Written by: David Burnworth on Friday, April 22nd, 2022
Coach Harper is a first-class guy and a great coach. I hope you all enjoy this interview
Last year you guys finished 7-3 and fell a little short of making it back to the state finals. What will it take to be better than last season and to get back to the finals?
I am incredibly proud of our 2021 team. We replaced 10 starters on both sides of the ball, and a lot of guys were getting meaningful snaps for the first time. That said, we definitely fell short of where we wanted to be at the end of the season. The goal for our program is to compete for championships, every year. We’re working hard in the off-season. We’ve had really good participation in the weight room (which is great to see- we really haven’t been able to run our off-season program the past years with the pandemic and last year’s spring football season). We’ll be starting 7-on-7 soon, and we just need to focus on getting a little bit better every day. There isn’t a magic formula to being successful. We have to focus on being consistent in our preparation and success will come, naturally.
With the co-op working so well what advice would you give to any coach who is getting set to be the head coach of a new co-op?
I would say that it’s important to treat each school as though they have equal importance in the merge. Players and coaches need to feel valued, and if one of the participating schools feels like they’re not appreciated, the merge will likely fail. As the head coach, it’s important for me to be present in all 3 buildings, hold events at all 3 facilities, and try to foster an environment of inclusion. When people feel valued, they work harder for you.
Win or lose you always have time for me and Sykotyk both of us cover games for PAFOOTBALLNEWS. Can you tell our readers how hard or easy it is for you to talk to the media after a loss?
More than anything, I appreciate that you guys (or any member of the media) are willing to devote time from your schedules to drive to the southern tier of WNY and cover our games. If you’re willing to make that sacrifice, it would be pretty rude of me to not make time for you following a game. We also talk to our players about the importance of handling adversity with character. I wouldn’t be setting a very good example for them if I only spoke to the media after a win.
As a coach, I know there is a lot on your plate. Can you tell us how you help to get your players recruited?
Recruiting is a major part of my job that a lot of people on the outside don’t see. I joke with anyone who asks that 70% of my job as the head coach has nothing to do with anything that happens on the field. There are a lot of D-3 and D-2 schools in our region that do a fantastic job of inquiring about our players, visiting our 3 schools, and maintaining contact throughout the off-season. We’re on Hudl, so sending film of our guys to college coaches has become pretty easy. I also help to set up recruiting visits for our players so that they can see the college campuses and meet the coaching staff of the schools recruiting them.
Having three different home fields might seem strange to fans who have never followed a co-op team. How hard is it if hard at all is it preparing for this?
It’s routine for us, now. At first, it was challenging having to travel to a different school each week for practice, but we’ve gotten used to it. Again, it’s important to make each community feel valuable, and part of that is making sure that events are delegated evenly. Every field feels like home, now.
In talking with you and watching you coach more than a few times I can tell you are a very emotional person how hard is it keeping those emotions in check when things start to go poorly due to a bad call by the refs?
Officials are human, and we wouldn’t be able to play the games without them. When they make a mistake, it’s frustrating, but I make mistakes as a coach, too. Our players aren’t perfect, either. I don’t feel like an official’s call has ever cost us a win- the players and coaches have a far greater impact on the outcome of a game. The only time I really struggle is when I feel like player safety is in question. Other than that, I generally appreciate officials. It’s a thankless job- someone is usually yelling at them, no matter what call they make.
Hopefully, covid is long gone as far as fans attending games. How hard was it not having a full house at your home games?
This past fall, it was great to have everyone back at the games. Last spring, when attendance was limited, it was certainly a different experience. Ultimately, we can only control what happens on the field, but the game-day atmosphere is definitely enhanced when all of the communities are able to attend.
What is the best thing about coaching CSP?
The relationships we’ve created with our players and our coaching staff. It was my goal to create a family environment within our program, and I think that we’ve achieved that. These kids are friends outside of football. They hang out in the off-season, and even when they compete against each other on the basketball court, they’re hugging it out after the games. I’m also very proud of the way that our communities have evolved and embraced this merge over the past 7 seasons. We’ve got a great thing going and there were a lot of doubters, early on. That’s especially satisfying, to me.
What is your favorite sports movie?
My favorite football movie is definitely Friday Night Lights. I always tear up when Billingsley’s dad puts the state championship ring on Billingsley’s finger at the end. Overall though, I’d have to say, Cinderella Man. Such a great story of perseverance.
Which song gets you and the team pumped up the most.
Our locker room music and pre-game warm-up features most of the classics: AC/DC (Thunderstruck), Metallica (Enter Sandman, Fuel), etc. A few years ago, we had a fullback that would blast “Hail to the King,” by Avenged Sevenfold in the locker room. That one’s got some juice to it
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