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CHICOPEE — Chicopee High School Guidance Counselor and coach Melissa Harms was nominated for the Massachusetts Women In Athletics Distinguished Service award.

Every year, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Women in Leadership Committee recognizes women who have worked with distinction on behalf of the girls’ sports in their communities with the Massachusetts Women in Athletics Distinguished Service Award.

This award celebrates the efforts of those whose contributions have had a lasting and profound effect on female student athletes.

The event is hosted to celebrate the many opportunities girls and women have to compete in sports throughout Massachusetts and the country.

This year the event will take place at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on May 22.

Harms is currently in her 20th year at Chicopee High School where she has coached swimming each year since she started. She has also coached track and field for six years, cross country for 10 years and tennis for six years.
She talked about finding out about the nomination.

“It was a surprise. I have taken athletes to this event in the past. I haven’t gone in a couple years because of [COVID-19] and other coaches going, so I kind of was surprised by it. The award celebrates their efforts and their contributions to female athletes,” Harms said.

She also said she looks forward to attending the event for the first time in many years.

Harms added, “It’s a way to recognize women in sports and it’s good for the female athletes because they can see that there not alone, there are other female athletes who have been involved and their accomplishments are being recognized.”

Although she doesn’t coach to receive awards and recognition, Harms talked about why she enjoys her job.

“I am a little overwhelmed by all the attention. I kind of just do my job, I am for the girls and the boys that I coach as well. I coach because I like it and I like the interaction with the kids and seeing their achievement through the sport. Probably on that day it’s going to hit me more than it is right now,” Harms said.

She added, “It is an honor, and I can’t believe it. I have to pinch myself every time someone says congratulations because it doesn’t feel real yet. It’s something I would have never expect.”

Harms graduated from Chicopee High School and knew she wanted to return their someday to coach swimming. Swimming was a big part of her life, and she found a local swim club to coach during her time in Seattle to get involved with the community.

She talked about her coaching journey.

“I knew I wanted to coach swimming. I swam for Chicopee High School. I swam for University of New Hampshire, so swimming was a huge part of my life. Coming to the high school and working at the high school, I just asked if I could be the swim coach,” Harms said.

She began coaching the other sports because she worked with Keith Poulin, who was a guidance counselor at the time and coached cross country and track and field.

“He is the one that got me into coaching that. They are individual sports, so it was kind of natural to coach and learn a new sport as well,” Harms added.

The tennis was also short on coaches and the previous athletic director asked her if she could do it and she said yes.

Although she never coached those sports before, Harms said she enjoyed leaving a lasting impact and impression on student athletes.

She said, “I kind of fell into some of it but it’s getting along with the students, it’s getting along with the athletes, it’s teaching encouragement and positivity and then just learning the basics and going from there. I am never going to coach anyone at a national level so it’s more about getting them involved in these lifelong sports. As long as the continue running, or playing tennis or even swimming, those are things they can even do after they get out and go into the adult world. They don’t even have to be on a team. It makes the kids feel like they have an identity or community or family that they belong to. You build repour with kids so quickly in sports. Coaches can impact you in different ways.”

Chicopee Athletics Director Sean Mackin nominated her for this award.

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