Parks finds his place in Portugal

Former Redhawks soccer player in Portuguese 2nd division

At one time, 2015 graduate Keaton Parks considered continuing his soccer career at SMU, but decided to pursue his dream by moving to Europe where he now plays with Varzim S.C. in Portugal's 2nd division.

provided by Kaci Parks

At one time, 2015 graduate Keaton Parks considered continuing his soccer career at SMU, but decided to pursue his dream by moving to Europe where he now plays with Varzim S.C. in Portugal’s 2nd division.

Most recent graduates are either in college or still trying to find their way but 2015 graduate Keaton Parks is well into his first professional career. Playing professional soccer in Portugal for Varzim S.C., Parks has already begun to live out his lifelong dream.

“I wanted to stay home go to college with all my friends play college soccer at SMU in my home town,” Keaton said. “That would’ve been really cool and it was hard to pass that up, but I made the right decision because playing professional soccer in Europe has always been a dream of mine.”

I made the right decision because playing professional soccer in Europe has always been a dream of mine,”

— former Redhawks soccer player Keaton Parks

Moving to a new country was a big step for Parks, but he’s slowly finding his place on and off the field.

“It was hard at first,” Keaton said. “When I first got here I didn’t know any Portuguese at all but I came with a friend who spoke Spanish and he knew little bit of Portuguese, so he learned it really quickly so he helped me get around at first, but now after a year and a half I know a lot more and I can get around by myself.”

Having a child move to Europe as a teenager might freak out some parents, but Parks’ family wasn’t surprised he was able to adapt to a different environment so quickly.

“Keaton is very social,” mother Katie Parks said. “So for him, making friends is really easy. He’s really outgoing he doesn’t have a problem just going out and talking to people and doing stuff. The fact that he doesn’t like to be isolated probably helped immerse himself in the culture a lot quicker than someone else.”

The Parks’ family tradition of Redhawks soccer continues with senior Kaci. Just months away from her graduation, she isn’t surprised Keaton is adapting well in Portugal.

provided by Kaci Parks
Graduating in 2015, Parks made his professional debut for Varzim S.C. in the Portuguese 2nd division this season. In less than 20 appearances, Parks has 2 goals.

“Everyone loves him so it was probably so easy for him to just blend into a new environment,” Kaci said. “Everyone accepted him there and I think that helped him not miss home as much because he makes new friends really easily.”

Despite how easy it was for Keaton to become part of the culture, he is still living in a foreign country.

“I live in a small city now and I used to live in Frisco so a huge city so that’s different,” Keaton said. “The culture’s different, I live right on the beach now so that’s new to me, but I adapted pretty quickly.”

Although the game of soccer is the same in Europe as it is in Frisco, the quality of play is forcing Parks to compete everyday for his spot on the team.

“It’s a much higher level, all the young players they grow up playing a higher level with better coaches all throughout their youth,” Keaton said. “This is their whole life, they practice five times a week since being little kid so their more experienced.”

Kaiser was a good coach and he knew what he was doing. He helped me a lot and he let us have fun,”

— 2015 graduate Keaton Parks

Parks’ view of games in the Portuguese second division started from the sidelines, but he began to see some playing time when Varzim S.C. made a change.

“We got a new coach halfway through the year,” Parks said. “This new coach likes me a lot more so he plays me every game and I’m used to playing at this high level and I finally scored my first two goals and it’s been really cool. I’m getting lot of attention now, getting interviews, a lot of people want to talk to me it’s really cool.”

With 2 goals in less than 20 appearances in LigaPro, Parks is far removed from his school soccer days, but he remembers his Redhawks days fondly.

“It’s not the same level as club soccer back home, or playing for LFC,” Parks said. “But Fred Kaiser was a good coach and he knew what he was doing he helped me a lot and he let us have fun, he let us enjoy the game, and gave us freedom to do what we knew how to do.”