An office stands vacant today in Bartels Hall, as the Red bade a final goodbye yesterday to a highly decorated coach — and an award-winning athlete in her own right — Deitre Collins-Parker, the Wendy Schaenen ’79 head coach of Cornell volleyball. Collins-Parker’s last full day was yesterday, and she will soon be flying cross country in order to settle into her new position, as head coach of San Diego State. [img_assist|nid=34954|title=We’ll miss you|desc=Head coach Deitre Collins-Parker rallies her troops during a 3-0 loss to Penn on Oct. 27.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The coach at Cornell for five seasons, Collins-Parker has won three Ivy League titles, made two NCAA tournament appearances and shepherded seven different athletes to first-team All-Ivy honors. Along the way, Collins-Parker was one of six players named to the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball 25th Anniversary Team in October, 2005, was inducted into the American Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in December, 2008, and was awarded the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award at this year’s NCAA Convention in Washington, D.C.
Collins-Parker said that family health issues was the largest factor in her decision to move to California, where she will be three hours away from her elderly mother and father.
“Last year was a difficult year for the men in my family,” Collins-Parker said, including her husband, Dale Parker, an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team. Dale will remain with the team until the end of the season, and then will join his wife in San Diego. “My decision is based on what is best for my family,” she said,
The head coach from the San Diego State program decided to retire this year, and Collins-Parker became aware of the potential job opening when she was visiting her family over Christmas break.
“Great jobs don’t open up in California that often,” she said. “I just thought this was a huge opportunity for me.”
Collins-Parker will be stepping up to lead a young San Diego team, not unlike Cornell’s squad of two years ago.
“The last few years have been challenging for them, but they definitely have talent,” she said. “I would like to reinstate San Diego State as a force in their [conference] and increase interest in the San Diego community.”
In addition to her parents, Collins-Parker has numerous other ties to Southern California, an area she became familiar with when she trained with the Olympic team in the 80s and 90s. San Diego State is itself not completely new territory, as Collins-Parker competed against the program during her eight-year stint as head coach at University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
But transitions like these are never easy, Collins-Parker said, and she is sad to have to leave her adopted Ithacan home, an athletics department that she described as “extremely supportive,” and, of course, her players.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “And sad. It’s sad to have to say goodbye to the players. That’s really, really hard. I just want everybody on my team to be O.K.”
Although initially upset, Collins-Parker said that most of her payers have since come to terms with her departure.
“Nobody plans on their coach leaving,” Collins-Parker said. “The initial reaction, really, is always anger. Than they realize they’re not really angry at me, it’s the fear of the unknown, of change — change is a scary thing.”
The Red finished the season in third place this year, and while not exactly the favorites for the upcoming Ivy season, Collins-Parker said she felt she was leaving the team in “a good place.”
“It’s really hard to win every year,” Collins-Parker said. “I feel like we have a really good nucleus.”
Ultimately, Collins-Parker said her decision, while hard, was clear. “Coaches come and go, teams don’t have to suffer because of it,” she said. “Sometimes life dictates more than we can choose.”
Cornell has yet to name Collins-Parker’s successor.