The better part of Roger Parham’s life has been spent in the Gwinnett County Public Schools system.
From the time he moved to Snellville from Madison County as a fifth-grader to this past school year at Mill Creek, the 49-year-old has centered his personal and professional life around Gwinnett. That will change for the 2014-15 school year, when the longtime local teacher and coach begins work at Gainesville as the Red Elephants’ new head softball coach.
“It’s odd (to leave Gwinnett),” said Parham, who began working for GCPS during the 1993-94 school year at Norton Elementary. “Gwinnett County’s the only thing I know. It was hard to pull the trigger and say I’m leaving Gwinnett County Public Schools.”
It took a unique set of circumstances all happening at once for Parham to leave Mill Creek, where he has been happy as head softball coach (since 2010) and assistant baseball coach (since 2006).
The process was set in motion when longtime friend and Gainesville athletic director Wayne Vickery called Parham about his softball vacancy. After a few conversations, Parham became the leading candidate.
Gainesville’s coaching stipend was enough that Parham could coach just one sport next year, giving up baseball for the first time. But he had a great reason — he wanted next spring off to watch his older son Casey play his senior baseball season at Piedmont College. He’s only seen Casey play nine games in his first three college seasons because of his work with Mill Creek’s baseball team.
It even worked out that it was a good time to leave Mill Creek since Parham’s other son Austin graduated from Mill Creek this year. Austin isn’t playing college baseball — he’s going to Georgia — so that could free up Parham to coach baseball at Gainesville in future seasons if it works out.
“A bunch of different things came together at the same time for this to happen,” said Parham, also citing just a 24-minute drive from Gainesville to Piedmont’s baseball field.
Parham will be missed greatly at Mill Creek, but also in Gwinnett. He has been a major contributor to the Gwinnett Dugout Club and Gwinnett Diamond Club for years. He’s had success in both sports as a head coach and as an assistant coach, coaching from 1994-2006 at his alma mater, South Gwinnett. He won the 1997 softball state championship as South’s head coach, then went 144-54 as the Comets’ head baseball coach from 2000-06.
During his time at South, he also picked up some valuable experience that will help him at Gainesville. He was involved in the construction of three new ballparks where South played — the E.R. Snell softball field off McGee Road, the new on-campus softball field at South and the new baseball field at South when it moved across Skyland Drive.
Gainesville just began work to turn its old on-campus baseball field into a softball complex.
“We’ve got the field up and running,” Parham said of Gainesville softball’s new home. “We got 5,000 square feet of sod put out last Friday.
“The dugouts are coming soon. The locker rooms are being refurbished. It’s going well.”
Parham will work hard in his new role, just as he has in Gwinnett for so long. He’s got the right demeanor and energy to help out at Gainesville, which hasn’t been the strongest softball program over the years.
Gainesville’s most recent coach, Duluth grad Michelle Green, made some improvements and Parham is ready to build on that in his first coaching foray outside of Gwinnett since the early 1990s.
“Taking something that has been struggling and seeing if I can turn it into something really excites me,” Parham said. “Gainesville’s got great kids and softball is important to them. They want to have a top-notch program. … I’d like to finish up my career and say I made softball a big deal in a community where it hasn’t been.”
Will Hammock can be reached via email at email@example.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.