It’s a few hours before the Falls Church High School (FCHS) boys soccer team’s final home game of the season. Spirits are up despite the Jaguars’ 0-7 record. Star forward Will Parker is bumming around the gym lobby with goalie Michael Latham. He walks with confidence, and greets everyone with a smile as he walks down the hall. You’d never know that he’s been nursing a broken foot since before Christmas – an injury that’s kept him sidelined for the entire campaign. Parker doesn’t let it bother him. He knows the injury was just a minor setback to a promising college career at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“I wish I could play,” Parker says. “But I don’t want to risk it too much. In the wider scheme of things playing for Navy is a lot more important.”
Last summer, Parker attended a soccer camp in Annapolis, where he caught the eye of former Midshipmen head coach Rich Miranda. After a dismal 2008 season Miranda resigned, and NCAA Division III coach of the year Dave Brandt took over. Despite the regime change, Parker remained optimistic. When the academy offered an appointment and a chance to play on the team, he didn’t hesitate to accept the offer.
“The campus is beautiful,” he says. “I fell in love with ideology of what kind of school it is. I want to be surrounded by people who are motivated themselves and are serious about what they’re doing.”
Parker is focused on helping rebuild a once-proud program, but he’s also got his eye on a career in the military. Eventually, he’d like to follow in the footsteps of his brother, Bradley, a flight instructor who lives in Manassas.
“I love flying,” he says. “I’m going to set my sites on that. The Navy is a good place to start taking on that challenge, and when you graduate, the learning doesn’t stop.”
Parker knew in November that a future full of travel and serving his country lay ahead, but he remained a soccer junky. Last December, he played for the Junior Royals, a club team based out of Springfield. During a routine drill shortly before the team drove to Orlando for a holiday college showcase tournament, Parker landed awkwardly on his left foot.
“It was literally the last five seconds of practice,” recalls Parker. “The next goal would win, and I fell as I scored. I ran three sprints on it and I was like, uh, this is not right.”
A doctor’s exam revealed a broken fifth metatarsal, an injury that caused weeks of inactivity. Simple things like getting into a car and showering became challenges. Unable to directly contribute on the field, Parker helped out where he could, scouting opponents from the press box and delivering halftime speeches. Latham, Parker’s close friend since their freshman year, has been impressed with his teammate’s poise.
“He stepped up as almost an assistant coach. The kid’s definitely respected on the team,” Latham says.
Parker’s leadership is appreciated, but his absence left a hole in the Jaguar attack.
“I cried for two days,” head coach Lee Bailey jokes. “He came in on a Monday, and I was like, what the heck? … It’s been rough.”
Juniors Jesus Reyes and Edwin Garay stepped up to help lead the young team. Garay scored all three goals in their first victory of the season against Washington-Lee last Friday.
After two months in a plaster cast, and several more weeks with a boot, Parker started swimming and progressed to running and light ball work. Bailey is cautiously optimistic about the possibility of Parker stepping on the pitch during the season finale against Edison next week.
“Edwin and Jesus have been great,” says Bailey. “So even if Will only wants to play some limited minutes, it’s up to him.”
So why get on the field at all? For Parker, it’s about more than rescuing a 1-8 season.
“I want to play with kids that I’m never going to get to play with again. And it’s always fun to represent your high school.”
So now, Parker will focus on enjoying the end of his high days with an eye on the wild blue yonder. Even after graduating and reaching his goals with the Navy, he doesn’t want to put soccer behind him.
“I want to fulfill my duty for those five years of service,” he says. “But I’d definitely like to play professionally somewhere. I’m always going to have that dream.”