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Parish student-athletes receive unprecedented number of college scholarships

Student-athletes score scholarship offers from more than 60 colleges and universities. (Read the full story!)

On any given weekday, when the school day ends, Parish Episcopal School students change out of their school uniforms and into their sports gear. They take a break from the mental challenges of school work and test their physical limits as Parish Panthers. Some students are there to simply explore new skills, while others come to hone their techniques and take their game to the next level. ALL student-athletes will push themselves and learn valuable life lessons about adversity, accountability, camaraderie and teamwork.

The reach of athletics goes deep at Parish with 70 percent of Middle and Upper School students participating in the program. Parish offers 22 programs for student-athletes: fall sports include field hockey, volleyball, football, cheerleading and cross country; winter offers basketball, soccer and swimming; spring has baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis, golf, and track & field. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity for students to get involved. Middle School does not have “cuts” and has several teams in each sport so athletes can compete. Upper School offers JV and varsity teams for each sport. While coaches advocate for students seeking college scholarships, they also support athletes who do not want to compete beyond Parish.

“From day one, we are connecting with many families in the Parish Community,” said Brett McCabe, Parish Athletic Director. “Throw in all the events we host over the course of the school year and it’s easy to see how the community feels involved.”

The Parish athletic department continues to grow as does outside interest in our student-athletes. Scholarship offers have soared this school year with nearly 20 students getting multiple offers in two sports: volleyball with three offers (Reagan Cooper ‘19, Washington State, Hannah Osborn ‘19, Hill College, and Maisen Sturt ‘19, Toccoa Falls College) and football with an unprecedented 15 students being offered scholarships from more than 60 schools. (More offers are expected. The final list will be released at the end of football season.) “An athletic scholarship for an athlete is one of the highest honors they can receive,” noted Taylor Robinson, Head Coach for Parish Varsity Volleyball. “It is very difficult . . . there are so many factors that go into it.” “I think there are two things you need to look at when you get an offer,” added Daniel Novakov, Head Coach for Parish Varsity Football. “Number one, the validation of all of your hard work and the good play on the field; second, it’s an opportunity to go to a really good college at a better price, if not for free.” More athletic scholarships are expected to come this year in other sports including soccer, tennis and baseball. In previous years,

Parish student-athletes have benefited from scholarships in football, basketball, volleyball, swimming, cheerleading, soccer, lacrosse, golf, tennis, baseball, and track & field. The athletic department says the reason is simple: talent. “Scholarship offers vary from year to year,” said McCabe. “We are seeing more this year due to the size of our football senior class and their abilities. Over the last five years, we have had a lot more student-athletes moving on to compete at the collegiate level.  I would say this is because Parish has been fortunate to attract higher level athletes.” The majority of sports start receiving interest from college recruiters during an athlete’s junior year. However, in football, seniors are typically the hottest commodity because they are ready for college competition. Parish has 17 talented seniors on the football team this season, creating more interest and opportunities for scholarships.  As always, the goal is to secure scholarships for all seniors on the football team and the coaching staff is close to making that happen. Another bonus for Panther Football is Preston Stone, the #1 rated quarterback in the class of 2021. He has singularly captured the attention of dozens of colleges and universities. To date, he has around 40 scholarship offers. His skill has encouraged other talented, area athletes to make the move to Parish as well. In return, top college recruiters are coming to see players at Parish, helping athletes avoid the expensive and time consuming travel to summer camps so they can be noticed. Coaches in all sports do their part to secure scholarship interest, but it takes a herculean effort behind the scenes. The coaching staff generates interest by advocating for their athletes, sending in tape and stats, building relationships and getting recruiters on the Parish campus to see student-athletes up-close and in action.

“If your school program has a number of student-athletes receiving athletic scholarships, you are bringing a lot of positive attention to your program,” added Robinson. “It will help in creating interest for future years, as well as building the reputation of a successful program.”

Colleges and universities frequently offer scholarships to students in those strong programs; that means more financial help for families to offset the rising cost of higher education. For some students, that can mean the difference between graduating debt-free or with a stack of student loans. It can also give them an “edge” over other applicants to get into the college of their choice. 

“The ultimate goal of going to a good independent school is to be well prepared for the next step; and for most, that’s getting to a great college,” stated Novakov “The publicity that comes out of these offers, at these fantastic schools, only helps Parish. I think it will ultimately benefit us in admissions and attracting students, especially student-athletes who want to accomplish similar goals.”

Like most coaches, Novakov advises student-athletes to pick the college or university where they can succeed academically and personally. He asks them to consider this question: Where can you see yourself being happy, even if you can’t play? Not only do the scholarship offers and awards benefit our current student-athletes, it also attracts prospective students and families who are looking for an independent school that offers strong academic and athletic programs. One only needs to point to the athletic department’s Wall of Fame to see the success of Parish students competing on the collegiate level. Additionally, Parish sits in a competitive TAPPS district going up against highly skilled teams. This tough competition attracts the interest of top Division I schools as well.

“We do our best to provide opportunities for the kids to participate and have a positive experience,” said McCabe. “We hire the best coaches, allow them to develop our players and coach them up, and then we let them compete.”

The spirit of competition extends beyond the players too. On average, more than 150 students – players, cheerleaders, Rosettes, Drumline and athletic trainers – participate in Friday night lights, basketball games and other sporting events throughout the year. Not to mention the numerous fans and the army of parent volunteers taking tickets, working the concession stand, running booths and assisting student performers with meals, setup and equipment. Ask any Parish coach or instructor and they will tell you that most people don’t realize the amount of hours put in by the players, coaching staff, athletic trainers, teachers, athletic directors, volunteers and the many others who help athletes succeed.

“I think the one thing that needs to be highlighted in this whole thing is what great kids we have,” noted Novakov. “If people knew the individual personalities and how awesome a lot of these kids are, I think they would really be proud of them and the efforts they put in.”

Parish athletics maintains that these sporting events bring people together and create a sense of pride in the School community no matter if their role is athlete, volunteer, spectator or performer. It’s a chance to get together, bond and create some lasting memories.

Learn more about Parish teams and schedules at parishepiscopal.org/ athletics.