Spencer Harris ’89 Will Leave as Head Coach of Jesuit’s Wrestling Program
Spencer Harris ’89, who has been head coach of Jesuit’s wrestling program since 2011 and guided the Blue Jays to state runner-up championships in each of the past four seasons, has decided to leave to devote more time to fatherhood and his family. The announcement that Harris will give up the head coach position when the current school year ends was made by Jesuit principal Peter Kernion ’90, who said a search is underway to find his successor.
Coach Harris addressed about 30 members of the wrestling team after their exams on Tuesday to personally inform them of his decision.
“Spencer is a coach of significance who’s done a fabulous job,” said Kernion, who thanked Harris for his dedication and service to Blue Jay wrestling. “His impact goes beyond teaching basic techniques of the sport to student athletes because he believes that wrestling teaches life lessons, develops character traits, and builds lifelong relationships.”
Jesuit athletic director Dave Moreau was also appreciative and commended Harris for the “total commitment” he brought to Blue Jay wrestling, which this season marked its 70th anniversary. One of the most respected and acclaimed prep programs in Louisiana (and in many other states), Jesuit wrestling teams have captured 23 state championships (the first in 1951, the most recent in 2009) and produced 145 individual state champions (who won 171 individual state championships). Coach Harris has nurtured eight individual champions in the four years he has supervised the program, the most recent being a trio of Blue Jays who won at last month’s LHSAA wrestling tournament.
“Spencer understands that wrestling is an individual sport as well as a team sport, and there are times when an athlete must make a personal sacrifice for the good of the team,” said Moreau. “He is really good at pulling guys together and molding those athletes into a cohesive team. We are going to miss him and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Harris enjoys the distinction of being one of only seven Blue Jay grapplers to win three consecutive individual state titles. In 1987, Harris won the state championship in the 98-pound class; in 1988, the 119-pound class; and, as a senior in 1989, the 145-pound class.
“I thoroughly enjoyed coaching the Blue Jays the past four years and will definitely miss the competitions,” said Harris, who previously supervised Jesuit’s junior high wrestling teams in two stints totaling 11 years before taking on the head coaching job. “I was honored to have a front row seat watching the development of our students into athletes. Of course, there were times when it was stressful, but I also had a lot of fun.”
As a full-time firefighter with the City of Kenner, Harris admits that there were occasional untenable moments when he juggled his professional career with coaching duties and family life. He and his wife Jennifer, a nurse-practitioner, have five children. Their oldest is Timothy, who graduated from Jesuit with the Class of 2010 and currently teaches theology at his alma mater, where he is a member of the Alumni Service Corps.
“When I started coaching full time at Jesuit, our two youngest children were ages four and seven,” said Harris. “Now they’re eight and 11. I don’t want to miss any more of them growing up.”
Harris said that the experience he gained as Jesuit’s wrestling coach has been unexpectedly beneficial on a parental level. “When I’m watching my kids playing playground sports, I’m much more relaxed on the sidelines,” he said with a smile. “I’m not as excitable as I used to be, and that’s a good thing.”