A Story of Perseverance & Passion: Harry

Mike Coval
July 4, 2021

This is a story of one of my favorite human beings: Harry Rafferty.

Harry is on the left. Dude on the right has done okay for himself too 🙂

Back in 2018 I was playing in the Ann Arbor Rec & Ed Basketball League on Sunday's. We played against Harry's team twice that season and before the second game we were both the only two people there warming up about 40 minutes before the game started which lead to a conversation and I thought that was probably going to be the end of it.

Fast forward to the summer of 2018 and a simple Facebook message was the thing that resulted in Harry becoming a client and ultimately one of my best friends.

Me: "Hey Harry, I saw the social post from Big X (a team made up of former B1G players that had teamed up for a basketball tournament called "The Tournament") and saw your face on the roster. That's dope, man! Congrats! I look forward to watching you play!"

Harry: "Thanks, Mike! I've actually been meaning to get in touch with you. I need to get prepared for this and would like for you to train me."

The rest is history.

Summer of 2018 (May-July)

Beyond coachable. Eager to learn and apply. Committed. Hard-working doesn't do his work ethic justice. I noticed these qualities about Harry as we got him prepared for "The Tournament".

It became clear to me why Harry was a 1,000 point scorer in college.

Unfortunately, Big X lost in the 2nd round of "The Tournament".

When Harry returned to the gym, I asked him "what's next?"

Without skipping a beat he responded with "It's my dream to play in the NBA G League. Let's make that happen."

Remainder of 2018

Harry would train with me 3-4x per week and then daily was in the gym. Now, the only time that he could get into the gym was the middle of the night. So he would wake up at around 630PM, come train with me, go home eat, study film, and then go to the gym for a few hours and work on his game starting at 1AM.

Every single day.

He did whatever he could (legally) to earn enough money to get by.

This was the grind from July of '18 until February of '19. Then Harry's life would take a very unexpected, yet pleasant, turn.

February of 2019

It was Saturday, early in the evening and I was at the gym lifting after a long day. I get a call from Harry.

"I just got a call from the Skyforce to come try out next week. I leave tomorrow."


I was so pumped for Harry. This was an amazing opportunity and one that I knew he would take full advantage of.

He had 4 or 5 days of a tryout where he really impressed his coaches and earned the respect of his teammates.

He secured a contract for the remainder of the season with the Sioux Falls Skyforce.

His dream had been achieved.

March of 2019 until Now

There are no guarantees in life (especially professional sports) and unfortunately, for Harry's career, he was released after they signed an NBA veteran of 15 years to come in at point guard which was Harry's position.

Harry's G League coach thought that Harry had a bright future in coaching whenever he decided to pursue it. Harry had just achieved his dream of playing in the G League and had to weigh his options of what to do next: continuing playing or start his coaching career?

An opportunity popped up at the University of Michigan with the Women's Basketball Team as they had a Graduate Assistant position open up. Harry applied and earned the position.

During his time as a GA, if I had to sum up Harry's tenure at UofM I'd use the word "grind". Not in a bad stressful way. Rather in a way that Harry demonstrated his commitment to the game of the basketball, to the girls on the team, to the coaching staff, and to the University in a way that showed Harry was determined to do whatever he could to contribute to the success of the program.

Late night shootarounds, pulling 17-18 hour days, and putting the work in when the nobody is around by watching and studying film are just a few ways that Harry showcased his commitment.

About a month and a half ago, Harry's GA tenure had come to an end, but it resulted in him being offered an Assistant Coaching job with Coach Arico and her staff which Harry gladly accepted.

I've only known Harry for 3 years now, but I can't even begin to explain the positive impact he's had on my life. There's no doubt that he's going to be a successful coach and achieve whatever he sets out to do.

My quick, 5 minute story doesn't do Harry's story justice. The whole take home from this is no matter how many people doubt you and what cards you were dealt, with enough grit, passion, and resourcefulness you can make your dreams a reality.

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Mike Coval

Coval Fitness is a Personal Training Studio and Gym in Ann Arbor, Michigan

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