NEWTON, MASS. — When Greg Harjula graduated from Rockland District High School in 2001, he envisioned himself as either a professional baseball player or an engineer when he enrolled at Eastern Nazarene University, where he was a four-year starter and captain senior year before graduating in 2005.
“I always dreamed about playing professional baseball,” Harjula recalled.
After his first season of collegiate baseball, however, he realized there were numerous players significantly better than him and that professional baseball was not a realistic goal for him.
With that in mind, Harjula switched to majoring in physical education, rather than engineering, with plans to teach and coach.
When he began a teaching career, he coached soccer, basketball and baseball though he has only retained his baseball coaching hat when he moved to the collegiate level.
The Rockland native spent one season as the varsity head baseball coach of Randolph High School in Massachusetts before jumping to the collegiate ranks.
Now, Harjula, a 2013 master’s degree recipient from Bridgewater State University, is entering his ninth season at the helm of the Lasers baseball program. He had joined the team in 2007 as an assistant coach when the team was held club-level status and remained in that role when the team earned NCAA recognition.
Since taking over the program, he has compiled a 124-148 record and six consecutive conference tournament semifinal appearances.
As the head coach of a NCAA Division III baseball team, Harjula spends less than half his time actually coaching baseball splitting his time between recruiting, overseeing the academic statuses of his players and fundraising on top of his full-time position as a physical education teacher at Randolph Community Middle School.
For those interested in being recruited by collegiate coaches in any sport, Harjula encourages high school students to be proactive in the process, attend showcase events or camps and to reach out to coaches rather than wait to be discovered by college coaches.
“With technology today, it’s very easy to record a short video on your cell phone and send it to a coach,” Harjula stated. “Get your name out to schools you are interested in and will be a good fit, and then narrow it down from there.”
Harjula advises high school students to ensure the school is a good fit academically and socially before deciding if the institution is a good athletic fit. Furthermore, Harjula noted players should not worry about what division the team plays in noting there are smaller-division teams that rival teams in higher divisions.
The former Maine resident noted coaching is all about impacting and influencing the lives of players, though Harjula did note a large part of coaching is also attributed to watching players improve and be successful.
“College players are at an age where they come in as ‘boys’ and leave as ‘men’, both physically and mentally, and catching up with former players that are now starting careers and families is extremely rewarding,” he said. “Baseball is one of those sports that most of our impact takes place in practice as opposed to the game, so creating effective practices is extremely important, which is something I enjoy.”
For those interested in pursing coaching as a career, Harjula advises to be yourself rather than directly replicating someone else’s coaching style and to never stop learning.
“I was fortunate to have some great coaches growing up, and you can learn from every coach you ever had, coach against, or coach alongside of,” he said. “It may be things you like or things you dislike, but you can take away ideas from anyone — that's what most coaching is, stealing or borrowing ideas that someone else has already done. There are certain personality styles or coaching philosophies that each coach possesses and is good at — find the ones that fit you and become the best you can.”
Harjula, lastly, advised coaches to attending coaching conferences to further develop themselves in all aspects of coaching.
“There’s more than one way to be successful in most sports, so find what you’re good at teaching and run with it,” Harjula said.
Reach George Harvey and the sports department at: firstname.lastname@example.org.