Decade Goes By, Harshman Returns

At age 31, the roles of Brian Harshman are many: spouse, father, coach and student. This semester he added another—athlete.

Harshman, though, is no stranger to Grace College athletics. He was on the Grace track and field team from 1999-2001. Harshman’s first three years marked him as one of the best, setting three school throwing records and becoming the NCCAA runner-up in javelin. But this success would vanish when he least expected it.

Following a summer working at a Christian camp and experiencing revival at his church, Harshman described himself then as being at his highest point spiritually, praying for hours every day. Returning for his junior year, Harshman was excited for the upcoming season and being a growth group leader. Yet it was then that God brought him to his lowest.

Midway through his junior year, Harshman went through a trial that sunk him deep into depression and one that would alter the course of his life. He began to flunk out of classes and negatively affect the track team. At the conclusion of the year, he then decided to remove himself from school. Harshman was done.

Over a six-to-seven year period, Harshman fought to get back. Things would only gradually change, though one particular night marked a turning point. After yet another anxiety attack,

Harshman went to his bathroom to get away. It was there he gave in. As he explains, “I finally told God that whatever he wanted I was on board with. After finally meaning what I just said, I could feel burdens start falling off.”

At Grace, Andria Parker was also on the track and field team with Harshman. As the only throwers on the team, they developed a solid friendship. It was at the end of Harshman’s time away from Grace that their friendship would lead to him dating and marrying the one who would become “the constant of [his] life.”

In the fall semester of 2010, Harshman started to pursue going back to Grace to finish his degree. After he mentioned a possible comeback to track, Andria, who had become the women’s volleyball coach and assistant athletic director at Grace College three years earlier, looked into eligibility rules. It was discovered that because of the NAIA’s Gap Rule, he could once again become a member of Grace’s track and field team.

A decade after walking away from college athletics, Harshman was back. In more than one way, Harshman has been given a second chance. “My decision to leave was always in the back of my mind,” Harshman explained. “Now I’m redeeming myself for not doing things right originally.”

Harshman’s schedule now is much more packed that of the average college student. In fact, up until this week, he even had to make up team workouts by himself because of his prior commitment to coaching girls’ basketball at Lakeview Middle School. On top of homework, workouts, practices, and meets, the Harshmans are expecting their second child, yet track coach Jeff Raymond praised Harshman for his positive attitude and work ethic.

“A lot of people can make goals, but don’t see them through,” Raymond said. “He has the willingness to work hard toward a goal and set the example.”

As a youth ministry major, Harshman finds himself connecting well with teammates from a younger generation. Athletic director Chad Briscoe has been impressed. “The neatest thing to see is his desire to impact others’ lives,” Briscoe said. “I think he’ll look back when it’s done and see it as more than a chance to compete.”

Grace College has become a sanctuary for Harshman. He is at a place of growth instead of pain, a place of support with other Christians and a place to finish the process of healing that has begun. He hopes to pass on his experiences to others after he graduates through a career in ministry or coaching.

Back at her office, Andria is enjoying seeing her husband around more. Whether it is a lunch date at Alpha or a quick stop by the office, having Brian at Grace has strengthened their relationship and given them time together they otherwise would not have had.

Harshman also treasures his circumstances and is quick to give credit. “It is all for God. He has given me this opportunity and I want to make the most of it.”

By Zane Gard

This story was published in the February 25 issue of Grace’s student newspaper, The Sounding Board.

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