Oelrich gets humbled, improves

Balers midfielder Parker Oelrich has used humbling experiences to continually improve. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Parker Oelrich admits he had a lot of maturing to do when it came to playing lacrosse. For one, he thought too highly of himself. For another, the San Benito High senior had a selfish attitude, resulting in him shooting the ball a lot more than passing it. Fortunately for Oelrich, he’s turned the corner in the last year, and not a moment too soon.

Oelrich has plans to play lacrosse in college, first at BYU-Idaho with the goal of transferring to eventually play at BYU in Provo, Utah. The reality of that goal wouldn’t be possible without the 5-foot-10, 140-pound Oelrich receiving a dose of humble pie while attending a intense weeklong lacrosse camp at BYU the summer after his freshman and sophomore year.

“The camp opened my eyes and showed me how I should be playing rather than how I was actually playing at the time,” he said. “I went in there thinking I knew everything, and I always left realizing I actually knew nothing. It kept happening over and over again. There would be people that just smoked me, so it was an eye opener every year. I was the worst one there, and it was very humbling.”

Oelrich has become a reliable player for the Haybalers, and he said the highlight of his season came when he finished with two goals and three assists in a win over Aptos in the Aptos Tournament on March 10. Oelrich said he knows as a midfielder it’s critical for him to distribute the ball at the right time.

“I’m able to know when the ball needs to move and when it needs to slow down,” he said. “I’d also say speed is one of my strengths. I’ve never been one of the most coordinated, but I’ve always been fast and light on my feet.”

Before the season started, Oelrich wanted to be known as a player who was willing to distribute first and score second. Oelrich started last season No. 4 on the depth chart until he recorded a handful of assists in one game. From that moment on, Oelrich made his way up the depth chart to a starting role.

“Parker has progressed positively through the season, and he is in better shape and his decision-making is better,” Balers coach Don Jones said in a text message to the Free Lance. “His lacrosse IQ has improved (as well).”

“Coach liked the way I played compared to guys who hogged the ball,” Oelrich said. “I knew I couldn’t play with the mentality I did in my freshman, sophomore and part of my junior year, when I looked for the goal rather than looking for my teammates. I wanted to be the guy that coach could depend on.”

After a freshman year in which he received little playing time on the junior varsity team, Oelrich attended the BYU lacrosse camp—he played lacrosse for up to eight hours a day for an entire week—which motivated him to improve. Oelrich is still learning the game and his limitations, and he’s more than willing to use his experiences to continually improve.

“I kind of had this small guy syndrome last year when I constantly wanted to hit people, but was constantly being put on my butt all the time,” he said. “Something clicked when I realized I could absorb hits and roll off of them instead of trying to go through people. Being a small guy in this sport is difficult to realize, but I’ve kind of used it now to be a strength.”

Last summer, Oelrich and some of his teammates helped put on a free lacrosse clinic for middle school students. As part of his Eagle Scout project—the highest honor one can receive as a member of the Boy Scouts—Oelrich helped fundraise so “the kids can have something that is either free or cheap so they can learn the game here.”

Oelrich has plenty on his plate. In addition to playing lacrosse, Oelrich is involved with the Comedy Sportz team and participated in four spring musicals. He also coaches gymnastics at USA Gymnastics in Gilroy, a facility in which his mom is the co-owner.

“Coaching is fun and it’s helped me realize I want to be in a leadership position (in my future career job),” he said. “I can work well with people along with being able to lead people.”