Andre Parks – A teacher, coach inspiring students, athletes

Published 7:27 am Sunday, July 2, 2023

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

Coach Andre Parks is gearing up for his seventh year as the head basketball coach for the Varsity boys’ team at Brantley High School, a position he juggles with his role as the girls’ Varsity basketball head coach. In addition to his basketball responsibilities, he lends his expertise as assistant coach to the baseball and football teams. Beyond the realm of sports, Parks serves as the seventh grade civics teacher and is the physical education instructor for students in grades 7 to 12.

Although juggling these responsibilities can be demanding, particularly during the transition periods between sports seasons, Parks approaches each role with unwavering dedication and passion. Driven by his love for history and a genuine passion for teaching and coaching, Parks embraces the fast-paced nature of his schedule, expressing his love for the varied roles he fulfills at Brantley.

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“I love it, all of it,” Parks said “I love teaching and coaching and trying to help steady my students along in any way I can. I grew up without a father and although I was very blessed to have my grandfather pushing me along and keeping me in line. He’s my hero and the main male figure in my life that showed me the importance of treating people right and hard work. I do think I can sometimes relate to a lot of things some children are going through especially if they have something missing in life.”

A 1997 graduate of Luverne High School, Parks developed a love for history during his high school years through the influence of teachers Chuck Alford and Doug Brown who sparked his interest in the subject by employing engaging storytelling techniques and making history relatable. Inspired by their teaching methods, Parks adopted a similar approach, striving to instill the same curiosity in his students and encouraging them to understand the significance of historical events and think critically about perspectives, Coach Parks goes beyond textbooks and worksheets, fostering a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

“There are questions students have that can’t be answered by simply reading a book or doing a worksheet,” Parks said. “You have to look at history from all perspectives and ask yourself why these people think the way they do. I tell my students that in history, and in everything we learn, we have to try and figure out why it matters and ask yourself that question.”

Parks discovered his life calling one summer in college when he was helping with a baseball camp at the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB), where he played baseball and ultimately earned a degree in history.

“At the time I did not know what I wanted to do,” Parks said. “I went to Central Alabama Community College on a baseball scholarship and then on to UAB where I had been a business major, a psychology major, an accounting major, I just went back and forth. During the same summer I was part of a program at UAB called Reaching Out as Role Models where we went into a lot of inner-city schools and schools where kids could really benefit from some positive interactions. We just enjoyed fellowship with the young students and talked about things like the importance of respect and character and making the right choices. At the close of that summer I knew without a doubt what I wanted to do the rest of my life.”

Under Parks’ guidance, the Brantley basketball program has experienced significant success. The boys’ team reached the Final Four two years ago and the Elite Eight last year, while the girls’ team showed promising growth despite its youth, narrowly missing out on advancing to the sub-regionals.

For the upcoming season, the Parks aims to continue building upon the program’s legacy, focusing on teamwork, skill development and fostering a winning mentality. Parks’ approach with the girl’s team has shifted from focusing on learning and development to setting higher goals and competing for regional recognition. Regarding the boys, Parks plans to work hard on establishing team chemistry and discovering their strengths as a new unit.

Park’s biggest sports accomplishments thus far have been coaching the team that brought home the 2010 baseball state championship and being one of only two black coaches to ever accomplish that in Alabama.

While coaching is Parks’ primary passion, being a father to his own children remains his greatest priority and he understands the significance of being there for his kids, and he stressed that he could not do what he does without the support and hard work of his dedicated and loving wife.

Parks’ impact extends far beyond the basketball court according to Brantley’s athletic director and head football coach, Rolland Jones Jr., who stated that Parks is not only an exceptional coach but also an individual with a genuine love for the kids he mentors.

“Coach Andre Parks is one of the best coaches I have ever worked with,” Jones said. “He is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to all sports, and he has a great personality and a great mindset perfect to lead children on the court or field and in the classroom. I think his best characteristic is the fact he loves the kids and gets the most of each and every one of them. I watched him in high school and in college and he has always been a winner at everything he does in life, not just sports. He is a great family man and a quality person. Brantley is blessed to have him, and I am proud he is a Brantley Bulldog.”

Marcus Taylor, principal at Brantley School, echoed the athletic director’s sentiments.

“We are blessed to have Coach Parks here at Brantley,” Taylor said. “He is a great teacher and coach, but an even better man. He has mentored countless students and players. Coach Parks leads by example and has a passion for helping all people.”