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The Scarlet & Black

Coach Harrold finds niche as coach and teacher at Grinnell

Coach Harrold advises student-athletes during a speed and agility session.

By Diana Chege

For Dana Harrold, the 11th Pioneer women’s basketball coach in program history, sports seemed to come naturally. After competing as a five-sport athlete at Dubuque College, Harrold gained her bachelor’s degree in education with big plans for maintaining her involvement in athletics.

“I was sure I wanted to coach and teach, most likely at the high school level,” Harrold wrote in an email to The S&B. Her college coach presented the opportunity of working as a graduate assistant at her alma matter while acquiring her master’s degree. At Loras College, she subsequently earned her master’s degree in physical education with an emphasis in athletic administration in 2006.

Harrold was named the head women’s basketball coach at the College in July 2013. She affirmed that her experience thus far has been even better than expected, mostly due to the players she works with.

“My student-athletes are students first, incredible people and dedicated athletes. I can’t think of a better group of people I would want to surround myself with,” Harrold wrote.

Harrold’s decision to coach at Grinnell also lies in her strong Iowa roots. She was born and raised in Jesup, Iowa and is the eldest of her two sisters, of whom she “cannot go more than a couple of weeks without seeing.” Her husband Clay, works as principal at Grinnell Middle School. The two have a 21-month-old daughter, Braylee, and two wiener dogs, Bubba and Rocky.

Her philosophy for coaching has always been “developing the whole person and not just the athlete.” Harrold wrote that she is keen that her students walk away with “leadership skills, ways to deal with adversity, an overall positive experience in addition to player development.” She aims to bring out the best in her students in the gym as well as all other aspects of their lives. In fact, one of her student-athletes refers to her as a resource not only for sports education but also for life lessons.

Her approach seems to be making headway. The 2015-16 team enjoyed the biggest season for the program in more than a decade, winning 12 conference games and qualifying for the Midwest Conference Tournament for the first time since 2003-2004. The team still continues to grow and set their expectations high.

Her secret to success is “having a plan and the players buying in. You can have a great plan as a coach, but if you don’t find a way to get your players to trust you and buy in to everything, it makes things a lot more challenging.”

Additionally, she focuses on developing the mindset of her students. Hanna Kessel 19 describes the term “90 for 40” that Harrold coined, meaning that for 40 minutes and 90 feet the students let go of everything else and focus on the task before them. Harrold also credits the students themselves, who she says are hardworking, focused individuals that haven’t settled on anything other than outworking teams and giving it their all.

In addition to serving as head coach of the women’s basketball team, Harrold holds the office of an assistant professor within the physical education department and will begin a role as the assistant softball coach this upcoming season. She also runs speed and agility training on Mondays and Wednesdays for out of season athletes, during which she has the opportunity to work with several other teams throughout the year.

In her many responsibilities at Grinnell, Harrold hopes to instill values that remain with her players for years to come. 

“My vision for the women’s basketball team is to create a positive and competitive experience for the students. Additionally, to form a cohesive family environment where the students have a support system off and on the court. One that stays for many years of their lives,” she wrote. She notes that one of the best things about her job is getting a message from a former player checking in or mentioning how much they miss being a part of the team.

Harrold admits that if she was not coaching she would still be involved in coaching and teaching at another level.

“Athletics and being a part of team has been such a positive experience in my life that I think I would still find a way to be around sports in some realm,” she wrote.

Coach Harrold advises student-athletes during a speed and agility session.
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