Nobody should be appalled or surprised if the high school softball coaches from Murray and Granger give each other a kiss or hug before their game this afternoon.
After all, Murray's Lisa Parker and Granger's Mark Parker aren't just a couple of coaches. These coaches are a couple. The Parkers aren't on the same team on the diamond this spring, but they are on the same team at home.
Today's game 3:30 p.m. at Granger will be the first time the husband (in the red corner) and wife (in the orange corner) coach teams from opposite corners of the infield.
"I knew it would be weird," Lisa said. "But we can handle it."
Friends and associates at both schools have been teasing the Parkers, wondering if they'll speak to each other after the game or if police intervention will be needed. They both promise they'll keep talking regardless of the outcome and, no need to worry, the conversation won't be through jail bars or divorce attorneys.
"No, it'll be pretty civil," Mark said, laughing. "We go back and forth. That's what makes it fun."
Mark's Lancers are hoping to give their first-year coach a victory over the favored Spartans, who've been coached by Lisa for 16 years. Though his team is still looking for its first Region 6 win, the rookie skipper jokingly fired the first verbal salvo with their daughter, Brittany, who was a two-time MVP on her mom's Murray teams before heading to Utah this year.
"She asked me when we play Murray, and I said, 'Tuesday. It'll be their first loss,"' he said. "She laughed."
"She knew better," Lisa interjected with a smile. "We already know who's going to win, so it doesn't really matter."
Mark is holding out hope.
"They might come in overconfident," he said.
"If," Lisa responded with a laugh, "nobody shows up that day then maybe you've got a chance."
All-in-good-family-fun trash-talking aside, Lisa was excited when Mark got an opportunity to take over as Granger's head coach. He had already been an assistant volleyball coach with the Lancers. In fact, his team even faced his daughter's Murray squad, splitting two matches and creating a good-natured family feud in that sport. He also had softball coaching experience, having helped Lisa coach their daughter's summer traveling competition teams. Lisa believes Mark can help Granger build a solid program.
"They have a good coach," she said. "He does a good job. He's real good about teaching the fundamentals, teaching them the basics."
Being married to one of the area's most successful softball coaches, whose teams have won two of the past three 4A titles, certainly helps. Mark peppers his wife with a bunch of softball questions.
"She's been doing it for so long and she's very good at what she does," he said. "That's a good resource. ... It's good to have her to talk about things."
Lisa enjoys helping her other half by sharing some of her tricks of the trade.
"Except my signals," she said. "I'm not going to tell him those."
They also enjoy talking about their teams and swapping stories about umpires.
When asked how competitive they are against each other, Mark jokingly asked Lisa if he could tell a story about an apparently sensitive subject. "Go ahead," she said, knowing exactly where he was headed.
"We used to play tennis and she used to win," he said. "When I got better and could beat her, she wouldn't play. Same thing with ping pong ... So if we win on Tuesday, who knows what (she'll do)."
He could end up sleeping outside in the doghouse or she could hold a sooner-than-expected retirement party.
"I might be done coaching," Lisa joked. "But it's not going to happen."
There is one other negative to Mark's new coaching career as far as Lisa's concerned.
"We don't have anyone to cook dinner anymore. He used to be my cook, my chef," she said. "And now he's busy, so that's gone, over and done with."But the blissful marriage of managers and their fun, new rivalry will go on for better or for worse ... in good times and in bad ... until death (or an early retirement) do them part.
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