Volleyball couple juggles marriage, coaching for yet another season
Some people believe in love at first sight. But for Brandon and Tiffany Parker, their relationship would fall under the chapter on patience in the book of love.
First, take a gander at Brandon's road to marriage. The McPherson native came to the University of Kansas in 1992. Tiffany, meanwhile, came from Clifton, Ill., near Chicago, in 1993.
Both Jayhawks were sports management majors. Brandon was in sports marketing, some of which was done for the Kansas volleyball team. Tiffany played on the KU volleyball team from 1994-97 after redshirting her freshman year.
Despite being in the same proximity for roughly two years, they didn't really get to know each other until 1996 at Kansas coach Roy Williams' basketball camp. Brandon was a coach, while Tiffany was a counselor.
"We actually had classes together, but we really didn't know each other," Brandon said. "I was too busy getting A's."
Tiffany concurred about the unfamiliarity.
"I had no idea who he was," she said.
Brandon's overall GPA was never disclosed, but after being in the same classes for two years, the couple dated for another three years. They were engaged for about nine or 10 months. Then, in July 2000, the couple finally got married.
Since saying their "I do's," the Parkers have gone from being courted to spending most of their time on some type of court.
Tiffany took the volleyball helm at Tonganoxie before last season, replacing Kelly Alexander. Previously, she was the sophomore coach at Lawrence High one year before becoming the junior varsity coach for two more years. Tiffany learned of the Tonganoxie job opening from Keri Walker, a senior last year who had played for Tiffany on club teams in Lawrence.
"All we knew about Tonganoxie was the Walkers, Chris Herron and Kristi LaRosh," Brandon said.
Herron, who now coaches at Washburn, had a long tenure as Tonganoxie's volleyball coach before heading to Benedictine in Atchison a few years ago. LaRosh, a THS graduate, played with Tiffany at KU.
In March 2001, Tiffany was named the Chieftains' newest coach. In need of an assistant coach, Brandon followed in May and became the junior varsity coach.
"So at that time, she was my boss," Brandon said. "And then the tide turned."
Brandon became Tonganoxie's athletics director in June, and now, Tiffany said, things haven't been the same.
"He would say 'Wife? Job security. Where are my clothes?'" Tiffany said.
But the spouse had an answer.
"Honey, winning season, go get your own," she said.
Who the real boss really is remains to be seen. Brandon has coached club teams at Sport 2 Sport in the past. Tiffany, interestingly enough, is a director at the sports complex.
"Come club time, he's mine," Tiffany said.
But whatever the combination, the Parkers say they're a good fit. Tiffany is more soft-spoken, while Brandon has a more robust coaching style.
"I kind of cut to the chase," Brandon said. "It works with girls, because there's a time when they need both. We're still instructing them. They're learning."
Brandon, though, had one instructional session go awry last season. While scrimmaging the varsity, Brandon's JV squad wasn't playing very well. Upset, Brandon wanted to get his point across by hurling a volleyball across the THS gymnasium to the south wall where a Chieftain mascot is positioned. Before it could reach its destination, the ball got caught in the loud speakers above mid-court and dropped in a volleyball cart down below.
"I just yelled at them so they wouldn't have a chance to laugh," Brandon said.
The mission failed with his wife.
"I was just dying," Tiffany said.
The family, complete with a dog, Maximus, seems to spend the most quality time on the volleyball court. Last year, Brandon coached boys junior varsity basketball at THS as well. Now that he's athletics director, the couple could see each other even less after volleyball season.
"May's our free month," Tiffany said. "Other than that, it's pretty busy."
So far, the couple has enjoyed their time in Tonganoxie. After the Chieftains finished 9-24 in 2000, Tiffany guided THS to its first winning season since 1998 with an 18-16 record. The Chieftains were also one win away from a state berth. This year, the team is already 16-6.
"It's turned out better than expected," Tiffany said. "The work ethic of the upperclassmen has been great."
"I like the people; everybody's been good to us," Brandon said. "Coaches and staff and all the parents have been good to us."
For as enjoyable as the community has been, the coaching couple admits they have arguments and are very competitive and stubborn.
But it just seems to come with the territory for the close volleyball coaches.
"We probably coach together just so we can see each other," Brandon said.