May 26, 2016
The below story was written by Brad Muller and is republished here from Gamecocks Online News.
Stevi Parker made a huge impact on the South Carolina women’s soccer program during her four year career, and now she hopes to make an impact on future athletes. The four-year starter in the midfield is accustomed to covering a lot of ground, and now that she has earned her degree in exercise science this spring, she is formulating plans to eventually start her own business focusing on personal training and nutrition.
“My goal is to open up a facility where I can train athletes and teach them the importance of proper nutrition as well as the training component with strength and conditioning,” Parker said. “I’d even like to incorporate a soccer component with some personal training for that as well. The business education would be important so I can learn how to operate all of that, but I think it would be pretty cool if I had that nutrition education background as well so I wouldn’t have hire someone else to teach the clients.”
Parker will consider whether to focus on getting a master’s degree in business or human nutrition, and she’ll have some time to weigh her options. First she is taking a year off and will go home to Perkasie, Pa., to coach a U-11 girls’ club team before looking to attend graduate school the following year.
“Working with the nutritionist at South Carolina made me see how much that side of it really impacts how you play,” Parker said. “I thought about studying human nutrition because so many athletes are missing it, and it can improve their performance so much if they add that component into their training. With strength and conditioning, just because you are talented in your sport, it doesn’t mean you have all of the tools to be successful. That is something I definitely took advantage of while I was here at South Carolina. Improving those aspects of my game is something I would like to pass on to youth athletes and teach them that there are other things that go into being successful, rather than just being good at your sport.”
Parker’s interest in the field was enhanced through her own experiences as a student-athlete at South Carolina.
“I always knew that I wanted to get involved with personal training,” Parker said. “Getting to work with the strength coaches on a day to day basis here made me realize that is something I really want to do. Working with our strength coaches taught me a lot about what you have to teach an athlete, not just on the playing side, but on the strength and conditioning side. Going through it as a student-athlete taught me how I would want to handle it with athletes in the future.”
Parker also sees the importance of educating athletes early in their careers about how to take care of their bodies and avoid the pitfalls of bad eating habits, just as she had learned from her family.
“It wasn’t as difficult for me because when I was growing up, my dad was always big on teaching me the proper nutrition I needed to have before games and always staying hydrated,” Parker said. “It gave me the base for what I needed when I first got here, so it wasn’t a drastic change for me. I did learn a lot more while I was here about why it was important to eat the right foods and how much of it I should be eating. I did see it more with some of my teammates who may have enjoyed fast food a little more, so they had to make more adjustments.
“Learning to have the proper eating habits when you are young makes it that much easier when you are older. The earlier you learn it, the easier it is to maintain those healthy eating habits throughout your life. It definitely worked for me.”
As a defensive-minded midfielder, Parker’s body of work wasn’t something that jumped out from a box score, but her workload was significant, and she was voted by her teammates as South Carolina’s Most Valuable Player after each of the last three seasons. She earned NSCAA All-South Region Second Team honors as a senior and was also an outstanding student. Parker was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll all four years during her career. She did have a flare for the dramatic with her eight career goals and four assists, including the game-winning goal in overtime at Auburn during her junior season in addition to her game-tying goals with less than a minute in regulation against Texas A&M and again against Missouri in the SEC Tournament that same year. The Gamecocks reached the NCAA Tournament during her last three years, including a record run to the Elite Eight in 2014.
“I would have to say making it to the Elite Eight during my junior year definitely tops the charts,” Parker said. “That, and beating North Carolina at their place that same year in the Sweet 16 are two of my best memories.”
As she gets her plans in place, Parker also reflects on how her experiences at South Carolina have set her up for success off of the field for her future.
“I feel like South Carolina prepared me really well, both on the soccer field and academically,” Parker said. “I’ve learned a ton through my exercise science curriculum that can give me the knowledge to teach young athletes. And all of the life lessons I’ve learned on the soccer field with hard work, dedication, and the importance of teamwork that the coaches here taught us have really prepared me well for my future with any job I might come across.”