THSADA Showcase

Barbara Wise
Assistant Athletic Director
San Antonio ISD

My ultimate childhood career goal was to be a civil rights lawyer because I wanted to help people who did not have the power to speak for themselves.  I still have my University applications that reflect my written hopes to pursue this career, and I had no intentions of ever becoming a teacher or coach, even though my HS coaches and Counselor thought that I would be a great teacher. I wanted no part of it, and I pictured myself as a smart lawyer driving a SL500 in gun metal blue with British racing tan leather seats.


In retrospect, many of my decisions I made guided me toward becoming a teach and a coach, even though I planned to be a lawyer.  I choose a dual major in English/Poly Sci AND a Physical and Health Education degree. After graduation, I enrolled in an additional year to be a certified Teacher (Canadian Teacher College) and simultaneously took and passed my LSAT and was accepted into Law School. Due to several circumstances in my life at the time, I made a decision that I would teach for a year and then re-apply for Law School. … that was 30 years ago, and I have been a Teacher/Coach/Athletic Administrator ever since! Once I started, I learned that I was passionate about teaching – whether it was in the English classroom or on the court or field, and I realized that I was able to fulfil my dream of helping and serving people, but it was in a different “room” and “court” from the courtroom.  God had a plan and I just needed to find that right path, and I am so thankful that I did. And, I am driving a gun metal blue with British racing tan leather vehicle, just not a SL – my knees prefer stepping up into a SUV these days

I went to a small high school in Ontario Canada, and played everything – volleyball, basketball, badminton, track & Field and cross country. Athletics was the one place where I could escape from a difficult childhood, and I adored my HS coaches who encouraged me and gave me the tools to cope with my troubled home life.  At Queen’s University at Kingston, I continued my relationship with athletics, and I was a four-year Volleyball letterman and participated in Track & Field for two years. My English classes filled my yearning for classic academic knowledge, but I found that I was more and more focused on my Sociology of Sports and Psychology of Sport classes because they were teaching me practical life lessons that I needed during those years.

I have coached almost every sport, and my first-year teaching, I was the Varsity Boys Volleyball Coach and the Girls Rugby Coach.  I have also coached Power Lifting, Volleyball, Basketball, Cross Country, Soccer and Track & Field. All of these opportunities unknowingly prepared me for the position that I currently hold, where it is definitely a benefit to have a broad range of experience in multiple sports.

Not only have I coached multiple sports, but I have worked in multiple school districts which has granted so many different perspectives on how to work in different socio-demographics. I started teaching and coaching at the Lakeshore School Board in Montreal, Canada, and then the Cherry Creek School District in Denver, Colorado before I moved to Texas. Once here, I have worked for Harlandale ISD, Alamo Heights ISD, Southwest ISD, Southside ISD and San Antonio ISD. I have worked with many Athletic Directors who have influenced me, and this has allowed me to take all of the best components of their leadership styles and meld them into my own.

When I moved to Texas, one of the first things I did was to enroll and begin my Mid Management Master’s Certification. I have always loved the pursuit of higher education, and though there were very few female Athletic Directors in the San Antonio area in the early 1990’s, and many of the AD positions were tied to Head Football, I subconsciously coveted that as a final professional goal.  When I was the Athletic Coordinator at Southside, I began to attend the monthly Regional AD meetings in 2005, and I realized that this was the next step in my professional growth.  I wanted to be part of this group. I wanted to take my ability to impart knowledge, to motivate and to influence coaches instead of students. Within a year, the Assistant AD position opened at San Antonio ISD, and I was hired in 2007.

Over the 14 years that I have been an Assistant AD, I have been responsible for multiple sport programs, and currently work with the Volleyball, Cross Country and Track & Field programs. I oversaw the Middle School Athletic program for nine years; I oversee the Athletic Trainers; I work alongside our Sr Exec Director, Todd Howey to host our Student Athlete Leadership Council where we meet five times a year with our student athlete leaders and I help to create our Professional Development yearly for our coaches, among so many other things.

The last three assignments bring me the most joy and satisfaction because they go back to my original goals of being a servant leader.  In the spring of 2020 with COVID, like everyone else, our department was charged with creating a COVID plan to move forward in order to bring our athletes back to campus for summer strength and conditioning. I worked closely with our Athletic Trainers to create our Return to Play Safety protocol, and I have never been so proud of a group of dedicated, passionate people who care about the safety and wellbeing of student athletes. Our district then was named as one of the pilot school districts to administer the Binax Rapid Tests to our athletes. Because this had never been done before on a school campus, and with all of the unknowns about the virus, it was a daunting task. Our team of AT’s created an efficient and safe plan that was shared by Abbott Labs with other school districts.  I am honored to be able to work with and lead this group of professionals.

I am also a professional development junkie! I am inspired and motivated by several of my favorite leadership gurus like John Maxwell, Robin Pou, Simon Sinek and Robin Pou. My current read is “Performance Intelligence at Work” by Julie Bell, and I am truly passionate to share this professional growth with our Athletic Coordinators and Coaches, as well as our group of Student Athlete Leaders. I see how much responsibility they have for leading and managing their teams, and when I can offer hope and share ideas with them about how to become better leaders, that makes their role a little easier. 2020 was a difficult year for our coaches; our district was one of the last to allow our athletes to return to UIL competition in mid-October, and the majority of our athletes were virtual learners. It was heartbreaking and frustrating for our coaches to not be with their athletes; to hear stories about their terrible conditions at home and to lose track of many of their athletes. It was crucial for us to keep our coaches motivated and offer guidance to take things one day at a time and to continue to reach out to our athletes to keep them involved in the “virtual” workouts even when they were not able to participate in competitions. We shared Clint Rutledge’s Coaching at its Core and Stephen Mackey’s 2Words curriculum and sent out weekly emails and had Zoom meetings with them to re-focus their goals for the year.

My pet project is our Student Athlete Leadership Council. Our motto is “Plant trees under whose shade you will never see”.  We instill the importance of unselfish character in society and the value of servant leadership. In a society where social interaction is replaced by social media, we strive to bring our student athletes back to honest values of conversation, serving, and seeking the good in others. Our goal is for our student athlete leaders to share these values with their teammates and their community to make their school a better place for the young athletes they may never meet. Our student athletes have had the opportunity to meet with University Leaders, ex SAISD athletes who became pro athletes or successful business owners, and an intimate Q & A session with our Superintendent.

I am appreciative of those who have influenced me over my career to allow me to do all of the things I am blessed to do today. Gil Garza, former Executive Director of Athletics at San Antonio ISD, believed in me and gave me the chance to pursue my dream job as someone from outside of the large district.  I am grateful that he gave me latitude to change programs as needed and that he never funneled me into traditional role assignments.  Candy Tanner, Karen Funk and Sandra Tapia, all now happily retired, were well respected Athletic Directors/Asst. Directors in San Antonio and I leaned heavily on them for advice and support during my early years struggling to find my routine with the heavy work load I inherited when I came to SAISD.

Another major influencer in my career is Toni Thompson, Associate Superintendent for San Antonio ISD. She not only provided me with the tools to evaluate and grow coaches by having the right conversations, which is a vital tool for a former coach who now has to evaluate her coaching friends, but also mentored me on how to be a strong female leader in a world that doesn’t always know what to do with strong female leaders.

In addition, I have been blessed to work side by side with my past and current co-workers in the San Antonio ISD Athletic Department who have all encouraged, inspired and challenged me on my journey to be a better Administrator. Todd Howey, Sr Executive Director of Athletics, keeps things in perspective for me when things get crazy and pushes me yearly to find my “next big project”.  There are so many others who have influenced me over the years, including our local San Antonio Area Athletic Directors group, who are some of the most giving, selfless and dedicated leaders I know, and I am thankful that our paths have crossed.

I am currently serving on the TAAC Committee with THSADA, and have had the opportunity to be on two panels at the THSADA Conference. Since my original membership in 2006, I have served on the Host Committees when San Antonio hosted the State Conference, as well as when NIAAA hosted their National Conference in San Antonio.

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