling an unprecedented winning percentage of nearly 80-percent. Harrington led El Modena to the CIF Playoffs every year, including a State Championship in 2008.
When it comes to in-game coaching, Harrington prides his teams on playing a unique brand of softball.
“I coach a different style of play, defensively you are going to see a lot of shifts,” Harrington said.
Offensively he prides his teams on putting pressure on the defense with aggressive base running and taking what the defense gives him at the plate.
After leaving El Modena, Harrington took a year off of high school ball. He said that he evaluated all of the factors when deciding to coach high school again, but what sealed the deal for him was the talent of the team at La Habra.
“We had a whole infield of freshman the other day, it’s incredible the talent we have here,” Harrington said.
He also raved about the community and school support he has felt from La Habra, which is something that he said was lacking the last couple years at El Modena.
“I’m telling you it has just been a very welcoming experience,” Harrington said. “Oh my god the support here has been incredible.”
Harrington said that he made it a point not to come in and change everything.
“You don’t want to come in and clean house, because their house is already built and its got a good foundation,” he said.
Part of that foundation are assistant coaches Gina Doublin, Richard Flores and Andy Garcia. Flores has been with the program for 16 years and Garcia has been on board for five years.
“We are ecstatic,” Flores said. “We are in love with his presence here and everything about his style of softball.”
Garcia echoed Flores’ sentiments and pointed out that Harrington has brought discipline and accountability to the team.
“The last few seasons the girls kind of did what they wanted, but this season the girls are jelling and starting to play together as a team,” Flores said.
The two assistants also talked about how Harrington has brought a college style approach to the team.
“He has intertwined the [the high school game] with college style, so that when the girls leave here they will be ready,” Flores said. “I believe he is going to uplift our program to heights we’ve never seen.”
Most importantly the players have taken to his methods right away. All of the coaches have noticed a big difference in the girls already.
“He is showing them the big picture and they are drooling over it, we have been waiting for a coach like him for so long,” Doublin said.
Harrington has wasted no time implementing his philosophy with the team. A firm believer in “iron sharpening iron,” Harrington has already set up preseason games and tournaments for the Lady Highlanders to play some of the toughest teams in Southern California.
For the Lady Highlanders the future looks bright. The team has finished Freeway League Champions three out of the last four seasons, but Harrington now has the girls aiming higher. He stopped short of making any predictions about the season, but it’s safe to say they believe big things are coming.
“I’ve been there [CIF Championships],” Harrington said to his team before their first official practice. “I’ve seen it and I am telling you right now, we have the talent to make it there, but you gotta believe.”