THSADA Spotlight: Suzette Arriola
East Central Independent School District
Suzette is a 1982 graduate of Highlands High School in San Antonio, where she was nurtured by wonderful, hard-working parents, James and Susie Arriola, only three blocks away from the East Central Independent School District boundary line — where she is now the the district’s first female athletic director.
Even as she went on to collegiate success, culminating with being voted captain by her teammates at both St. Philips College (San Antonio) and Stephen F. Austin State University, mentoring from former coaches helped Suzette form the foundation for future interactions with her own student-athletes.
“My coaches knew that kids were going to make mistakes. But they also knew it was what you were going to learn from the mistake, and to make things right were equally as important,” Suzette said. “It has been my life-long’s dream to give back what my former coaches gave to me.
Suzette earned a B.A. in Physical Education/Corporate Fitness and a minor in Psychology in 1987, and a M.Ed in Education in 1988 from Stephen F. Austin. During this time, Suzette served her alma mater as a Graduate Assistant and Associate Professor.
In 1989, she returned to San Antonio and joined the faculty at St. Mary’s Hall as a P.E. teacher and head volleyball coach. She also coached basketball and softball. Later, she coordinated the school’s sports youth camps, and directed the Basketball and Volleyball Camp. During her nine year tenure at St. Mary’s Hall, she became the Middle School Athletic Director and ultimately the Assistant Director of High School Athletics.
Southside Independent School District (San Antonio) attracted Suzette’s desire to “Go Public” in 1998. She served as the Physical Education/Health Department Head and then as the Women’s Athletic Coordinator until 2006. In the added role of Director of Cheer and Dance, her structure, organization, and discipline was instrumental in helping rebuild the school’s cheer and dance programs. During this time, she also earned her Principal Certification through Texas A&M Kingsville in 2005.
After teaching and coaching volleyball and softball at Wagner High School in the Judson Independent school district (Converse, TX), Suzette accepted an Assistant Principal position in East Central. Seven years later, in 2013, she transitioned over to the athletic office as Assistant Athletic Director. Shortly after being promoted to the position of the Athletic Director on April 13, 2018, she and a diverse committee of stakeholders identified and designed the ECISD Athletic Pillars of Success — which define East Central’s athletic core beliefs.
“I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to East Central and the community,” Suzette said. “I came here as a rival, and they accepted me with open arms. “I believe it is our job as athletics-professionals to teach student-athletes, and to coach them through life,” Suzette emphasized. “As one of our pillars states: We want to develop exceptional people first, exceptional students second, and exceptional student-athletes third.
“We are all about building character in every student, everyday.” In addition to the enormous responsibility of nurturing her district’s athletic programs, Suzette is currently a member of the THSADA awards committee.