Inducted into the Coaching Corps Hall of Fame as the top vote getter, Coach Sam Harrison has impacted players for years. One of them, Monica Valenzuela, explains what makes me such a great coach and mentor.
When Monica Valenzuela, a sophomore at Holy Names University in Oakland, CA, heard about the Coaching Corps Hall of Fame, she did not need to think long to know which coach she should nominate.
“I knew right away,” she explains. “Coach Sam had a such strong impact on me. And to this day, I still work out with him on the weekends. He’s just a special part of our family and someone I’ll never forget.”
Sam Harrison, also known as Coach Sam, was Monica’s AAU coach for the Stockton Mavericks in the eighth grade and also on the coaching staff of the girls varsity basketball team at St Mary’s High School. He was a very demanding coach but always built a special relationship with his players.
“His practices were really hard. I was always so nervous going to those practices, because I didn’t know what to expect,” remembers Monica. “But at the end, it always came down to family because he cares about all his players and because of that he pushed us to a point where he knew we could go. I never thought I could be as good as I am and he definitely made me mentally stronger.”
Monica recalls that one thing that Coach Sam always said. She can still hear it in her head today even though it’s been 6 years since he last coached her in a game:
“Come sit with me…”
“It’s hard to describe how he actually said it because it was in a very serious but also goofy way,” described Monica.
“A serious threat that he would only tell us when we did something that would cause us to sit on the bench.”
Helping her get to the next level
When Monica decided she wanted to pursue basketball more seriously, Coach Sam was there every step of the way.
“You really need good coaches to prepare you for what’s to come,” she says. “And I think that this [AAU] program and his coaching style definitely prepared me for high school, and then for college.”
When the day came to announce what college program she would be joining the next year, Monica was overcome with emotions because she recognized a familiar face in the crowd.
“When he surprised me at my college signing, all I could do was cry,” she describes. “When I saw him, I realized that he was a special part of why I was where I was.”
And for her first college game, Coach Sam was also in attendance. “That was also really special that he came to this game. We just have a super special bond.”