A love of basketball led Clayton Parrish to his current position as principal of Briarwood Academy.
At 23, he thought he wanted to manage a textile mill. He had already earned his bachelors in industrial management from Clemson University, but his mother suggested he apply for a job as Briarwood’s basketball coach. They needed one badly.
“I thought, well, I’ll give it a try. I said I’d do it for one year,” he said. “I absolutely fell in love with it.”
He earned his certification to teach middle school math, and earned his masters in education, which he completed last year. Though his mother taught English for 33 years, it never occurred to him that teaching would also become his calling.
“Just doing it for the first time was really when I decided this is what was for me,” he said.
Parrish said he loves seeing the children develop and grow, and he enjoys watching his players develop a deeper appreciation for the game he loves so much.
He’s been there 16 years and worked his way up from athletic director to principal. Two years ago, he watched his first kindergarten class graduate from Briarwood.
“To see them go from 4 to 18 like that just makes all the work and everything very worthwhile,” he said.
Next year, he will become headmaster. Though he’s excited about the transition, he won’t be have time to coach basketball.
For him, this season ended too quickly. Briarwood went to the state semifinals and finished 24-8.
“It was tough ending this year,” he said. “I will definitely miss basketball.”
The new job will keep him just as busy, but in a different way. Instead of practices ending at 7 p.m. and midweek games keeping him out until midnight, he plans to be present at more school functions that he formerly missed.
He’s hoping the move will also give him more time to spend at home with his wife, Valerie, and their daughters McKenzie, 7, and Abby, 4.
As headmaster, Parris will oversee student affairs and budgeting for the school, as well as working directly with the board of trustees.
The school’s current headmaster, John Hammond, is planning to retire after 19 years in the position.
Parrish said he feels ready to take on the new role.
“(Hammond’s) done a very good job over the past couple of years preparing me for this job,” he said. “I think we’re all very fortunate in the fact that I’ve had a few years of training under him to help make this transition as smooth as we possibly can.”