Almost every high school sport has a club or travel scene to go along with it.
AAU basketball, travel baseball, club lacrosse.
The summer and fall leagues — often expensive — are for player development, exposure to college coaches and fun.
In Maryland, and specifically Howard County, few club sports are as robust as lacrosse. Go down the list of the rosters at top programs in the area like Glenelg and Marriotts Ridge, and the teams are littered with players who are members of club teams.
But that’s not the only way to develop into a solid lacrosse player, and Reservoir’s Jakota Parker is proof of that.
The senior midfielder, who also plays varsity football, hasn’t let not participating in club lacrosse during his high school career get in the way of becoming an all-around contributor for the undefeated Gators.
“If he had played more club, maybe he’d be even better, but club isn’t for everybody. How good he is now is a testament to his capabilities,” said Reservoir head coach Bryan Cole. “Jakota is just an all-around athlete. When you go to a game and see the most athletic kid run around and wonder, ‘Who’s that kid?’ That kid is Jakota.”
Parker, who attended Pallotti as a freshman, said he stopped playing club lacrosse after middle school because he wanted to focus on summer football workouts. At 5-11, 185 pounds, Parker was the Gators’ starting running back and safety to start the 2021 spring football season before an injury cut his campaign short.
“I think me playing football and developing as an athlete overall has helped me in lacrosse,” Parker said. “It’s given me more time to work on my speed and strength. I sometimes feel like I kind of missed out by not playing club, because I could’ve developed my skills a little more. But overall as an athlete I think going to the football summer workouts helped me more than summer lacrosse would have.”
Through four games this season, Parker has scored nine goals and added five assists. He has found the net in every game for Reservoir, which hasn’t lost a game in Howard County’s Division B. He opened his senior season with a hat trick and adding four helpers in the Gators’ 21-5 triumph over Oakland Mills.
Parker and his three older brothers started playing lacrosse when he was in fifth grade. He started as a defender because he didn’t have the stick skills yet, but he quickly developed into a midfielder.
Cole said Parker’s athleticism — his raw talent and his developed speed and strength over the years — along with his versatility is what makes him stand out.
“He’s always been very athletic, but he’s gotten to the point where he’s just athletically above everyone else that I’ve seen on the field, both football and lacrosse,” said Cole, who coaches both sports at Reservoir. “He just owns the middle of the field, and he does it all for us — offense, defense, faceoffs, leadership.”
The defining aspect of Parker’s game — and life — is balance and consistency. On the field, he can do everything — score goals, assist teammates, play defense and win faceoffs. Off the field, Parker is diligent in the classroom with a 4.5 GPA.
“My parents have always preached academics first and everything else second,” Parker said. “I’ve always been focused on working as hard as I can in the classroom so I can have a future after I’m done with sports.”
Cole said Parker’s development on faceoffs proves his dedication to improve. As a sophomore on varsity, Parker wasn’t skilled on the crucial faceoffs, with most of his victories coming from his athleticism when fighting for the ground ball.
Now, though, it’s one of his strengths. Parker has won 82% of his faceoffs this season against the Gators’ opponents in Division B, which doesn’t include the county’s top programs.
“His faceoffs are at a higher level than they’ve ever been,” Cole said. “When he came back this season I could tell he’s been putting in some work, both as an athlete and with lifting, but with his faceoffs, too.”
Parker, who plans to go to Howard Community College this fall and play lacrosse, said the “atmosphere” on the team is great alongside fellow seniors Sean Maruschak (14 goals and 14 assists) and Steven Musser (15 goals and four assists).
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“We have a lot of talent on both offense and defense. On offense, we have people like Steven and Sean who aren’t scared of the big moment and who can score,” Parker said. “After not having a season last year, it’s been great to just be out there with the guys and playing again.”