The NWSL presents the unique opportunity for people within it to have connections to multiple teams. This can lead to a situation where a person has a piece of their heart on two sidelines. This NWSL Championship weekend, one such person is OL Reign Assistant Coach Scott Parkinson.
Parkinson hails from Liverpool and has been a coach at the Division II and professional levels in women’s soccer. He began in the NWSL as an assistant with the Utah Royals, and then with the Chicago Red Stars beginning in 2020. He left for a head coaching role, his first, before the Red Stars made it to the 2021 NWSL Final in Louisville, but remembers feeling a sense of pride in that group.
The head coaching role Parkinson left for was with NJ/NY Gotham FC. He was the coach of Gotham through August 2022, when he and the teams parted ways, in the midst of a season when they would finish last in the table.
Before the start of the 2023 season, Parkinson joined OL Reign with Laura Harvey, who is equal parts his mentor, his partner and his best friend.
“What coaching at Gotham taught me as a coach is that going through the hard stuff prepares you to be more balanced. I learned what support I needed around me,” he says matter-of-factly, as he reflects on his time with his former team. He is proud of the growth of the Gotham squad and where many of his former players are in just over a year. He is also reflective of the lessons he learned from his often difficult tenure in Harrison that has taught him what he does and does not want as a coach.
While Parkison has fond memories of the players and is happy for their success, he is now with OL Reign and committed to the team and the culture that comes with this club.
“Reign is an incredible club, an incredible place. You don’t know what it is until you get here. It’s been 11 years with the three OGs (Megan Rapinoe, Jessica Fishlock, and Lauren Barnes) and a coach that was here when it started. They’ve figured out a way that works, and a big piece of that is authenticity. Everyone can be themselves and that’s a rare place to be and work,” said Parkinson.
Gotham and OL Reign have both faced adversity in recent seasons. While the Reign do not have a worst-to-first story to tell, they have had the playoff curse looming over them, as a team that had not won a postseason match since 2015. When asked what about his proudest moment this season, Parkinson spoke of their playoff success to date.
“It’s no secret that winning the playoffs has been tough. As part of my interview, the players asked me what I planned to help them win playoff games. I know it’s not only me, but I’m proud that I’ve been able to help the players meet their objective. I'm proud that I’ve been able to find a way to add what I bring to the table in terms of positivity and passion and motivation to help the team seize the moment.”
It has been evident that Parkinson has helped this team through the rough patches of the season, including a Challenge Cup semifinal loss. But the last two matches, Reign have lifted themselves out of the rut, prevailing 1-0 over Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC in back-to-back games with goals in both by Veronica Latsko.
Much of what Parkinson values in coaching, and who he wants to be as a coach, comes back to Laura Harvey.
Parkinson says, “I wanted to work for Seattle for a long time. Laura has taught me how to allow people to be themselves within the complexities of the game. She is the decision maker, but I never feel like she’s my boss. We feel like partners, and she trust me to work with the players. Not all coaches do that, they can be more hands on. We are similar in that way.” He continues, “Seeing her succeed with a lot of traits that I have, shows me that we can both be successful doing things our way, that there is a place for that in the sport.”
Back in April, Parkinson was on the Ride of the Valkyries podcast, "Coffee & Valkyries" to talk about joining OL Reign's coaching staff, reuniting with Harvey.
I chose to speak with Parkinson because of the potential emotion of a man who has learned how to keep his emotions even over the past two seasons, but I could not let him get away without talking a bit about what’s been happening on the pitch. Parkinson often works with Reign’s attacking players, who have been asked to do a lot of team defending. I wanted to know what it’s been like for that unit in the last few months of the season, as Reign has bought into total team defense.
“Well, first of all, some of the growth you’ve seen in the past few months has been us getting players back healthy. They’ve been able to train consistently, and that allows us to implement our game plan fully. But as a team, we train a lot on defending collectively, and defending when that defensive plan fails. Laura has done an incredible job of building training around players playing when they are very uncomfortable. We create the chaotic moments so we are okay when they happen,” he ends, also letting me know that his attackers always make sure they’re prepared to pounce when opportunity strikes. Latsko has been a wonderful example the past two matches, sacrificing on defense as she has all season, and getting the club's most important goals to date.
As we finished our interview, I wanted to check in with Parkinson to see how his non-Reign time was being spent. He says the team implemented a schedule that allowed for downtime and some exploration of San Diego since they stayed in the city after last week’s semifinal. And, I could not let him go without asking him about his other passion, Everton Football Club. He feels good about the team and hopes that they avoid their points deduction, but he enjoys Sean Dyche as a manager.
With our time over, Parkinson's last word was, “I think OL Reign is the best club in this country. With Laura committing her long-term future to them, their future is bright, and I think this is the first of several finals to come.”
Parkinson will have his heart on both sidelines unlike most people tonight, but he is all in with OL Reign.