Asst. coach promoted to lead team
Not all athletes have competed at the collegiate level, played for Team USA or received instruction from top coaches around the world — but Liberty University’s new field hockey head coach has.
Nikki Parsley, 24, whose athletic experience began with softball, started playing competitive field hockey in eighth grade. According to Parsley, her love for field hockey began after her father encouraged participation in a fall sport.
“Athletics (to our family) were very important,” Parsley said. “My passion was a lot more toward softball in the beginning, but I decided to put everything into field hockey my junior year of high school.”
Once making that commitment, it was not long until Parsley found herself playing under Craig Parnham, the head coach for the U.S. women’s national field hockey team.
According to libertyflames.com, Parsley competed with Team USA during four of its tours in New Zealand in 2013. Parsley said the experience was an integral time for her growth as a player.
“(Playing with the national team) is a reason why I’ve been successful at a very high level,” Parsley said. “I was surrounded by the top coaches not only that this country has to offer, but what the world has to offer.”
Although she did not make the final cut for the senior national team, Parsley said her exposure to the top coaches and athletes helped her establish a firm understanding of the game, giving her the appropriate knowledge necessary for coaching.
Growing up, Parsley wanted to be a coach. Although she loved playing, she knew coaching was in her future. During her freshman year at Northwestern University, Parsley filled out a questionnaire that contained an important, yet common, question: What would be your dream job?
“(My answer) was a Division I head coaching position for field hockey,” Parsley said. “To be able to look back on a little questionnaire and see that I filled that out is
Parsley’s father was instrumental in her growth as a player and as a coach. According to Parsley, he was her role model, and she wanted to mirror his enthusiasm
“My dad has always been one of my idols and heroes,” Parsley said.
“After I didn’t make the national team (in 2014), I spend a lot of time praying,” Parsley said. “I didn’t try out again. God’s answer was ‘no.’”
After getting cut, Parsley made a decision that would steer her life in a different direction. She decided to stop playing.
During the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Parsley worked at Yale University as an assistant coach, then was asked by Liberty’s former head coach Jodi Murphy to apply for an assistant coaching position for the 2016 season.
Murphy started the women’s field hockey program in 2010, and for six seasons, led the team as head coach.
“(Murphy) was always pushing us to get to the next level,” junior midfielder Cassidy Bremner said. “Having started the program from scratch, there was a lot to be done. She was able to do that through the girls she recruited and how she mentored the girls.”
Parsley said Murphy was a great motivator, had a passion for field hockey, and demanded very high standards for the team. With Parsley’s help, Murphy led the Lady Flames to a second-place finish in the Big
“As much as I loved working at Yale, there’s nothing like being able to pray with girls when we come across problems and to pour into people spiritually,” Parsley said.
According to junior defender Rachel Suter, Parsley invested time with the players outside of field hockey.
“When she came in, she really focused on getting to know us,” Suter said. “We even had coffee together once or twice.”
In January, Liberty athletic director Ian McCaw announced that Parsley would take over as the Lady Flames’ head coach.
Parsley’s coaching philosophy is to be process driven rather than outcome focused.
“I truly believe God called me for this position, and if he has called me, he’s going to equip me to do the job at a high level,”
Parsley said. “The only thing we can control is how we go about our business on a daily basis. If we focus on the process, I believe the wins will be a natural result.”
smith is a sports reporter.