For Harris, Retirement Leaves a Therapeutic Legacy

HPISD head trainer reflects on 37 years at his alma mater

Jay Harris has 28 state championship rings, two Hall of Fame plaques, one teacher of the year award, and too many cherished memories to count.

That comes with 37 years of service as a beloved athletic trainer at his alma mater — a stint that will come to an end when Harris retires from Highland Park ISD this summer.

“We’re going to miss his leadership. He’s done a great job with our players and our student trainers,” said longtime HP football coach Randy Allen. “He’s really embedded in the community and our school and has had quite an impact.”

Harris was a student trainer at HP during the late 1970s before earning a scholarship to Texas A&M, where he worked primarily with the men’s basketball program.

However, his first career path was a furniture salesman, following in the footsteps of his father. But after four years in the family business, his dad’s health deteriorated. Around the same time he got a call from HP administrators, who had an opening for a full-time trainer.

“I could tell that after 31 years my dad’s business was going to be over,” Harris said. “When they called, it was a no-brainer. I jumped at the chance. I got really lucky that I was able to leave one profession and go right into the next.”

In the summer of 1987, Harris finished up the necessary courses to earn his training license and teaching certificate. He worked for the next 25 years under his mentor, legendary HP trainer Doug Gibbins.

When Gibbins retired in 2012 after 38 years, Harris became the district’s head trainer. And now he will hand the reins over to Christal Clark, who has been with HPISD for 25 years.

Harris has seen sports medicine evolve considerably over the past four decades. Yet Harris said the best part of his role is the lasting relationships built with students, either in the classroom as a business teacher, or on the training table.

“The hard part is when you see someone who has a season-ending or career-ending injury, you have to be there for them,” he said. “You see the kids more than their moms and dads see them. There’s so many times where you’re a counselor or a father figure or someone who they can just vent and talk to.”

Harris has left his mark in other ways, too. He has read off names at HPISD graduation for more than two decades. He also suggested the creative name for the district’s baseball facility in the mid-1990s that has stuck ever since — Scotland Yard.

Even though he’s leaving his office adjacent to Highlander Stadium, he will remain a fan of the athletes and coaches who have meant so much.

“The kids are great and they treat you with wonderful respect,” Harris said. “I’ve never wanted to go anywhere else.”

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