COACH OF THE YEAR RUNNER-UP: Legendary Coach Harry Parker Leads Crimson to Top Spot in Nation

Half-century veteran helps crew to a Rowe cup

Bob Parker
Weston B. Howe

Harvard coach Harry Parker has been at the helm of the crew program for 49 years and is widely considered to be a legend of crew.

Harvard coach Harry Parker’s excellence has been so consistent that it almost gets taken for granted. But this season, his success was impossible to ignore.

The Harvard heavyweight first varsity eight, second varsity eight, and freshman eight each won their respective events at EARC Sprints.

A second-place finish by the third varsity eight and a third-place finish by the freshman four rounded out the team’s extremely successful trip to Worcester, Mass., and helped the Crimson earn the Rowe Cup for the best team finish.

The Sprints success came on the heels of a regular season in which Harvard went undefeated in the 1V, 2V, 3V, 4V, and 1F.

The success of Parker’s crews’ speaks for itself, but the coach himself refuses to take credit for it, attributing the success instead to his dedicated core of athletes.


“There aren’t any secrets,” he said. “The primary talented athletes. You [need to] have capable and motivated athletes who are willing to train hard in order to achieve their goals. I am willing to say: one of the foundations is [to work] very hard to teach really good, strong fundamental rowing technique...and the other is to help in creating an environment whereby the athletes train hard. Quite frankly, that motivation comes primarily from the athletes. My only contribution is to nurture that.”

According to freshman heavyweight coach Bill Manning, Parker’s humbleness in interviews typifies his athletes-first style of coaching.

“He’s concerned for the well being of the students on the team,” Manning said. “He’s trying to create success so that the students can enjoy the success, not so that he can add to his [coaching record]...[He has] an extraordinary understanding of the sport: the physiological...the mechanics, an understanding of the responsibilities and obligations of a student.”

While Parker himself may be humble about his accomplishments, his rowers are quick to sing his praises.

“He is an awesome coach,” said junior Nick Jordan, six seat of the first varsity eight. “He’s really done a great job with our crew...He really helps to give you confidence to get ready for a big race.”

“The thing about Harry is he’s just got so much experience,” added captain and varsity four seat Anthony Locke. “His leadership was so valuable. Sitting at the starting line, we felt as though we had the best possible preparation.”

That this year’s Rowe Cup—the team’s 31st—was no accident; Parker’s crews have long had a knack for big races.

“A big part of coaching is putting guys in challenging scenarios where they can be successful,” Manning said. “So when they get to the bigger stage, they have the confidence to handle the bigger stage of the big events.”

Jordan put it more simply:

“He just knows how to win.”

—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at