At Scorers 1st, we take pride in getting to know our players and help them grow as people both on and off of the court.
Since turning professional, Sidney Parsons has gone from the University of Bridgeport, to playing in Germany, to overcoming some health setbacks and flourishing as a point guard for the Southwest Metro Pirates (Queensland/State League) as well as an aspiring player development coach in Australia. Last season, Parsons led the league in scoring (26.8 points per game), while also averaging 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
Thanks to Sidney for taking the time to share more about her time in Germany and Australia and how she remains focused on giving back through the game of basketball through her coaching.
You have a really interesting professional career since coming out of the University of Bridgeport…how would you describe the past few years of playing overseas?
It certainly has been an interesting path for me along the way! It has been a dream come true and, although there have been plenty of ups and downs along the way, I’ve loved the journey it has taken me on and led me to where I am today.
To be honest, my first few years were pretty tough. From an inconsistent season my first year to a mid-season coaching change my second year that resulted in me switching clubs and moving to another team in Germany, my professional career didn’t exactly get off to the start I had imagined. However, the change was one of the best things to happen, as I stepped into a new role that suited me and helped me have a much stronger second-half of the season. It motivated me to pass up on my offer to take a full-ride scholarship to law school back home and to take an offer from a new team and continue to pursue my professional career.
Just as things were picking back up, I went in for a standard operation for a scope and clean-up in my right knee, during which my femoral nerve was damaged, resulting in a femoral nerve palsy in my right leg. I had lost almost all feeling and control in my leg and wasn't able to do something as simple as lifting my leg up on my own. Doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to run again for at least a year and that I might not ever be able to play again. After being told that, I decided I would do anything to make sure that I could play again.
It was one of the most physically and mentally challenging processes I have been through, but after a summer of extensive rehab and work with my amazing physical therapist and trainer, I slowly started regaining the strength in my leg. I gradually re-learned how to walk, balance and eventually jump again and, only four months after the operation, learned to run again (it was more like a hobble for the first few months!) I was nowhere near fully-recovered, but I did everything I could to try and get myself ready and back into shape and headed back to Germany for another season with a partially functioning right leg.
That season back was probably the hardest thing I have ever been through as a player. I often questioned why this all had happened to me and if playing was still worth all the pain I was going through. It wasn’t by any means my best season, but I wasn’t willing to give up and knew that if I kept pushing myself, it would eventually get better and would all be worth it. After losing the strength and control in my leg for a year and realizing how suddenly it all could be taken away, I had a whole new drive and passion for the game and an appreciation of my health and fitness.
Almost exactly a year after the operation, I started regaining most of the feeling back in my leg and spent the summer building the strength back up and getting back into shape. I went back to Germany stronger than I had ever been and had my best season up until that point, which led to me getting a contract in Australia with the Pirates and getting signed by Nördlingen for the next two seasons in Germany. Since going through my knee injury, the past few seasons have been better than I could have imagined. I had two great seasons playing for Nördlingen, was leading scorer of the QBL in Australia this past season and am still playing and living my dream in an amazing country. Although it hasn’t been the smoothest path getting here, it’s been a rewarding one that has taken me all over the world, has introduced me to such wonderful people and has taught me so much about myself and about the game of the basketball.
How have you grown as a person and a player during this time?
I look back on the things that happened during my first few years overseas and, while I didn’t understand it while it all was happening, I know now that I wouldn’t be the same player or person I am today without having had it all happen. Even though the injury was one of the hardest things I have been through as a player, getting through it and coming out as a stronger person and player was one of the best things that happened to me. I was at a stage in my career before it all happened where I was losing my passion and wasn’t sure if playing professionally was something I wanted to continue to pursue. After nearly having it taken away from me, it helped me find my love for the game again and to never take my health for granted. I came out of the injury stronger and more motivated than I had ever been; the drive I felt after I was told I might never be able to play again is what has pushed me everyday in my career since then and it’s something I try to instill in the players that I coach and can hopefully pass it on to.
What’s the biggest word of advice you would give to another college senior exploring their options to play professionally abroad?
The biggest piece of advice I would give to another college senior looking to play overseas would be to pursue your dreams and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
The same goes for any player looking to play professionally, at the collegiate level or even going out for their high school or representative team. I’ll never forget when I was getting interviewed for our state newspaper, the reporter asked me what my biggest dream as a basketball player was. When I told him I wanted to play college basketball and eventually professionally, he laughed, looked at me and said, “You? You’re way too small. You should focus on soccer and academics or something more realistic instead”.
Looks like I might have gotten the last laugh instead! I love proving to people that I can do something they say I can’t do, so it’s comments like that that have always motivated me to work that much harder and to prove that I can do it. Don’t be afraid to set your goals and have dreams for yourself and to put them out there, no matter who thinks you can or can’t achieve them. And once you put them out there, do everything you can to work your hardest to make sure those goals and dreams come true.
From playing to Germany to now in Australia, what have you learned the most from the experience of playing for a club like the Southwest Metro Pirates?
I’ve learned a lot from every association I’ve played for and have taken a lot of different little things away from everywhere that I’ve played. This upcoming season with the Pirates will be the longest I have played for an organization and -- from my first season in 2014 until now -- I feel like I have learned so much as a player, a person and as a youth coach. I’ve been lucky enough to work with the club in organizing events for our QBL team and in getting to coach at various levels, from helping out at local schools, coaching camps and clinics for rep players, and with individual skill development. Being a part of all of these aspects has really opened my eyes to all the effort that goes into allowing us to play the game and has really inspired me to be a part of it all and in the development of the future players.
Along with playing professionally, can you share more about your coaching and player training/development you are currently teaching in Australia?
Yes, along with playing I am also working as a coach and with individual skills development and personal training.
On the skills development and personal training side, I am currently working with numerous basketball players throughout the local area. My youngest player is seven years old and the oldest is thirty-two; the level ranges anywhere from players who are just beginning, playing at the club/representative level or players who aspire to play in college or professionally. I meet with them throughout the week, sometimes individually or in small groups, and help them develop their skill-set, their understanding of the game and their over-all fitness. I have been working with some of the players for over three years now and being a part of all of their development as players and people has been such a rewarding experience. I feel very luck to call it my job!
Besides the individual coaching, I am also contracted as a coach for six different teams at the representative and school level. I am currently coaching the U7/U9, U15 and U17 girls, U17 and U19 boys and Sheldon College and the U21’s girls’ representative team for the Pirates. Throughout my professional career, I have always coached one team during the season; however, I’ve never coached this many teams at once! But I’ve absolutely loved getting to work with the different teams and the different age groups and do more outside of just the individual development side of the game. Working with all of these teams certainly keeps me on my toes and has taught me so much more about the game outside of just being a player.
I am also contracted by my organization at various schools throughout the area to teach the kids basketball during their P.E. class or after school through the Aussie Hoops program. It’s much different than coaching individuals or a team, but it gives me a chance to help the sport grow and to have fun while teaching the game to the kids! Outside of the individual and school/rep coaching, I have also been volunteering as a coach with the local Special Olympics program and also with the Ivor Burge program, which has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences I’ve had as a player and as a coach.
Is coaching something you’ve always been interested in? Who are the coaches who have helped influence you the most and why?
Yes and no. I’ve always been so passionate about basketball and started volunteering at camps and with other teams when I was a freshman in high school. I started working a couple of players out when I was in college and coached a youth team during each of my seasons in Germany. However, it wasn’t something I seriously considered doing until I had to choose between law school or continuing my basketball career. I graduated college at the top of my class with a 4.0 GPA and always had aspirations to become a lawyer after my basketball career.
During my second professional season in Germany, I had applied for and was granted a full-ride scholarship to a law school in Los Angeles. After going through my knee injury during that off-season, I decided I wasn’t ready to end my career on that note and forfeited the scholarship to rehab my knee and come back for another season. Before I knew it, one more season turned into four more seasons and eventually got me out to Australia. I knew I wanted to coach at some type of level, but it wasn’t until I came out to Australia that I have been able to figure out what exactly I want to do with the coaching. But I think I’m on the right path now!
I’ve been so lucky to have had some really amazing coaches throughout my playing path and it’s been those coaches who have inspired me in so many different ways to try and be the best coach that I can. I had an AAU coach who really challenged me and pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Any time I ever felt like giving up on a sprint or towards the end of the game, she always pushed me past that point. My high school coaches were (and still are) some of my best supporters and, whether it was letting me into the gym at 6am or staying an extra hour after a game/practice to recap, they taught me to always put in the extra effort.
My most influential coach has been my assistant coach from the University of Bridgeport. Coach P was there for me from my first day of college, to my first start as a freshman, to scoring my 1,000th point and to seeing me graduate. Extra individuals, pre-game and post-game feedback, constant encouragement, criticism when I deserved it, mentoring on and off the court -- Coach P was the most passionate coach I ever had and helped me develop into the player, person and coach I am today. I’ve taken all of the things that each of these coaches have taught me and try to pass it on to the kids I now get to coach.
What are some points you try and stress and work on the most as a coach or when helping develop a player?
I put a lot of focus on the fundamentals, breaking down the basic components and different skill sets and on establishing good training and playing habits with my players. I spend a lot of time on building up the basics of ball-handling, finishing and shooting and on getting my players to understand not only how to do certain things, but why they learn them and how to use them in a game. As the players develop, the skill set we work on grows and I add new components to their training, while still emphasizing the fundamentals.
I really like to focus on the mental side of the game and on communication. Each of my players has a notebook they bring to their training every couple of weeks where we add different things into it to reflect and to track their progress. One of the big things we focus on within the notebook is goal setting, whether it’s goals for the year, for the rep season, for the upcoming game or even for the week of training. The players also receive feedback from their games or from training, “homework” (whether it’s reflecting on something from training or looking up a player and relating it to themselves), different types of workouts, or motivational articles. I really enjoy the skill development side of the game and the feeling of teaching a player how to do their first perfect left hand lay-up or swish five three-pointers in a row; but I find that helping a player become mentally strong and being a positive influence in their mental development and understanding of the game is just as rewarding.
During the offseason, you often return home to Arizona and help put on cross training and basketball camps. Why is it important to help give back to the game this way?
When I do get the chance to go home during the Christmas break, I always make sure to devote time to going back and visiting my high school to meet the new team, catch up with the coaches and staff and to help with any practices, clinics or tournaments they have on. Throughout high school, college and in between my first three seasons in Germany, I was lucky enough to have coaches (from both the girls and boys teams), physios and a strength/conditioning coach that all looked after me and that always made me feel like a part of the program. I find it so important now not only to help give back to the people who were always there for me, but also to help continue to improve the program for the current and future athletes and hopefully to be a positive role model for any of the players who aspire to play in college or professionally.
Another program I always try and give back to is my soccer organization. I grew up playing both club soccer and basketball and in high school became the first athlete to play both sports during the same season at the varsity level. While most teams usually make an athlete decide between one sport or the other, my soccer organization always encouraged me to pursue both sports and did everything they could to ensure I was successful in both. I believe that a lot of the things I picked up from soccer helped me become a better basketball player and, while basketball was always my passion, soccer was always fun for me and helped me stay balanced as an athlete.
The club I played for now puts on a clinic once a year when I come home for any of the girls who want to play both basketball and soccer and they have even formed a team that won their first grand final against an all-boys team recently! Giving back to a program like this is so important to me not only just to give the players a chance to learn and develop in basketball, but also to encourage them to pursue both basketball and soccer and show them that they don’t have to give up one sport for the other.
*photo courtesy of little champs photography
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