By Mal Boright
A greatly improved game, a better appreciation of the true meaning of high school athletics and friendships that have lasted for years.
Those are some of the highlights of Brad Parker’s 27–year run as a girls’ soccer coach at Champlain Valley Union High, which came to end recently with his retirement. He will continue his full–time work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The coach is turning in his clipboard after two straight Vermont Division 1 championships. In 24 seasons as mentor of the varsity Redhawks, Parker saw his teams record 340 victories and 42 ties with only 45 defeats. There were 11 state crowns and 16 appearances in Division 1 title contests.
From the record he compiled, Parker could well be the Bear Bryant or Geno Auriemma of Vermont high school soccer.
Parker, in a recent sit–down interview, first wanted to thank his family.
“I never could have coached this long without their support and encouragement,” he said, adding that he has been married for 30 years and has a 23–year–old son and daughter, 21.
Parker bleeds Redhawk red. The Hinesburg native played soccer, hockey and tennis at CVU, then soccer for four years at the University of Vermont.
After graduating from UVM, Parker’s friend Jeff Goode was coaching the CVU girls varsity soccer program and when his junior varsity coach departed, Goode asked Parker if he would take the job.
“I said I would commit for one year,” Parker recalled. “I had some reservations. For instance, I wondered if girls would listen. I found out that 99 percent do.”
Parker said that he liked the job and committed for another season. When Goode then left, Parker got the big job.
“That was when I really found my passion for coaching,” he said. “Some of those kids I coached for four years. I still hear from some of them and some now have kids of their own in grade school.”
How has the overall game changed since he began piloting soccer teams?
“It has improved tremendously,” said the coach. “The kids are more skilled. They have more practice opportunities and the clubs have been a positive influence. Kids with a passion for the sport can play year round.”
Parker said the personal maturing process from years of coaching was instructive.
“When you are a young coach, part of you thinks about your record and it’s ‘my players,’” he said. “As you go along, you start to look at the real purpose of sports and you think of it as ‘our team,’ which leads to a better understanding of what high school sports is all about.”
He said he developed an appreciation of the positive impacts sports experiences can have on team members and some of the life lessons to be learned.
Parker recalled one player a few years ago who, coming off two solid junior varsity seasons, had to be cut as a junior because she began tryouts unprepared for the pre–season drills.
“She was very disappointed. I suggested to her that next fall she come back in good shape and determined to play. She may be disappointed now, but she could do something about it,” he said.
The player did come back the following year and was not only ready to play, but became one of Parker’s top performers, even gaining an all–state mention after being in every game.
The coach agrees with those who opine that effective coaching is more good management of people than tactics and strategy, even though those have their place.
“I have always been close to the players,” he said. “I try to become a small part of their lives so I can be a positive influence in the little time I have with them.”
He cited the “vital importance” of good team chemistry and how all 22 members of the roster have roles to play.
A Parkerism for a life lesson is: “Be noticed for the right reasons.”
He added, “The smart ones take that to heart.”
At CVU the players have been smart and dedicated, as the results have shown.