Lauren Parker will play for Sporting Club Madrid in Spain
By Chuck Gibson
LOVELAND, OH (January 12, 2021) – A State Championship put the exclamation mark on the Loveland High School soccer career of goalkeeper Lauren Parker in the fall of 2017. She had high expectation as she went on to play collegiate soccer with the Miami University RedHawks. As her college career comes to a close, a new door has opened for her to play with Sporting Club Madrid and earn her graduate degree at Schiller International University in Spain.
Her Tiger soccer career at Loveland High School included two trips to the Ohio High School State Championship Final including winning the State Championship in 2017. An accomplished goalkeeper, the table was set for Parke to continue living her soccer dream in Oxford, Ohio with the Miami RedHawks. It ended up being very different than anything she’d experienced before. As a freshman, an injury ended the season for Miami’s starting keeper giving Parker an unexpected opportunity. She started 10 games and broke the Miami University record for most saves in a game in her first game.
“It was incredible. It was 18 saves. It was just like I was playing my game. It wasn’t like I was trying to break a record. It was just me playing.” – Lauren Parker on her recrod-setting 18 save game for the Miami RedHawks
Off to a great start as a RedHawk, nothing could have prepared Lauren Parker for what followed. She started two or three games sophomore season before a “bad” hip injury put her out for the season. Another girl transferred in and took over as the starting keeper. That transfer ended up winning the starting keeper job for Parker’s junior year too.
“A lot of injuries through college set me back,” Parker said. “I never fully got my season.”
Parker was set to be the starting keeper for senior year fall of 2021.
“Senior year, I was supposed to be starting keeper,” she explained. “Day before the first game, I ended up fracturing my wrist. Surgery ended my college soccer career. Sadly, it wasn’t the college career I dreamed and hoped it would be.”
Still Lauren Parker learned from her experience as a college athlete with the Miami RedHawk women’s soccer team. She never had to sit on the bench before, but injuries in college changed that. Being an athlete on the bench helped her learn so much more about being an athlete; a teammate.
“It was eye-opening to learn. I am a better teammate because of my four years at Miami.” – Lauren Parker on her experience as a soccer player at Miami University
Parker looks back on her RedHawk career with a unique and mature perspective. She arrived at Miami when the women’s soccer program was in a kind of downslide. Part of how she would explain the record-setting 18 save performance in her first game. Her record is definitely not a sign of a strong defense or dominating offensive attack.
“Not that I was happy to save 18, but if I’m called upon to do something, I want to excel at it,” Parker said. “If that is the one moment in my RedHawk career I can be proud of, I’ll take it. I’m in the record books at Miami; which is crazy”
It was her first collegiate start. She admits to being very nervous, but just played her game. Parker says when she is playing “her game” she feels most confident. The record book at Miami backs that up. That record-setting game is one of three highlights she cites from her college career at Miami. Friendships formed ranks high for her too.
“The big thing for me is the friends I’ve made,” said Parker. “I have a great group of people; that group you just really connect with. That would be my highlight.”
Parker says before college she was friends with everyone, but never felt like she found that group.
Then there is the internship serving in the Athletic Marketing Department for Miami RedHawk athletics. She calls it “amazing” and recognizes it as an opportunity that might not be available at more elite college athletic programs like Michigan State or Ohio State and others like them.
“A dream job for me,” she said. “Those are the three main things; my highlights at Miami. It really was a good four years. I wouldn’t change anything. It got me where I’m going. “
NEXT STEP: Sporting Club Madrid
Parker describes Sporting Club Madrid (SCM) as a semi-professional team. They are a development team transitioning women and men into professional leagues in Spain. She believes one big thing for her was playing time missed due to injury during her college soccer career. That prevented her from building a resume to go into the draft or signing with a professional soccer team right out of college.
“This is giving me the professional platform for what the schedule is like; everything like that,” Parker explained. “We will play against women’s professional teams over there to give us exposure. “
The surgery that ended her senior season at Miami gave her pause.
“I really thought, after my surgery, I was done. There’s that moment . . . I was so devastated. Then this opportunity came up.” – Lauren Parker
Throughout college she had conversations with Miami coach Courtney Sirmans about playing beyond college. Sporting Club Madrid Head Coach Alex Ferreira knows Coach Sirmans because his sister actually played at Miami. He reached out to Sirmans and she talked to Lauren about it. Then Parker talked with Coach Ferreira.
“I actually went on a phone call with him for about two hours asking questions, seeing if it would be a fit for me,” said Parker. She looked at England and Barcelona too. “I really loved his goal behind this is really trying to develop you as a player; to get you into professional soccer which is what I really wanted and being able to continue my education. It just felt like the right fit for me.”
She talked about it with her parents. They told her she would likely regret it for the rest of her life if she did not do it. Parker hopes the opportunity playing with SCM helps build her soccer resume. If she could, she would like to play professionally. The game is not her life, but she recognizes soccer has played a big role in forming who she is and the values she has in her life.
“If it is a possibility, I would love to play professionally,” Parker said. “Not many people get that chance. That’s why I’m so excited to go play.”
Continue Academics : Timing & Schiller International University
Going to play has Parker very excited, but she is equally enthusiastic about continuing her studies at Schiller International University (SIU). She studied Sports Leadership & Management at Miami University, but always wanted to get her MBA.
“When I heard I can get my graduate degree, I jumped at the opportunity,” she said. “I’m excited about school. They work with pro and semi-pro athletes with their academics.”
A semester of school remains for Parker at Miami University – with no soccer. She’ll graduate in the spring before moving on to Spain. Currently there is no quarantine requirement and her plan is to arrive in early August to report August 15 or 16. If COVID causes quarantine changes, she would go earlier in July.
The Sporting Club Madrid season is a 10 month season approximately August of 22 thru June of 23. If all goes as planned Lauren would graduate with her MBA in September 2023.
“I’d be there about one full year,” Parker explained. “If any other opportunity, I would stay.”
She admits her biggest fear is the possible language barrier. Parker joked about having only taken French during high school, but receiving a “Spanish for Dummies” book for Christmas. Hola (Hello) and Por Favor (Please) she says are pretty much all the Spanish she speaks right now. Her soccer team there will be close to a 50/50 mix of Spanish and American players.
“They’ll speak English,” said Parker. “I want to learn Spanish.”
It doesn’t hurt that Parker’s mom, Anne, had a foreign exchange student in high school now living in Madrid. That is a connection that helps ease her fears. She may get an apartment from Schiller International University, but she hopes to room with teammates while there.
“I’ve always lived with athletes, they understand the schedule,” Parker said. “I’ve always had a team, always had that to fall back on. I’m counting on that team community. I’m really excited for what’s next; to see where my soccer career can take me. I’m hoping it can take me a little farther because I’m not quite done yet.”
CLICK HERE for more about Sporting Club Madrid
CLICK HERE for more about Schiller International University – Madrid