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Climbing the Coaching Ladder: Dale Parker

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dale Parker
is in his third season as an assistant coach on the Cornell women's basketball staff. Parker became a full-time assistant prior to the 2007-08 season after serving one year as a volunteer assistant coach.

After playing for both Imperial Valley College (Calif.) and Valdosta State College (Ga.), Parker spent eight years playing professionally in the Latin American League in South America. During that time, Parker played for teams in Venezuela, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay, and claims to have learned the native tongue by reading Spanish comic books. Parker remained in Paraguay following his playing career and began coaching at the American School of Asuncion, while teaching physical education and English.

Upon returning to the U.S. in 1996, Parker began a two-year coaching stint at Imperial Valley College, prior to returning to his native Atlanta, Ga. for three years, where he worked as a special education teacher and Junior Varsity basketball coach at McNair High School.

Parker is the husband of former Big Red women's volleyball coach Deitre Collins-Parker.

What inspired you to get involved in coaching?

It was just the love of the game. My mentor in junior college, coach Jeff Deyo, got me into coaching when I left South America and went back to California. He saw my love of the game, and knew that coaching was something that would be suited for me. I still wanted to be involved in basketball in some aspect, and I ultimately got back into it in the coaching realm because I wanted to give back to the game that had done so much for me.

What was it that drew you to the Ivy League?

Well, I was living in LaJolla, California, working in security. I met my wife [Deitre Collins-Parker], who was the head volleyball coach here at Cornell, and something had to give. I ended up packing my bags, leaving California and coming to Ithaca.

Once I got here, I met [Head Women's Basketball] Coach [Dayna] Smith, and we talked. At that time, I was working in the community center here in Ithaca as a youth program leader. I wanted to get back into coaching but she already had a full staff, so I started as a volunteer assistant. After that season, one of our other assistants took a job in California, and Coach Smith hired me as a full-time assistant.

What are some things that were not expected, or have taken you by surprise so far here as a coach in the League?

To me, basketball is basketball. The Ivy League has a lot of talent, but the most amazing thing, and what really took me by surprise, is the workload that these kids have: the books and the athletics. It's truly amazing to me how well our student-athletes are able to balance both, not just here at Cornell, but all of the Ivy League.

What are some of your goals and aspirations?

I want to stay in coaching, but my ultimate goal is open up a facility for at-risk youths. I've loved working with kids all of my life, special needs and at-risk kids, in particular.

It was something I started out getting involved in while I was still playing over in South America. Through a friend I had there, I spent time volunteering with a program in Paraguay where we would go out and take kids off of the street late at night, bring them to our shelter to sleep and provide a hot breakfast for them in the morning. Once I got back to the States I worked in special education, and also in the group home setting.

Coming from Atlanta and from the inner-city, just seeing what's going on right now, I think I could be of service to at-risk kids in that capacity. I just want to be able to build a program that lets some of these kids know that there are other things out there, positive things and that there are people that do care for them.

Based on your experiences, what can you say to help improve opportunities for minorities in college athletic administration and coaching?

I think the desire has to be there but, obviously, the opportunity has to be there also. The effort needs to be made by the powers that be and I think that is starting to happen more and more. The WBCA has a program called "So You Want to be A Coach," and that does a good job of helping to open some doors.

But like I said before, I think it has to be a desire. You have to realize it's not just a 9-5 job. A coach is a teacher, a mentor, a have to be willing to except everything that comes with that.

With that said, I think other conferences should take a look at what the Ivy League has done. The League has done a great job of giving minorities the opportunity to coach. You look at men's basketball where five of the eight head coaches are African-American. That's big. I think the Ivies take equal opportunity to heart and other places can take a note from that.

The Ivy League takes great pride in honoring February as Black History month. For all of the inspiring stories about former athletes that helped shape movements within African-American history, please check out Ivy Black History.