Earlier this week, before Parker Brown’s jump serve, a couple of rowdy fans in the visiting bleachers yelled at the most fit player on the court.
“No. 1 is on steroids!” the fans said together.
There was a time last year when Brown said he was on drugs all the time.
Without needing to leave his own two feet to smash a shot, the outside hitter was high on the volleyball court.
Before matches, Brown said he smoked marijuana. After matches, he said he smoked out again.
The natural high of winning a lot during a historic season with the Corona del Mar High boys’ team was not enough for Brown. Helping the Sea Kings claim their first national title was not Brown’s top priority as a junior.
The number one goal for No. 1 was to smoke weed, up to a dozen times daily. Everyone seemed to know of Brown’s addiction, his family, his friends, his classmates, his teammates and his coaches.
Yet, no one seemed to know how to stop Brown.
“They knew I needed help and they would tell me,” Brown said. “But I just didn’t listen.”
Why would Brown, a 17-year-old at the time, listen to his teammates, his coaches or his parents? He was one of the team’s star players. He ran the gym, even his household.
He said his house was the go-to place for students at CdM to get high.
The only thing Brown thought about quitting was volleyball. He was over the sport, which he began playing at 7.
“I just kind of wanted to go smoke pot instead,” said Brown, adding that without volleyball, he “had more time to get high.”
Marijuana was Brown’s escape from life. The drug made him happy.
Playing stoned never affected him when he competed, or so he believed. He did not know any better.
“Since my sophomore year, I was high for every big game, every CIF [Southern Section playoff match],” said Brown, who went on to earn first-team All-Orange County and All-Pacific Coast League honors that season. “I thought I was playing fine. I didn’t really realize that I never really played sober and clean. I always had something in my system. I never really knew what playing sober would be like.”
Brown is playing through a season without drugs as a senior.
He and his team are back in a familiar place they were in last season. The second-seeded Sea Kings are playing for a second straight CIF Southern Section Division 2 title on Saturday, when they face top-seeded Oak Park at Cypress College at 4:30 p.m.
In his second trip, Brown said he feels a lot better about himself. He’s healthy. The 6-foot-3 Brown weighs 205 pounds, 58 pounds more than he did last season.
What is most important to Brown, his family, his friends, his teammates and his coaches is that he is clean and his life is heading in the right direction.
Brown said he has been sober since July 5, and he no longer smokes cigarettes or drinks alcohol. The last time he got high was on Fourth of July, right before he jumped on a plane.
He didn’t get high because he’s scared of flying, but to feed his addiction.
“I took edibles,” Brown said before he took a flight with his Balboa Bay Volleyball Club team to Minnesota to compete at the Junior Nationals.
Three days into the tournament, the best thing happened to Brown. Volleyball was over for Brown.
Brown believed he was going home, back to getting high with his friends. The flight his divorced parents booked for him was going to change his life.
While Brown’s teammates hopped on a different plane bound for home, Brown joined his father, Jeff Brown, and mother, Carol Peck, for Little Rock, Ark. Brown had no idea the plane was going there, Jeff just told him the route was cheaper.
For the next three months, Brown’s home would be a rehab facility.
“He didn’t understand what was happening, but me and his mother sat beside him, and then he saw big body guards outside,” Jeff said. “He threw a tantrum. We told him we loved him. We told him we were only going to follow him to the facility.
“He begged for another chance, saying ‘One more chance!’”
Jeff said he felt Brown’s best chance to transform his life was at the Capstone Treatment Center. Jeff said his son, who first smoked marijuana in eighth grade, had hit rock bottom.
Defiant is how Brown said he was during the first week. He missed his girlfriend, but even more the marijuana and being able to do whatever he desired.
Brown said his parents never trusted him and it was easy to understand why. He said he always stole money from them to buy weed, adding that it was easily accessible because of medical clinics, and he sneaked out of the house.
At the rehab center, Brown learned he couldn’t break out.
“Two weeks into it, I kind of realized, after doing some reflecting, that my life wasn’t really going the way it should be,” Brown said. “I wanted to change. I put a full effort into it.”
Brown left rehab the same way he entered it, crying.
Jeff said his son this time wanted to stay, because he enjoyed much of the 102 days at the center.
“Totally changed his life,” said Jeff, who wrote a letter to his son on a daily basis. “He gained 60 pounds. He began to eat, sleep and work out, things he never wanted to do when he was smoking marijuana. He refound his spiritual life. He refound his love for volleyball.”
The turnaround, Brown said, wouldn’t have been possible without the support from his family, his girlfriend, his friends, his teammates and his coaches, all of whom have stuck by his side.
One of the first teammates to confront Brown about his issue last season was Joe Ctvrtlik, who’s now a senior bound for Stanford. Setters also assist off the court.
Steve Conti, the coach at CdM, has been there for Brown. He has worn different hats, from motivator, psychologist and counselor, doing whatever to help Brown stay off drugs.
At no point last season did Conti contemplate kicking Brown off the team. He had him sit with him in his office at CdM and eat lunch, then come to Conti’s fifth-period physical education class.
“Rather than me just kicking him off the team, in some ways I feel, if you do that, you’re kind of quitting on the kid a little bit. We’re trying to help kids,” Conti said. “Sometimes by keeping them around, it gives us a better opportunity to keep an eye on him.”
The spotlight is on Brown for sure in his final season with the Sea Kings. He is trying to figure out where to play in college, USC, UC Irvine, Pepperdine and Ohio State are his final four choices.
Before he decides, Brown wants to lead CdM to another first. If the Sea Kings win Saturday, they will have won two straight section titles for the first time in the program’s storied history.
No doubt Brown wants to play a key role in making history and he is looking forward to doing so sober.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Corona del Mar High senior Parker Brown was the Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week for the week of April 29-May 5.
Born: Feb 23, 1994
Hometown: Corona del Mar
Weight: 205 pounds
Sport: Boys’ volleyball
Coach: Steve Conti
Favorite food: Carne asada burrito
Favorite movie: “300"
Favorite athletic moment: Winning the [CIF Southern California Regional Division II] championship last year.
Week in review: Brown has helped CdM reach the CIF Southern Section Division 2 title match, the program’s 12th section final appearance.