- Harry Parker
:"For the baseball player, see
Harry Parker (baseball). For the tennis player, see Harry Parker (tennis player)." Harry Parkeris the well-known head coach of the Harvard varsity rowing program ( 1963-present). He is one of the most successful college coaches of all times, and is the most successful coach over the last half of the 20th century. He also represented the United States in the single scull at the 1960 Summer Olympics.
Parker attended the
University of Pennsylvaniaas an undergraduate, where he majored in English and learned rowing. Mentored by Pennsylvania's coach Joe Burk- a great oarsman in his own right - Parker rowed, and served as commodore on the 1955 Penn Varsity crew that won the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta.
After college, Parker began to scull competitively. He won the single scull (one man boat) at the 1959
Pan American Games. In 1959, Parker also competed in the Diamond Scull event at the Henley Royal Regattafinishing second to six-time champion Stuart Mackenzie.
In 1960, he won the U.S. Olympic trials in the single scull. At the
1960 Summer Olympicsin Rome, Parker made the finals and finished fifth. The winner was 3 time Olympic Gold Medalist Vyacheslav Ivanov.
During his training for the national team, Parker's name was forwarded to the athletic director at Harvard, who appointed the 27-year old oarsman as the freshman coach in 1961. When Harvard's varsity coach,
Harvey Love, died suddenly of a heart attack in the spring of 1963, Parker was promoted to the varsity level, purely on an interim basis. The crew had an uneven spring, and performed poorly at the Eastern Sprints(the league championship for the EARC). The annual highpoint of the Harvard rowing season is the Harvard-Yale race (the oldest and longest-running intercollegiate sporting event in the United States) held in June. Parker meticulously prepared his crew for their biggest race of the year. Heavy underdogs against the favored Yale crew, the Harvard varsity pulled off an upset. Parker was appointed permanent coach of the varsity crew. Harvard would not lose to Yale until 1981.
-- the last collegiate crew ever to do so. The Harvard 8 narrowly won the Olympic trials by 5/100th of a second over of a powerful University of Pennsylvania crew - a race that pitted Parker against his mentor Joe Burk.
In Mexico, one of Harvard's rowers became ill and had to be replaced. Harvard made the finals and finished sixth. Several members of the crew were involved in the political turmoil which swept over the games. [http://www.ivyleaguesports.com/documents/olyhmeight.asp]
Harvard was the last non-national team crew to represent the United States in the Olympics in the 8+ man event. Until 1960, the United States, using a trial system where the best 8 man crew went to the Olympics, had won every gold medal. But the rest of the world had caught up and was surpassing the USA. In particular Karl Adam and his Ratzeburg crews from West Germany had become the team to beat. (Parker was one of the first US coaches to adopt Adam's methods). In 1972, the NAAO, the then governing organization for rowing in the United States, put together a national camp system to help ensure that the best rowers were in the national boat. Parker was named head coach. With Parker at the helm and with numerous former Harvard oarsmen in the boat, Team USA finished second to New Zealand earning a silver medal in the 8+ at the
1972 Summer Olympicsin Munich. In the 1970s, Parker's Harvard crews continued to be successful. They did not win the Sprints in the years 1971-1973, but the losses were close. Then came the 1974 and 1975 Harvard varsities which are considered to be among the greatest in the history of the sport. They swept the collegiate competition, including dual races each year against the undefeated west coast champions Washington. Numerous team members went on to row for the national team. Post-season, the 1975 crew went to England to race at the Henley Royal Regatta. They finished second in the priemere event of the regatta, the Grand Challenge Cup, losing to the British national team by 2 lengths.
Parker was also a path-breaking coach: he served as coach of the first USA women's crew to compete in the World Rowing Championships (the so-called Red Rose Crew), which medaled at the 1975 championships. Parker would go on to coach the USA women's eight (8+) at the
1976 Summer Olympicsin Montrealwhere they earned a Bronze medal.
Parker's crews continued to be formidable in the mid and late 1970 winning the Eastern Sprints in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1980. But Yale was on the rise, it won the Eastern Sprints in 1978 and 1979 and beat Harvard in doing so. Still, Harvard continued to win the Harvard-Yale race. Parker ran his streak to 18 years. Finally, in 1981, Yale ended the streak and would go on to win the next three races.
In 1983, Harvard won the Eastern Sprints, and in one of the best collegiate races ever, snatched the inaugural
National Collegiate Rowing Championshipby coming from a length down with 500 meters to go and catching a super-fast Washington boat at the line. Parker's 1985 Harvard varsity - after some early season losses - won the Eastern Sprints, the National Collegiate Rowing Championship, and the Grand Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta.
Through the late 1980s and early 1990s, Harvard continued to be a dominating presence in rowing. Parker's crews won the national championship in 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1992, and they were Eastern Sprints champions in 1988, 1989, and 1990.
The national championship race was disbanded in 1996, following which the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championship, also known as the IRA, became the de facto national championship. Harvard had never gone to the IRAs during Parker's tenure, but in 2003, after a decade of good showings but no championships, Parker's varsity won the Eastern Sprints and decided to go to the IRA, which they also won. They continued the streak by winning both the Eastern Sprints and the IRAs in 2004 and 2005.
The 2004 crew was exceptional and may have been Harvard's fastest crew ever. It was an Olympic year and national teams tend to be very, very fast. National team crews are also older and more experienced than college oarsmen, and are much better prepared and more talented than when Harvard raced in the 1968 Summer Olympics. Following the 2004 season, the Harvard varsity went to Europe where it rowed in the World Cup in
Lucernewhich was a tune-up for most of the national teams competing in the Olympics. In an upset, Harvard made the finals at Lucerne by defeating the British and French Olympic squads. As one might expect, Harvard lost to the 5 national teams in the finals at Lucerne, which included four of the top six finishers at the Olympic games -- but they were competitive for the length of the course. Harvard then competed in the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley, losing in the finals to the Dutch Olympic 8+, which was also an Olympic finalist.
Parker has 9 official (or quasi-official) national championships, which is the most among active coaches. (The next highest is Cal's
Steve Gladstone- who was one of Parker's disciples - with 7). And Parker's crews from the 1960s and 1970s won numerous unofficial titles.
At this writing, Parker shows no signs of slowing down and, having completed 44 seasons at the helm, has confirmed his place as the most significant American coach of the latter half of the 20th century.
Harry Parker Boathouse
On September 10, 2008, Community Rowing Inc. announced that it would name its new boathouse after Harry Parker. The boathouse is located in Brighton, MA. According to the [http://www.communityrowing.org/boathousename.htm press release] ,
Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI), the largest public rowing organization in the United States, announced today that it will name its new $15 million boathouse after Harry Parker, Harvard University's men's varsity rowing coach. Mr. Parker, who is a resident of Winchester, MA is a Trustee of Community Rowing and longstanding supporter of efforts to bring the sport to a broader and more diverse audience. The official boathouse dedication will be held on Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 5:00pm.
Parker's first marriage (which produced two sons) ended in
divorce; he is currently married to Kathy Keeler(stroke of the gold-medal winning USA Women's 8+ at Los Angeles), and they have a young daughter named Abigail Keeler Parker who goes to The Winsor Schooland plays field hockey, basketball, softball, and swims. He currently lives in Lexington, MA.
* US Representative and Gold Medal winner in the single scull (1x) at the 1959 Pan American Games
* US Representative and 5th Place Finisher in the single scull (1x) at the 1960 Olympic Games
* Member US Rowing Hall of Fame as a coach (elected 1974)
* Oarsman on the 1955 Penn Varsity Boat elected to the US Rowing Hall of Fame in 1977
*San Diego Crew Classic (Varsity): 1975, 1976, 1979, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1994
* Varsity Eastern Sprints championships (First Varsity): 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1990, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007
* National Championships: (unofficial: undefeated and a boat they beat won the IRA) 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1974, 1975; (quasi-official—National Collegiate Rowing Championship) 1983, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992: (quasi-official—IRA) 2003, 2004, 2005
* Henley Royal Regatta: 1973 (
Ladies' Challenge Plate: Second Varsity); 1985 ( Grand Challenge Cup); 1990 (Ladies Challenge Plate); 1993 ( Britannia Challenge Cup); 1998 (Ladies Challenge Plate); 2002 (Ladies Challenge Plate; Britannia Challenge Cup); 2007 (Ladies Challenge Plate)
* Harvard-Yale Race (record as coach: 37-7): Every year since 1963, except for 1981-1984; 1996; 1999; 2007
*1964—Men's Four with Coxswain (Did not qualify)
*1968—Men's Eight (6th Place)
*1972—Men's Eight (Silver Medal
*1976—Women's Eight (Bronze Medal)
*1980—Men's Eight (USA boycotted games)
* [http://dynamic.si.cnn.com/si_online/covers/issues/1965/0628.html June 28, 1965 SI cover]
* [http://188.8.131.52/issues/mj96/warrior.html Harvard Magazine Article on Parker (lengthy and well-written)]
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