A great part of Roger Parham's life was built around South Gwinnett baseball, and that's why the decision he made was so hard.
Parham made public on Monday what he had told his players during tryouts - he was stepping down as the Comets' head baseball coach after the season. He has accepted a position as an assistant coach at Mill Creek for next season under good friend Doug Jones, the Hawks' head coach, but will finish the season with the Comets.
A 1983 South grad, Parham returned to his alma mater in 1994 as an assistant to longtime coach John Sawyer. When Sawyer retired in 1999, Parham took over as head coach.
"It was extremely difficult (to step down)," Parham said. "I got asked a question one time about my biggest fear, and it was disappointing people. The last 12 years at South Gwinnett I've been working to make sure I wasn't disappointing people. In the process I found out I was disappointing my family from time to time. That's what led to (stepping down). I want to put more emphasis on family.
"I just want to make it clear that I'm a South guy. I grew up here. I went to Britt (Elementary). I went to Snellville Middle. My family and friends are all here. I've just been blessed to serve this community for 12 years."
Parham said his players took the news well. Many of them have seen the South coach on the phone in the dugout, asking his wife about how his sons' games are going. Parham has two sons, 13-year-old Casey and 10-year-old Austin.
The Mill Creek coaching staff was built with a core of coaches from South, including football coach Shannon Jarvis, Parham's pitching coach for six years with the Comets. With so many coaching friends at the Hoschton school, Parham said he's pleased that Mill Creek athletic director Gary Long (formerly the AD at South) and principal Jim Markham gave him such an appealing job.
"All the Mill Creek coaches are people my children grew up with," Parham said. "My son Casey's looking forward to playing football for Coach Jarvis. He said the hardest part's going to be calling him 'Coach Jarvis' since he's been calling him 'Coach Shannon' all these years."
Parham's primary goal was maintaining the high-level program built by Sawyer, who was the Comets' head coach for 35 years. He felt good about keeping the tradition going and the results show just that - South has made the state playoffs every season under Parham.
The coach currently has a 114-69 record and won a region baseball title in 2000. South has finished as region runner-up to Parkview the past five seasons.
Parham also coached the South softball team from 1996 to 1999, winning a state championship in 1997.
"What he's done for the program is enormous," South athletic director Phil Davidson said. "He's been a part of the school and community forever. He'll be hard to replace."
Davidson said the school hopes to begin interviews for Parham's replacement at the beginning of April, and would like to have a hire made by mid-April.