By Jacob Peterson
Dons new Co-Head Coach Susie Parra adds both a background of winning and a calm leadership style to the softball team.
Parra, a three-time national champion and All-American pitcher from the University of Arizona, brings 19 years of coaching experience with her to Santa Ana College.
“She comes from the highest levels of softball in her own playing and coaching background. Anytime you can introduce that sort of philosophy and style to our student athletes it’s a positive,” said Assistant Director of Athletics Jason Kehler.
As a 12-year-old girl discovering the game of softball in the sun-hardened desert, young Susie did not imagine a career that would take her from All-American player to national champion to college softball coach.
Years of high achievement in softball have given her the confidence to maintain a cool attitude in the dugout. While outwardly unruffled by the difficulties of coaching, Parra also expects the most out of her players and pushes them to reach their potential. Her reserved but expectant appearance exemplifies the poise and tenacity that she wants to see in the Dons.
“Every coach has a different style, so adapting to her at first was hard,” said sophomore catcher Annie Dowling. “But we got used to her pretty quick.”
Parra credits being on a fourth-place team that won the college world series in 1991 for developing her philosophy — desire beats talent. Her 1991 Arizona team was a heavy underdog going into the College World Series but was able to use its stubborn dark horse mentality to overthrow the defending champion, UCLA Bruins, in the end.
“On paper we shouldn’t have won,” Parra said. “We barely finished .500 in the Pac-10 [now Pac-12] that year.”
Her attitude as a coach mirrors that of her 1991 championship team. While her current Dons team may not be the most talented on paper, Parra digs deep to get everything she can from each player in order to maximize team success.
She also adds a light-hearted demeanor to relate with her players. The team takes well to the way she is in the dugout and how she uses humor to keep them positive and focused even when they are going through struggles.
“She has a lot of jokes. She knows how to keep our head in the game,” said sophomore outfielder Tori Ferguson. “If you are ever struggling mentally she says something to snap you out of it.”
With softball dominating most of her life, Parra carves a small amount of time outside the rigors of coaching to relax. Aside from hanging out with her dogs at night, she enjoys spending her offseason wakeboarding and tubing on Lake Mead. The sunny atmosphere of the lake allows her to unwind before the grind of a new season.
“My head is clear from being on the water,” Parra said.
Under her leadership, the Dons are 14-10 overall and 9-2 in the Orange Empire Conference through 24 games. The beginning of the season saw a rough adjustment period but the team has won 10 of its last 12 games to tie Cypress College for first place in the OEC standings.