Berkshire School (Sheffield, Mass.) senior Jack Harrison was today named the 2014-15 Gatorade National Boys Soccer Player of the Year. The 5-foot-10, 155-pound senior midfielder led the Bears to a 19-2-1 record and a third straight New England Prep School Athletic Council Class A championship this past season. Harrison scored 16 goals and passed for 27 assists, including seven game-winning tallies. He was one of only two players in the country to be selected as an All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America for both high school and club soccer.
Harrison concluded his prep soccer career with 44 goals and 65 assists as the program went 69-8-3 in his tenure and finished as the nation’s No. 1-ranked prep school team three times. Seven of his assists as a senior also came on game-winning goals. A Best XI honoree at the High School All-American Game, he was the 2014 Boston Globe All-Scholastic Prep School Offensive Player of the Year and is rated the nation’s No. 30 recruit in the Class of 2015 by College Soccer News.
A two-time NSCAA All-American, Harrison assisted on the game-winning goal at the 2014 United States Youth Soccer Association National Championships final, earning the tournament’s Golden Ball, awarded to the player with the greatest competitive impact. His Manhattan Soccer Club team earned Top Drawer Soccer’s No. 1 ranking in 2014.
We sat down with Harrison, a Wake Forest signee, to better understand how he outshined 417,000 high school soccer players nationwide to win the award.
Q: Manchester United is arguably the most recognizable English Premier League club. You played in their Youth Academy from 2003-2010. What was your No. 1 soccer takeaway from that experience?
A: From a young age, they encourage you to express yourself and find the creativity in your game. I think it’s crucial to develop that freedom to your play and your skills before you build on them.
Q: You come from a really small, market town in the northwest of England. What’s something about your hometown that’s some interesting trivia?
A: I think it’s interesting that the area has such a distinct accent as an (old agricultural) region, but if you drive 15 minutes down the road, the accent is completely different.
Q: Being a boarding student more than 3,000 miles from home isn’t easy. If you had the chance, what would you tell the 14-year-old version of yourself when he’d just arrived here?
A: Wow, great question. I liked being away from home to a certain degree, so homesickness wasn’t really an issue. But I think I would encourage that person to ‘be yourself and express yourself in the way that you want to because your true friends will stay close and anyone else doesn’t matter.’ Fortunately, I had a lot of idols to look up to here at Berkshire.
A: You struggled here initially with the rigor of the overall schedule and the curriculum, and probably felt like an outsider for a while. Now, you’re an integral part of the school community and sort of a poster boy for the mission here. How did that happen?
A: There’s so much support here at Berkshire and so many places to find it. Teachers are some of your best friends. Everybody is willing to help. And it’s safe to say, there aren’t any bad kids here. I think that’s unique and special.
Q: You’ve said Wake Forest “reminds you of Berkshire School.” In what way?
A: It felt almost the same. Such a supportive environment. You can tell they embrace this idea of team and family. I think that’s crucial to individual and team success.
Q: You’re a versatile athlete, having won two New England titles in squash and also racing on the school’s mountain bike team. Do you think your soccer will benefit from your legs being a bit more rested next year?
A: It’s actually helped my soccer to train at different fitness levels and use different muscle groups, but I’m excited to see how far I can develop with total focus on soccer at Wake.
Q: Why do you wear No. 11 and can we expect that to continue as a Demon Deacon?
A: At the (Manchester Youth) Academy, I wore 11 because I was playing on the left side. Before that, I wore 21 because that’s my (maternal) grandfather’s birthday and he’s a really special person to me. Next year, there’s already someone at Wake who is wearing 11 for another year. I’ll get it when I’m a sophomore. Next year, I’ll wear 22. Coach (Bobby Muuss) says it will suit me because I’ll be twice as good as I am now.
Q: When you visit England these days, what’s the first food item you have that you can’t really get here?
A: Whenever I get off the plane (in Manchester, UK), we stop and get a proper English breakfast. A fry-up with sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms and beans. I love that.
Q: No kidding around: When are the Three Lions (England’s national team) going to win another FIFA World Cup, and will Team USA win one first?
A: I wouldn’t push against the U.S., they’re a good side. But as patriotic as I am, I have to root for England. However, it just doesn’t seem likely England will win in the near future. Me and my mom have discussed dual citizenship. I don’t think she’d mind if I ended up playing for the U.S. National Team someday if that were fortunate enough to happen. But my friends in England would be all over me.