The first offer tennis coach Parker Ross received from Butler was a full ride scholarship to play on the men’s tennis team. But in taking too long to make a decision, he practically handed someone else four years’ tuition to the school.
When he received an offer this summer to coach that same team, he made sure not to pass it up.
Ross is taking over the men’s squad for former longtime coach Jason Suscha, who stepped down after the previous season.
“The old coach was great; I loved him,” Ross said. “But it wasn’t long ago that I was (like) Tommy Marks, a sophomore on my team. I can relate to these kids. I can easily communicate. I’m telling them everything I wish I had known ten years ago.
Ross’ return to Butler has been full of twists and turns as well as arrivals and departures.
The Libertyville, Ill., native was the first in his family to play tennis. He started on his front porch at just two years old when his mom gave him a racquetball racket to improve his hand-eye coordination.
Nearly two decades later, Ross decided to make tennis the sport he’d pursue in college, thinking he could go further on the tennis court than in other sports.
He chose to play at Butler over Michigan State and the University of Iowa, two powerhouse tennis institutions.
Butler had certainly wanted him—he was a national circuit veteran with high potential to help a Bulldog squad—but he did not act quickly enough.
“I chose Butler,” Ross said, “and then, the head coach called me back and said, ‘Sorry, we don’t have a scholarship for you anymore.’”
But Ross never gave up on attending Butler. He went to Iowa for a couple of years, and, realizing it wasn’t a good fit, he contacted Suscha and ended up transferring in 2004.
Over the course of his career at Butler, Ross was twice named to the All-Horizon League and was the co-captain of two Butler teams that won league championships and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
He posted a 36-29 singles record and a 39-27 doubles record before graduating from Butler with a degree in media arts in 2006.
“I made some of my best friends here—my wife, my best man in my wedding,” Ross said.
Following graduation, he went into consulting in Chicago for a few years.
“Then I was like, ‘You know what? I don’t really like consulting,’” Ross said.
Two years later, he decided to resign.
Amidst both job and city transfers, Ross needed to find something to keep himself busy in the meantime.
He coached at Five Seasons Tennis Club and the Lawrence Township Tennis Association in Indianapolis, even working with athletes in the U.S. Tennis Association’s junior circuit.
“One thing led to another, doors just kept opening,” said Ross, who spent two seasons as a men’s assistant coach under Suscha. “And why would I try to resist something that’s so natural to me? Getting back into it was a sign I never should’ve left in the first place.
“I went from being rejected by this school to being head coach. I love Butler University.”