What I’ve Learned from Dan Harrison

by Kristin Troyer – Horizon Co-Editor-in-Chief, Hesston College Women’s Basketball Player

Throughout my life, I’ve had dozens of coaches, and none of them were more unorthodox than Dan Harrison.

I came to Hesston College as a legacy student. My dad and three older siblings came here. I didn’t come here for a sport; I just came because I was supposed to. It was the safest choice. It made sense. No risk.

It was lunch time in the cafeteria. I got up to return my plate. I remember tripping over the flat surface in front of the trash cans and looking around, hoping no one saw. To my dismay, there was a man right behind me.

“Do you play any sports here?” he asked me.

“No,” I answered. Did he not just see my display of athletic coordination?

“Do you want to?” he replied.

“…No.” After four years in one of the smallest high schools in Nebraska, I was ready to forget my packed afternoons and evenings of extra-curriculars.

Dan Harrison, women's basketball coach and social science faculty. Photo by Eleya Raim
Dan Harrison, women’s basketball coach and social science faculty. Photo by Eleya Raim

“Well, would you consider playing basketball?”

This was the real kicker. Not only was this man asking me, out of nowhere, to play a college sport, he was asking me to play the one I quit after my sophomore year of high school (Why I quit is a long story. I’ll just say creative differences and leave it at that).

“Um. No.”

“How about you think about it over the weekend.”

And suddenly, I wanted to consider it. It didn’t make sense, I knew that. I figured that if this man could take a risk on me, I could take a risk as well.

Taking risks isn’t something I’m comfortable with. Dan Harrison, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. He saw the 5’10 girl with the Nebraska State Track and Field shirt, and didn’t care that she had just tripped over nothing. He didn’t seem to hesitate before throwing in our Geronimo defense, something I’m pretty sure he made up, HOURS before we played the number 7 team in the nation. Even though he knew that the volleyball players weren’t allowed to play another sport, he called up Jessanna Nebel to join the team second semester.  

I’ve learned that taking risks might be terrifying, but sometimes it’s what you need. There were countless times I questioned my decision to play basketball, always wondering if it was worth it. I finished the season with 20 points, 20 more than I would’ve watching from the student section, and 16 new friends in teammates, managers, and coaches. The risks Coach took on me, the team, and the whole season flipped my life upside down.

When describing myself, there are a lot of things I would say before basketball player. That never was the identity I intended to have, yet here I am. I never thought of myself as a risk taker. But after a season with Dan Harrison, I guess you never know.

 

by Dallas Stutzman – Director of Alumni & Church Relations

My relationship with Dan goes back almost 40 years, beginning when I first worked at Hesston in admissions and Dan was a student. We have been colleagues for many of those years at Hesston, and our families have been close friends too.

“Genuine” and “caring” are words to describe Dan. Dan is not one to put on false pretenses….what you see with Dan is what you get. He takes an immediate interest in you as a person and wants to know what makes you tick and to learn from you.

I don’t think Dan has ever known a stranger. He gets to know persons from diverse backgrounds and values them all as part of God’s family. Having grown up as a preacher’s kid in a Pentecostal church in western Kansas, he found his way to be comfortable with people from many types of faith backgrounds. He sees the good in everyone and invites them to give their best back in all they do.

Dan is a dreamer and designer of ways to make a difference in the world. He doesn’t sweat the details of how to get those ideas and dreams moving forward, though. Not that the details aren’t important, but Dan empowers others to pick up the vision and make them happen while Dan is on to other ways to make a difference.

His caring is lived out in relating to students in his classes and those that play on his basketball teams. Students are welcomed in Dan and Carol’s home and feel comfortable and valued as if they had been friends for a lifetime. Dan is skilled in the classroom, in counseling settings and in most any type of athletic competition.

I count it a privilege to call Dan my friend and colleague. As a teacher and coach he will be greatly missed at Hesston College, and our loss will surely be everyone else’s gain in the years to come.

 

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