By Tony Adams
Going from being a high school athlete to a college athlete is an adjustment enough.
Switching positions once in college can be a whole other challenge.
But not if you are UMHB women’s soccer freshman forward Kat Parker.
Parker, a 2013 graduate of Belton High School and a former standout on the Belton Lady Tigers’ soccer team, has lit the scoreboard with alarming regularity in her first year in the purple-and-gold. Her 11 goals (Five game-winning goals), 5 assists and 27 points leads all Lady Cru with one game remaining on the schedule prior to American Southwest Conference Playoffs. She has been named offensive player of the week in the ASC twice in her freshman campaign. The production came from a shift in position from being a mid-fielder to an attacking mid-fielder.
What kind of mindset does it take to adjust to a new position in soccer?
“Go forward, go forward, go forward,” said Parker. “As a midfielder, you look forward to wherever your forwards are. As a forward, you look forward to where the goal is. Either work forward to where the other forward is or just shoot. The more shots you take, the more chances you have to score a goal.”
The production may not have happened if UMHB coach Barry Elkins, Parker’s coach in her first three years at Belton, had not known the capabilities of his talented freshman.
“I did have the benefit of coaching her a few years before this,” said Elkins. “In the high school sense, she started at midfield for me, that what I had her pegged as. With her talent level and abilities, I knew she would be able to make an impact. So even after one game of watching her, she scored the first goal of the season. That was from a midfield position and you knew she had the ability to dominate around the goal frame.” Her teammates have contributed a great deal to her success in making the transition to an attacking mid-fielder.
“They’re really supportive and give me a lot of feedback on the position,” said Parker. “They help me in my development of the type of player that I am. It helps to know what kind of players they are.”
Another adjustment that Parker has made is the adjustment of fitting academics into her fall athletic schedule.
“Unlike high school, I am able to manage my time carefully,” said Parker. “As being a student-athlete, it’s all about time management. I go to class from 8-11 and get some of my homework done before practice. I go to practice, I eat and then I go and study. It’s not as hard as people make it out to be, but it is easier during soccer season.”
“A lot of time in athletics, they have an advantage because their day is more scheduled,” added Elkins. “They fit the studying into the athletic schedules. Kids, like Kat, have higher grades during the playing season because their days are more routine.”
Elkins is not immune to the adjustment either, considering his previous tenure as the Belton Lady Tigers’ soccer coach. Being a college head coach, it has its planning challenges as well.
“It’s an adjustment I’ve had to make from living on a bell schedule,” said Elkins. “To coming over here and making sure I get things done in the time that’s allotted me. I know that I am constantly preparing over here and then I have to work in recruiting. Even in the side I don’t have a hand in, their academic side, I care about them and want them to be successful.’
Parker’s game has flourished the way she knew it would and expects to continue her success in the college ranks. But playing for some of her teammates who have not enjoyed some of upsides of their collegiate careers is important to her at the moment.
“I am playing for the seniors this season,” said Parker.