He knew the time was coming. He might not have known when, but Matt Parent knew his time to take over his dad’s program was going to eventually knock on the door. The only question … when was it the right time to answer?
That time is now.
Parent has accepted the Southwestern Christian University men’s and women’s track and field head coaching job.
Parent has been at Yukon since 1997, and he will remain as the head boys’ cross country coach and the head boys’ track and field coach for the Millers. He is adding to his duties.
One might ask, “Why would someone who already puts in 40 to 60 hours per week with his responsibilities at Yukon add the stress and time commitment to his already busy schedule?”
The answer for Parent is simple.
Parent’s father, Paul Parent, started the track and field program at SCU in 2004 and was the head coach until 2016. Paul passed away in July 2016. Parent knew he was going to take over the program his dad had built one day.
“The foundation was laid a few years back,” Parent said. “Before dad died, he wanted me to come and take over as the head coach and he would be my assistant. With everything he was dealing with, he just couldn’t get out and recruit like he used to. At the time, the university wasn’t ready to do that, and that was completely fine with me.”
After Paul passed away, the school went the interim route but then hired the women’s coach to run the men’s program as well. That coach retired after a couple of years and at the end of February, Parent received a call from SCU.
Parent said it wasn’t logical for him to leave Yukon so late in his career, and the numbers weren’t close to matching up, but it was SCU who made the necessary arrangements to get the man they wanted to lead their track and field program into the future.
“They said it would be no issue to stay at Yukon and be the head coach at SCU at the same time,” Parent said. “I told them I wanted to run it like I run it here at Yukon. I want numerous coaches to be able to coach different aspects of the team. I don’t want it to be the Matt Parent show. They were on board and we moved forward. I spoke with Mike Clark (Yukon Public Schools athletic director) and Melissa Barlow (Yukon High School head principal) and they were fine with it.”
Parent will have a five-person staff at SCU, which is more than double the size of a typical NAIA track and field staff. One of those staff members will be Yukon head boys’ basketball coach and track and field jump and hurdles coach Kevin Ritter.
“Ritter is as good of a jump coach as there is in this area,” Parent said. “That was a no-brainer to bring him along. Obviously, it had to work out with his family just like all of my coaches but I am very excited not only about Kevin but all my staff.”
Ritter said he is looking forward to the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level.
“I’m excited to be able to coach at a new level this spring with SCU,” Ritter said. “I am hoping to build a great jumps and hurdles squad there like we have here at Yukon. The fact that I get to do it with someone who is one of my closest friends makes it even better. Matt (Parent) and I work really well together in the spring and this will just allow us more to time to work together and try to build up an NCCAA/NAIA level juggernaut with a lot of great Oklahoma athletes.”
Ritter added that there will be a learning process in their first year.
“There will definitely be a learning curve this year for me, but I am excited to see how things go this year,” Ritter said. “It has been a great summer with the basketball boys and I think they are really making strides and becoming a great team in the way they conduct themselves and treat their teammates. That is my number one goal as a coach, building something great here with Yukon basketball and then in the spring work at the track.”
Parent has been on the recruiting trail over the past several months since he knew he was going to be accepting the position. He said he learned a lot from his father when it comes to recruiting and has spent his time sharing the SCU track and field story with his potential recruits.
Parent said the program has roughly 31 members. He would like to see that number eventually jump up to near 50. His plan is to bring 8 to 12 new athletes into the program each year.
One thing that will remain a constant with Parent is making sure his father’s legacy is remembered.
“This is dad’s job,” Parent said. “He started this program. He spent 23 years at UCO (University of Central Oklahoma) but SCU called him in 2004 and wanted him to start this program. He did and this is his program, this is his baby. I was able to watch it grow. I helped him a lot in last few years because he just couldn’t get around on his own that well. It was time to do this for him.”
It has been nearly two years since his father died, but Parent said he was hit hard recently when he went to pick up his mail at SCU.
“I decided to go over there to see if I had any mail,” Parent said. “I wasn’t sure where my mailbox was or how we got our mail. All of the mail for coaches goes to one box, so I was getting all of the track and field stuff out and came across a letter that was addressed to ‘Paul Parent.’ That took me back a little bit and hit me pretty hard. I expected for that to happen but it still hit me pretty hard.”
Southwestern Christian University competes in the NAIA division but is also a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA). There will be a separate set of standards for each division. The NCCAA standards won’t be quite as high as the NAIA standards. Parent said it will give his athletes more of a chance to compete at a national level with the possibility of qualifying for two national meets.
SCU will compete in an indoor season in the winter and an outdoor season in the spring. The indoor season will begin in December and run until March and the outdoor season will begin in March and run until the end of the school.
Southwestern Christian uses Bethany High School for its home track. Parent said most of the practices will be split between Bethany High School and Yukon High School.
“That’s one of the main reasons having a good size coaching staff was important to me,” Parent said. “We will be able to have one group practicing over at Bethany and one group practicing at Yukon. We will have our sprinters over at Bethany and our field events over here at Yukon. The schedule with practice was the initial concern, but it is going to work out.”
Parent added that the majority of the college meets take place on Saturdays and the majority of high school meets take place on Fridays, so that won’t cause any scheduling problems between the two.
“I believe the challenge will be more personal than professional,” Parent said. “I might lose some time with my family but not a whole lot. My children are getting older. It might be a similar schedule to dad when I was young. I remember being a young kid and having to make the decision of ‘Do I watch cartoons on Saturday morning or do I go to a track meet with dad?’ Most of the time, I went with dad. It didn’t hurt that he always bribed me with a cup of hot chocolate from Jerry’s Café (now named Jim’s Diner) on 39th and Council Road.”
Parent is the fourth head coach in program history. He began coaching in 1992 as an assistant football coach and an assistant track and field coach at Putnam City High School. He has coached five regional runner-up teams at Yukon and one regional championship team.
He has coached numerous state champions and state placers in both cross country and track and field and has led the Yukon boys cross country program to 11 straight appearances in the state meet.
Parent graduated from Putnam City West in 1988 and was a three-year letterman in track and field and a two-year letterman in football. He graduated from UCO in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in education. He was an athletic/academic All-American and was named an Outstanding College of Education Student. He received his master’s degree in health education in 1999.
He has been married to his wife Trisha for 21 years and they have three children, Presley, Cade and Carter.
“There is so much unknown right now,” Parent said. “We need to go through it this first year and see how it goes. It’s my 27th year of coaching; not much has changed. We just have to have Faith in God that it will work. I am looking forward to it.”