Stephen Harris spent his high school soccer days between the posts as a member of the Salem High Witches.
As said goalkeeper, he had to learn how to become a leader on and off the field, directing traffic during games and serving as an extra voice alongside then head coach Mike Collins.
Upon graduation Harris moved on to UMass Amherst, where he competed at the club and intramural levels. While he surely didn't bank on a playing career beyond that, the now 24-year-old always had an interest in coaching.
That prompted him to get involved with Topsfield's Aztec Soccer, and most recently the young futbol mind was hired to replace his former coach — who resigned following last season — at his alma mater.
"I heard that (Mike) Collins was stepping down at Salem High and I just figured I'd throw my name into the ring and see what the interview process was like," admitted Harris, who takes over for a Witches' boys soccer program that has made strides in recent years by qualifying for the MIAA state tournament in each of its last two campaigns.
"I want to thank coach Collins for being a great coach to so many kids that went through Salem High for the past 10 years. I'll continue to ask for his insight and hope to create the same impact he had on the program."
Harris may be younger than most varsity high school head coaches, but he clearly made an impact on the hiring staff at Salem High. His vast knowledge for the game coupled with a long track record of competitive playing experience and his recent success at Aztec made Harris the perfect candidate to take an already rising program to new heights.
Entering his second year at Aztec, Harris operates as the boys coordinator and coach for the 2005 and 2007 age groups. His focus often lies on the fundamentals of the game and giving kids a strong base to improve off of.
Harris will be bringing in Jason Alas and Robert Abreu — both of whom he played with beginning at the U10 level — as assistant coaches.
"I want to develop these players with a lot of the basics and make sure we're doing the little things right," said Harris, who spent time coaching the JV team at Bishop Fenwick last season following a one-year stint as an assistant for the Crusaders' varsity squad.
"I don't want to over-complicate things and bring things to the table that they might not necessarily understand. I just plan to keep it as simple as possible; if we do the little things right we'll be able to build off that. It's definitely going to be a challenge and I'm excited to get started."
Harris has yet to meet any of his potential players, but with the fall season looming fast that day will come very soon.
In addition to Alas and Abreu, Harris also hopes to bring back Salem's JV coach, Alejandro Smart, for the upcoming fall campaign.