GOSHEN — Softball has always come naturally to Krysten Parson.
Playing since she was five years old, Parson excelled at the sport through her time at Lawrence Central High School. A basketball standout as well, she committed to Goshen College to play both basketball and softball at the school. While her basketball career at GC was good, its softball where she left the most impact.
Parson is still the program leader in career hits (204), runs (148) and triples (8). She’s also second all-time in doubles (38) and stolen bases (64) and third all-time in batting average (.390). She was a three-time All-Conference player and three-time NAIA All-Region team selection.
To top it all off, in her junior season of 2001, she batted leadoff on the only team in program history to win a conference championship. The Maple Leafs went 24-12 overall and 11-3 in the then-Mid-Central College Conference (now Crossroads League).
“Pitching rules in softball right now, but we had mediocre pitchers (in 2001); we had girls that were pretty average college pitchers,” Parson said. “They were committed to the team, but they were not going to strike a bunch of people out in that respect. But our offense was ridiculous that year, top to bottom. It was hard to defend, and defensively as well, we were a pretty good team.”
Being a leadoff hitter makes her even more proud of the fact that she still holds the program record in hits and runs 18 years after she graduated.
“That was my job, as a leadoff hitter, to get on base, and I had to commit to that,” Parson said. “That contact percentage and finding ways to get on base through bunting; I think that’s probably a really important one. … If my coaches and my teammates didn’t refine some of those things about who I was, those wouldn’t have been possible.”
On top of being a leadoff hitter, Parson played catcher for the Maple Leafs. She didn’t play the position, however, until she was forced to when she was 10 years old. Playing in a league with older kids, Parson’s team needed her to catch one day since the team’s normal catcher wasn’t available. Parson played the position and never looked back.
“Being a catcher, you get to be a part of everything,” Parson said. “Every play, essentially, you are part of. It took me a little while to catch on to what it meant to be a catcher, but there was something that I grabbed ahold of and really loved that position. I think part of it was my personality; I was an extrovert and somewhat of a natural leader, so I could lead well from that position.”
Parson contributes a lot of the growth she made as a player in college to her head coach, Dawn Austin. In seven seasons leading the Maple Leaf program (1997-2003), Austin went 102-135-1. Parson was a part of the third recruiting class under Austin, which featured winning seasons in both 2001 and 2002 (19-15, 7-7 MCC).
“As a leadoff batter in softball, coach didn’t have to give me the bunt sign,” Parson said. “If I saw something, she gave me the green light to put a bunt down. If I was on base and I saw the catcher was kind of off and I wanted to steal second, she didn’t have to give me the steal signal. She trusted me a lot in that respect, and I think that helped me grow.”
Parson has lived in Goshen since graduating. She has legal guardianship over her two nephews, Isaiah, 15, and Zane, 12.
Upon graduating from GC, Parson became a teacher and coach at Bethany Christian High School. She was the head coach of the softball program from 2004-09 and then again from 2013-15, compiling a 56-114 record.
Since 2007, Parson has been the varsity girls basketball head coach at Bethany. She’s gone 138-176 in the span, winning a Class 1A sectional title in 2016. Her coaching style resembles what she learned during her time as an athlete, which she hopes to pass along to the players she gets to coach now.
“A big part of who I am was who my coaches allowed me to be and who they shaped me to be,” Parson said. “My coaches in high school kind of set that foundation and then sent me off to college, where those coaches really polished me up and helped me see another side to sports that I didn’t see. A lot of who they are is in me: the way they run their programs, the way they approach each day.
“I really owe them a lot for giving me the time and energy they did to make me a better athlete and a better person. My hope is to pay that forward.”