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Paige Parker Hangs Up Cleats For College Coaching Career

(Photo by Shane Bevel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

It seems like only yesterday that Paige Parker was leading the Oklahoma Sooners to back-to-back national titles.

But time has passed, and Parker recently joined Tulsa's softball staff as an assistant coach, where she primarily works with the program's pitchers.

Softball America caught up with Parker to discuss how her storied pitching career prepared her for college coaching and got her ready to lead Tulsa’s pitching staff for the 2021 season.

SA: You were a back-to-back national champion, but how does winning the first title impact the season after it?

PP: That season after we won the first title was not easy because we didn’t deal with the target on our back the year before. There was some adjustment, and we did a good job of taking the same underdog mentality into the second year. The coaches were great working through hiccups along the way that defending year and helped us stay focused.

SA: How do you deal with expectations and pressures that come with winning a national title?

PP: Every year as a pitcher you must reinvent yourself and find things you didn’t do as well the season before. The constant want to get better and get hitters out has to be there every year no matter what happened the year before. I had been seen a lot for two years, so I really focused on mental preparation and worked with Coach Lombardi and Lea, my catcher, on mechanics.

SA: Do you see yourself returning to professional softball?

PP: No, I’ve hung it up. I really am passionate about coaching and that is where my passion lies. With AU (Athlete’s Unlimited), the game’s growth is amazing, but it’s not something I’m interested in doing right now. The professional league helped me gain a new perspective in the game and learn from others, especially my teammates and coaches. You hear about their experience, and it helps you gain knowledge of the game and how to apply their experience to your game.

SA: What drew you to Tulsa for coaching?

PP: When I was making the choice, I felt Tulsa was the right fit almost instantly. Sandra Owens and Crissy Strimple welcomed me openly and there’s a great atmosphere among the team and coaches. I have enjoyed the experience so far and I can’t thank them enough for this transition.

SA: How much of your coaching is focused on pitching mentality and softball IQ?

PP: It’s a huge part of my coaching. I think I learned a lot when I was playing to be a student of the game, and I want to pass that role on and help these players understand what they’re doing. I’m trying to help them gain softball knowledge and continue to expand their softball IQ.

SA: Now that you’re coaching, what kind of athlete are you looking for when recruiting?

PP: When looking for any athlete, you’re looking for work ethic and a great athlete and someone who is going to compete no matter what.

SA: How would you recruit a star athlete to a program like Tulsa, outside of the Power Five conferences?

PP: One thing that’s so special about Tulsa is not only the competitive nature with the other teams around the country, but there’s an amazing academic experience at Tulsa and you know walking out you have made a huge accomplishment, and that degree means a lot no matter what you pursue professionally.

SA: What are your thoughts on the growth of softball and the emergence of teams outside of the Power Five conferences in the last decade?

PP: I think teams outside the Power Five are up-and-coming and showing their strength. At Oklahoma playing against Tulsa, they always gave us tough games, especially in the NCAA Tournament. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Power Five or mid-major—it’s about the team, and any team on any level can be good and have success.

SA: What’s your favorite Coach Gasso memory?

PP: There are so many! One of my favorites was my final home game at Marita Hynes Field. I got the start, and she came out and pulled me in the sixth. It was my last time on that field. She hugged me and I will remember that forever. Having that moment with her and Lea Wodach, my catcher, is a memory that I’ll always have.

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