As the school year comes to a close, a lot of things in the sports community come to an end.
One thing was the retirement of coach Leonard Parker Jr. from Port Allen High School.
Coach Parker retired in January after 30 years of teaching and coaching in the public school system at Istrouma High School, Brusly Middle School, North Iberville Elementary/High School and Port Allen High.
The thing that Coach Parker will be remembered for is a high school coach who coached three sports at the varsity level.
"I wanted to get to 33 years but with covid and my underlying health conditions, it was the best decision for me," Parker said. “I think it was best for me to retire at 30 years and I’m blessed to do that."
Parker said his job as a teacher was his full time job and each sport that he coached was part time jobs.
"The way that I was able to do it was not to let the sports overlap each other," he said. "I would not coach two sports at the same time which allowed me to do this for a long period of time."
Through the years Parker went from a very young coach eager to learn to a fiery and energetic coach that could motivate students to achieve at a high level and finally to a veteran coach who could not only motivate and mentor young students but also young coaches.
Parker said some of his most memorable moments of his coaching career could be divided into different sports: During his time of coaching at Port Allen High School, he was a member of the 2011 quarter final football coaching staff that had a 10 - 3 record (the first football team in West Baton Rouge Parish history to make it to the quarterfinal).
As boys basketball assistant coach in 2008, he helped the team make it to the final four with a 32-3 record.
He was also assistant girls basketball coach in 2019 that helped the girls win a district championship that had not been accomplished in over 20 years.
During his time as head boys track coach at Port Allen High, he won 10 district championships, three regional championships and helped assist in the girls winning a state championship.
Even though he was a dedicated coach, Parker also focused on academics. In the 2012 – 2013 school year, he was voted Port Allen High School Teacher of the Year.
Parker said the camaraderie he had with the different coaches that he came in contact with allowed him to learn not only about coaching but life in general because the amount of time spent between coaches brings everyone together like a family.
Parker said during his coaching career, he came in contact with some special coaches and said he enjoyed working with and mentoring coaches such as Kim Cox, Antoine Washington and James Holmes.
“It was a life-changing experience not just from a coaching standpoint but for life in general,” Cox said. “He taught me so much about basketball and about life.”
Despite the great relationship Cox and Parker have, there were times where they challenged each other that helped their relationship grow over the course of the three plus years they worked together.
"If you know coach Parker, you know how he is,” she said. “He made me look at situations differently. Once we got to know each other, it worked out. He’s a great mentor for me and a great father figure for the girls. We could not have gotten the program to where it is without him."
Parker said the most rewarding part of being a coach was helping kids believe in themselves and with proper preparation, dedication and effort, they could achieve anything that they set their minds on doing.
Port Allen girls power lifting coach Brian Bizette has known Parker for over 20 years and the two have coached together on the football team when Parker was the defensive coordinator and at one point Bizette led the girls track team, while Parker led the boys.
"His willingness to go the extra mile with the kids was special," Bizette said. "He always wanted the best for them. He’s just a great dude all the way around. We were supposed to retire together. He went one year before me. I think of him as a great friend and coworker."
As for Parker’s post retirement plans?
"My retirement hasn’t started yet," he said. "There’s maybe two days a month I have nothing to do. I take my wife out and I take my mom out to lunch once a week. Just the priceless stuff. For me to be able to take my mom out to lunch, that’s the highlight of her week. Some people would love to do that but they just don’t have the time.
"My kids and my wife, they don’t want to see me work anymore," he added. "When you see a loved one work so much, you want to see them enjoy life."
Parker thanked the Port Allen High administration for the role it played in his time there.
"Mr. (James) Jackson and his administration worked so well with and supporting athletics,” Parker said. “They make it easier to help do our jobs."