DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. – For Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Harris, mentorship doesn’t end with shaping the young minds of future Air Force leaders. It extends to the gridiron of Dover’s grassy fields, where he volunteers as an assistant football coach for a peewee football team.
During the three-month season this year, he undertook the role of secondary defensive coach of the Pop Warner Dover Caesar Rodney Raiders. Harris, a Reserve Citizen Airman assigned to the 512th Airlift Wing, dedicated two days a week after work to motivate and develop a group of boys ages 8 – 11 into resilient and disciplined individuals through coaching.
“I’m here to teach them discipline,” said Harris. “The kids don’t realize it now, but (the coaches) are building their character, and it’s going to take them far in life.”
Harris said in the three years he’s coached, he’s watched antisocial boys open up, grades improve and confidence skyrocket through teamwork and athleticism.
“I remember my son being afraid to play in the beginning,” said Harris. “Once he finally got hit, he realized he could overcome it.”
Harris said his son, and namesake, learned he could overcome tackles and more practice could build his self-esteem.
“Many of the boys learn to believe in themselves through football,” said Harris. “I’ve seen them step-up even when their hearts were challenged by bigger players on opposing teams.”
He added seeing his son’s transformation throughout the years of playing ball was monumental, and it makes him proud. The influence other coaches had on Harris Jr. nurtured his untapped capability.
“As coaches, we can see potential in the players that they can’t see themselves,” said Harris. “As leaders, we hone that potential by instilling camaraderie and empowering them to make decisions. It’s why we coach.”
Harris said after the players become confident in performing, they learn how to step up and get after the goal, taking the place of another team mate when they’re down or unable to play.
He stated it’s the same with his Airmen, adding as a senior leader, and superintendent of the 512th AW Force Support Squadron, it’s his duty to consider the leadership qualities in lower-ranking service members, pull them out of their comfort zones and mold them to execute the mission.
“You may not always have your seasoned folks around,” said Harris. “When that happens, other service members must have the ability and know-how to replace them when they’re deployed or out of the office for whatever the case may be.”
Harris said developing the Airmen under his leadership means assessing his personnel and determining the appropriate leadership style to make his troops efficient.
Julius Timmons, the head coach of the Raiders alongside Harris, said Harris brings his adaptive management skills to the field, and it earns him due respect with the boys.
“When he talks, the kids listen,” said Timmons. “He’s a big motivator and brings a lot of technical wisdom to the defense of the sport. During the games, he’s loud and proud.”
As a motivator, Harris said one thing he enjoys is watching the boys be wingmen, and he hopes the game gives them something that it gave him – resilience and faith.
“The athletic part of coaching is good, and it’s great the players get to have fun,” said Harris. “In the end, when they move on from the game, I want them to be accountable and responsible men who stand in places they never thought they’d be – like I was, the day I made chief.”