Lady Highlanders react to resignation, LHHS looks for new coach
By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal
La Habra High School Softball Coach Steve Harrington stepped down shortly after the season despite an immensely successful two-year run at the helm.
Despites only being at La Habra for less than two seasons, Harrington developed a bond with his team that has arguable impacted each of them.
So much so, that upon hearing of his decision to step down, a large group of team members and parents demanded a meeting with school administration to plead for Harrington to remain with the school.
Eleven varsity softball players, along with parents, La Habra High School Principal Karl Zener and Athletic Director Frank McCarroll held a meeting with last month to fight for Harrington.
According to former Lady Highlander and assistant coach Regina Andrade, who was present at the meeting, the players, parents and Andrade`each voiced their support of Harrington for helping to better the team and the program as a whole.
All 11 girls showed up with heartfelt letters in-hand, explaining how Harrington had, and continues to impact their lives both on and off the field.
The meeting concluded with the administration stating that it was out of the their hands because Harrington had resigned earlier in the week.
After the meeting, the group of players and parents went to the district office to fight for Harrington. According to multiple sources, the only solution provided was to have Harrington re-apply for the position.
McCarroll could not comment on the personnel situation.
“We wish Coach Harrington the best and thank him for the past two years,” Zener said.
Harrington was able to help lead the Lady Highlanders to remarkable on-the-field success in his short time with the team.
A little more than a month after arriving, Harrington lead the team on an unprecedented 27-game winning streak, which only came to an end during the 2016 CIF semifinals.
After the team’s success in his first season the Lady Highlanders became the first team in any sport in the history of the school to be moved up and compete in CIF Division 1.
Many parents and players reacted to the promotion with some fear that the 2017 season would be difficult.
Harrington though, didn’t sweat it. Instead he reacted by working to inspire the team to believe they absolutely belonged at the top. And convinced the team that they would not only compete in Division 1, but beat a lot of the top team’s in the division.
And that’s exactly what they did.
The Lady Highlanders finished the 2017 season with an impressive 21-8, 9-1 record, and along the way beat some of the top ranked teams in the nation.
The Lady Highlanders were actually ranked in the top-10 in the nation back in March, after defeating Orange Lutheran and the No. 1-ranked team in the Nation Los Alamitos in back-to-back games during the Dave Kops Tournament of Champions in Bullhead, Arizona.
Few people know what Harrington has done, and continues, to do behind the scenes for his girls.
His reputation for being a hard-nosed coach is earned. According to him, he makes his players put in the work and hold them accountable.
He explains that it comes from a place of wanting to help his players become the best they can be.
The touching letters penned by some of his players to the school paint a picture of what is underneath that tough exterior.
They tell a story of a coach, a mentor and for some, even a father figure who went out of his way to make sure all of his players were able to compete at the highest level on the field, and be the best version of themselves off of it as well.
“Steve has impacted my life in many ways,” catcher Alyssa Rios said. “He brought my confidence up when nobody believed in me, not even myself and turned me into a catcher I never thought I could be.”
“Steve showed me the more detailed parts of the game,” first baseman Alyssa Palacios said. “He’s also showed me how far confidence can get you and he’s just made me see the game in a different aspect that makes the game quicker and more fun, he’s an awesome coach and an awesome person in general.”
“Coach Steve really cared about me and always had my back,” shortstop Savannah Tourville said. “Not only is coach Steve coaching us but he really cares about each player and wants us to get to the next level and help us in the future after college.”
Harrington’s impact was also felt off the field for many of the girls. Perhaps none more so than Rios.
“He also helped me through my depression,” Rios said. “My dad had passed away about 11 months ago and he was there for me, pushing me to be a better person and I thank him for that everyday.”
“He’s given me opportunities of a lifetime with college,” she continued. “He’s overall an amazing person and a father figure in my eyes.”
Many of the players echoed sentiments about Harrington’s generosity, pointing out how he bought the team matching cleats at the beginning of the season and helped pay for some players to travel out of state for the Tournament of Champions.
“He always told us that money was not an issue,” Tourville said. “He helped out with free lessons and paid for many other things, even simple things like buying the team breakfast and giving us that time to bond.”
Palacios explained that he would help out the girls who couldn’t afford the Laughlin trip or the banquet, and that there would be a way for them to go.
Harrington still helps the girls when he can. He’ll attend travel pall games and provide a free lesson here and there. He’s also working his connections in the softball world to help set up college scouting visits for the girls still without scholarship offers.
“He’s contacted a few schools for me and one of them really likes me,” Rios said.
“He’s helped me after the season to prepare me for college,” Palacios said.
In his two seasons, Harrington helped the La Habra softball program grow and develop into one of the top programs, and he is ready for his next opportunity.
La Habra is currently accepting applications for the coaching position and hopes to have someone in place by the start of the school year.