Parson was a three-time Washington County player of the year at North Hagerstown High School. She was named to the high school All-America squad in both her junior and senior seasons. Cathy Parson was brilliant guard, who is the WVU women's basketball career scoring leader. She tallied 2,128 points during her four-year career. She was the fourth WVU player to pass the magical 1,000 point milestone and the first player to net 2,000 points for WVU. Parson also appeared in a school record 121 career games and averaged 17.6 points per game. Her career scoring total was even more impressive when considering Jerry West (2,309) and Rod Hundley (2,180) are the only WVU basketball players—male or female—with more points than Parson. She is also the women's all-time leader in career field goals made (898) and attempted (2,061). Of her 121 games played, Parson registered double figures 108 times. Her 17.6 career scoring average ranks third all time and she owns a school record 46 20-point games. Parson was a three-time Mountaineer MVP and was the first woman player to have her jersey retired. She was a three time All-East selection an honorable mention AIAW All-America in 1982 and a third team AIAW All-America in 1982.

After graduation, Parson was one of 20 players selected to try out for a spot with the Harlem Globetrotters. She also played a season for the Virginia Wave of the Women's American Basketball Association. Parson later spent three years as an assistant coach at Providence College and in 1988 accepted the head job at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. While at Newport, she won two Dixie Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year awards and coached Kodak All-American Karen Barefoot, the only player in NCAA history to score 2,000 points and record 1,000 assists. She also took Newport to three Division III tournaments and made the Sweet 16 in 1992. Parson was head coach of the WNBA's Washington Mystics for one season in 1998 before taking over the reigns at Howard University. Currently, she is the head coach at Frostburg State. Parson became the first woman to be inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.