Phoenix sports editor Mike Kays visited with Jason Parker, the new athletic director at Muskogee, late last week. Parker’s incoming challenge was to fill vacancies involving the assistant athletic director spot and head coaching positions with boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, wrestling and boys track. He was hired in late April and has officially been on the job only since late May.
1. Coming in late in the game and with so many hires to make, give us your assessment on how this process went.
I actually could not be happier. I think we’ve been able to go out and recruit some high-level coaches. I’m really proud we’ve been able to do it in a short amount of time. But even if we had a lot of time I think these were the people we would have wanted and identified, and we were able to convince them that Muskogee was the right place for them, and now was the right time for them as well.
I think that all just speaks to the momentum that the school board and Dr. Mendenhall have done a great job creating, the community, and to why I am here. I was very happy that others could see that vision and were willing to get on board. I think our fans, I think our students, even our coaches will notice a difference right away with how we go about our business on a daily business.
2. What about how you take care of business — can you expand on what that means to you?
Our motto is to win every day. Ultimately a competition is like a report card, like an evaluation that looks back. We want to use that but be more forward-looking to do the things we need to win on a daily basis. It has to do with those little inputs that sometimes you take for granted, but they make a big difference.
When you look at successful, competitive sports cultures like the (Seattle) Seahawks, the (New England) Patriots, the (San Antonio) Spurs — an organization I played in — and even going back to my days at Tulsa Memorial and the University of Tulsa, we did what I now call “out-program people.” That means we paid attention to everyday details better than our competition. Showing up on time, how we look, how our kids look, how our kids act, our character, our work ethic, getting our work done in the classroom as coaches and students, how we are connecting with the community. Those are all things that going into working and too often it only becomes are we winning or losing, and the answer to that is really because you’re stepping over those inputs. You’re not winning every day, like Pete Carroll (Seahawks coach) has been known to say. So I believe we’re going to do that day one.
3. You get a diverse community here with many family units, some lacking more than others, and teachers and coaches inherit all of that. How do you hurdle those inherent obstacles when you talk about taking care of business?
With me it’s not necessarily a hurdle, it’s an integral part of what we do. Students are who we are here to serve, and part and parcel with that we have to work hand in hand with parents, And so that necessitates that we are always open to those relationships with parents,building those relationships, and I think it starts with that.
I have personally set down with 10 to 20 parents during my time here and they’ve been excited just to hear direction and have an open door policy and feel like they are part of what’s going on instead of being on the outside looking in. And I think it starts with that understanding that hey, we’re here to work with you.
Now are there areas where this absolutely falls under a coach’s discretion? Yes, but that’s no different than the classroom. We can still find common ground to work together, to explain to let parents behind the curtain and beyond that. Once you start with that type of mentality I think it opens up all things. Beyond that obviously we’ve got to go the extra mile with some kids who need more, and one of the things we try to preach is that we need kids and parents and families at that level of commitment to be the best I can be. If that’s your commitment level, our coaches will match that.
I met with a wrestling parent for about an hour today, it’s one of those things where this parent was letting me know what was important to him and his son. As an educator the reason we exist is to develop students. If a parent or student have a particular goal or need, we’re here to help them reach that . So if I’m never open that then we’re not going to go forward in a good way.
4. Jim Platter, one of the first people you hired as assistant athletic director, seems an obvious bridge to the past here and one who knows the territory and can inform, and in the case of wrestling, was an assistant here under Bobby Jefferson, knew the sport, and was actively engaged in the interview process in that sport. How do you see that dynamic playing out in terms of you two working together?
Jim Platter is one of the best things that has happened in this department and to me personally. What he brings to the table, you’re talking about years of successful of coaching experience and long term relationships, years of doing it the right way and all of that right here in Muskogee. That’s a grand slam when you look at it.
Jim was a little hesitant about leaving his football duties because that’s where his heart has been the last few years, but one of the things i told him was that Jim has got a chance now to positively effect every single program. The way I go about things and look at things from a culture perspective, by the time I turn around Jim’s got two or three things moving on that topic. He’s a nose to the grindstone guy and works bottom up, so we normally meet in the middle.
I couldn’t have asked for a better fit. I told (superintendent Jarod) Mendenhall after our first day with him, thank you very much. I think all of our coaches and all of our staff across the district feel the same way.
5. What about soccer — the final two positions?
We have a couple of people waiting to clear up a couple things stipend-wise and we need to make a couple of other internal moves, but yeah we think we have those positions figured out and will make bring that to the board in the next couple of weeks.