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Post: Blog2_Post
  • Val T.

‘I just really thought it was a calling for me:’ For new coach Parker, coaching Lady Vikes chance to pay it forward

Updated: Jun 17


Sports Editor, RTC

Rebekah Parker was once a player being pushed to excel to be her best.

That was 20 years ago. Now things have come full circle after the Tippecanoe Valley School Board approved her to be the school’s new girls basketball coach at a meeting Tuesday.

She will be the one pushing players to be their best. It’s something of a maxim for how she lives her life. Be helpful and pass along the lessons you have learned after already achieving many of your dreams.

She replaces Chris Kindig, who is out after 14 seasons.

Perhaps Valley’s greatest player, she spent the last five years becoming a mother and raising three kids. Her only involvement in basketball was as an IHSAA official.

Before that, she was an assistant coach for nine years – five years at the University of Toledo, two years at Plymouth High School and two years at Valley.

And now that she is back, she has a chance to pay forward to the next generation of players the lessons and motivation that she received that helped her be an Indiana All-Star and play two years professionally.

“After playing and graduating from Valley, I’ve always kind of wanted to move back to the community and start a family and give back by doing what I love, which is coaching,” Parker said.

Parker was the centerpiece of the Gary Teel-coached Valley teams that won three straight sectionals from 2002-04. Those teams went 61-11 over a three-year span and also won a conference title in 2002.

She then played at the University of Evansville for Tricia Cullop from 2004-08. Teammates at Evansville included former Rochester star Courtney Felke and former Triton star Ashli (Senff) Faulkner.

“As far as coach Teel and coach Cullop, both were very instrumental in the person that I am today and the player that I became,” Parker said. “I think they both instilled hard work and really tried to get the most out of me by driving me to get out of my comfort zone and know that I could push myself further and further and further. They really honed into my personality as a player, and I think that speaks volumes to their coaching style because if you can connect with people on a personal level, then a lot of times you can get the most out of them.”

She then played professionally in Finland for a year and in Germany for a year.

She returned to the states to coach under Cullop, who left Evansville for Toledo in 2008. After one year as a graduate assistant and five years as an assistant coach, she moved back to the Michiana area to coach at the high school level. “I’m so excited for Rebekah,” Cullop said in an emailed statement to RTC. “She is one of the finest basketball players I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach. She’s also one of the brightest coaching minds I have ever had on my staff. She is an exceptional leader and person. I have no doubt she will do an amazing job.”

“I played for a really long time, so as an athlete and as a basketball player, I learned a lot about the game that way,” Parker said. “And since my playing days have been over, it really hasn’t left me. I got into the coaching world after I played overseas, and I just really thought it was a calling for me that basketball was always going to be something that was a part of my life and this is a way to keep it in my life.”

She was asked if she had always planned to get back into coaching after raising her three daughters.

“That was always the hope,” Parker said. “If it turned out that way, that was what I had in the back of my mind to try to get back into it. I think it’s going to be something that I really enjoy.”

Parker said she still identifies with the community from which she graduated 20 years ago. She said the Valley community consists of “really good down-to-earth student-athletes who are willing to put in hard work.”

She calls their willingness to stay away from the “drama” and “politics” that go into sports to be “refreshing.”

“As far as the girls basketball program, I still think we have a lot of similarities,” Parker said. “Kids change, but for the most part, this community is something that I love being a part of, and I love still being a part of and giving back to.”

Parker has noticed the boom in popularity that women’s basketball has received over the last two NCAA Tournaments and the growing popularity of the WNBA.

“We call it the Caitlin Clark Effect, but I hope that that trickles down to all levels of female sports and female basketball,” Parker said. “I’m hoping that we can ride that wave and get people into the gym and show them that we have a lot to offer on the basketball court.”

She said there is an unspoken bond between her and her former Valley teammates. She said they can go a long time without speaking but that the bond instantly returns when they resume talking.

She said that paying it forward is not something that she is trying to do now just because she is a coach. Rather, it’s a way of life.

“I feel like you always try to pay it forward,” Parker said. “Even if it’s not in a head coaching role, just in my everyday life, I want to try to help people out. Now getting this platform, I have direct access to a lot of student-athletes that I want to help propel into the future of being just really kind humans and doing well with their lives.”

Parker said her older sister Kalynn Cumberland, also a Valley grad, will be the JV coach. Blaine Hartzler, a 2002 Valley grad, will also be an assistant and “C” team coach. She said she is still seeking one more coach to fill out the staff.

When she had her first meeting with her new players and their parents, she spoke about being an ambassador for basketball and engaging kids in the community.

“I mean, it’s awesome to have people to look up to and those role models,” Parker said. “And I spoke about that in our team meeting. The opportunities are endless, and we’re in a great spot with girls basketball and our sport. It’s not unreachable. And I think a lot of times, people see people put these people up on pedestals, even going to play at the next level. Sometimes, that’s like an untouchable thing. Well, I’m really going to try to hone in on that as a coach and make sure that they know that they’re in control of their destiny of their future and it is not unattainable. If there’s the right resources, the right mentality and the right work ethic, anything’s possible.”

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