True Warrior: Mariemont Lacrosse coach fighting deadly disease

Mariemont coach battling through ALS

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Mariemont Assistant Lacrosse Coach Graham Harden helped lead the boys team to a state championship in 2017. He did the same with the girls team in 2018. He did all of it while fighting a disease that is trying to kill him.

It’s not something you normally see at a lacrosse practice -- a golf cart. It’s a big part of every practice at Mariemont because the man sitting on it is Coach Harden. He watches the sport he loves, with his giant heart, from the same golf cart every single practice, boys and girls. He wouldn’t rather be anywhere else than right here, right now.

“Coach Harden’s had so much influence on so many people,” said Mariemont head lacrosse coach Steve Peterson.

Nearly 30 years ago, Harden was in the national spotlight. He was a national champion lacrosse player at the University of North Carolina -- a player so feared on defense, they now call the defensive MVP award at UNC the Graham Harden award.

“I credit everything I’ve learned in this sport to him,” said Mariemont senior Charlie Cowart.

“I don’t think Cincinnati has ever had someone like him with the knowledge of Lacrosse he has,” said former Mariemont lacrosse player and son of Coach Harden, Cole Harden.

In 2016, three letters changed Graham’s life forever -- ALS. The disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease was taking over his body.

“It was devastating to see something so terrible do something like that to a man who’s done so much good in his life,” said Mariemont senior Josh McClorey.

The disease is breaking down his body, his hands and his speech -- it cannot break Coach Harden.

“Why sit around just waiting for the inevitable?” the coach says. “I can still do most of what I need to do as a coach. I have to do it a lot differently, but as long as I’m able to be here with (the players), why not?”

“Every time we see that smile it brightens our day and makes us want to practice harder,” said McClorey.

It’s a message that crosses over beyond lacrosse -- the message of a true warrior.

“The way I look at it is, there’s not much I can do about it,” said Graham Harden. “So, why waste energy on the bad? Why not enjoy the good? I don’t know. It seems like the obvious approach to this for me.”

Mariemont has dedicated each of their last three seasons to Coach Harden, including their boys state title in 2017 and girls state title in 2018.

You can help Graham fight the battle at www.gforcegameon.org.

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