Image: Corey Parker (right) ahead of the Conference Semifinal second leg between Columbus Crew and Montreal Impact
It’s been a ‘remarkable and exciting’ season for Corey Parker, and one in which the PRO official was named the MLS Assistant Referee of the Year.
We caught up with Parker to reflect on the past year, and how he feels about getting his hands on the award…
Congratulations Corey, how does it feel to be named the MLS Assistant Referee of the Year?
I feel honored and thankful to have received this award. To be included in the same breath as the two other finalists, George [Gansner] and Peter [Manikowski], in itself is a wonderful honor. Let me first honor George, as you know this is his last season and he has had a truly incredible career and is considered among the league’s all-time best.
As for Peter, I was lucky enough to work alongside him a lot this year and look forward to working with him for many years to come. He is a very hard worker and is tremendously dedicated to our craft.
I have been fortunate to learn a great deal from these two already and I hope to be able to emulate their successes throughout my career. Overall, there are so many incredible referees and assistant referees at PRO, and I am grateful just to be considered in this category.
In your opinion, what do you think you have done this season to stand out and be recognized for the award?
Every season I take any feedback I’ve received and continuously try to improve on my performance. I also try to watch my teammates and colleagues’ performances during games and learn from them as well.
I have also benefited from the evolution of PRO over the past few years as we have been given a variety of new learning opportunities, enhanced training programs, and a league that is growing with new challenges every day.
As with every game, I hope for a successful team performance, while trying to be approachable and respectful to the players and coaches on the field.
What does it take to be an AR at the highest level?
There are many factors that contribute to success at the professional or international level, but the support of my family, friends, and colleagues is a prominent factor. I am lucky to have the support of a wonderful fiancé, family, and friends that constantly push me to continue pursing my dreams while also understanding the sacrifices that we make to do what we love.
It also takes a strong commitment to the game, keeping fitness at a consistently high level, analyzing games and situations with peers and mentors, and striving to improve with each and every assignment.
Aside from picking up this award of course, how do you feel the season has gone personally?
This has been a remarkable and exciting year for me personally. I was awarded a FIFA badge this year and was selected to represent our country on an international stage at the CONCACAF U20 Championships in Jamaica and later travelled with Armando Villarreal and Peter Manikowski to Switzerland to participate in a UEFA CORE training program.
I was also afforded the opportunity to work multiple FIFA World Cup qualifiers and CONCACAF Champions League assignments this year. In MLS, I have worked 19 games with some incredible people that have helped me become better with each assignment. I consider myself extremely fortunate and privileged to have been given these opportunities.
You’ve been an AR in MLS for a number of years now; do you feel you have improved season by season and if so, how?
I have absolutely improved with every season in the league. Every game presents a unique set of circumstances and challenges as a referee and we can all grow and learn from our performances on every match.
Experience and preparation are everything. With each passing season, the knowledge and experiences gained on every match has been critical to helping me grow and improve on my performance. I have worked over 100 games in the league and it’s amazing how your confidence and decision-making skills improve with every successful game.
I review every game I work and look for areas that I could improve, learn from, and incorporate changes into my next match. As referees, we need to be able to distinguish between, and understand, what was done correctly and what could have been done differently. Self-analysis and feedback is critical to our development as referees.
More importantly, the experiences and personal successes I have enjoyed are largely due to the development of relationships with other referees. Being able to understand what a referee is thinking and anticipate or react to their needs, allows us as assistant referees to provide the best assistance in any particular situation or match.
What are your next targets as an official?
As with most referees, I try to look at every season as a clean slate and set new short and long-term goals that I can adjust throughout the year. Although a goal of mine is to work the MLS Cup Final at some point during my career, it is most important at this time to continue to referee at a highest level, both domestic and international, for many years to come.