Sylvia L. Barrera
Director of Athletics – Laredo Independent School District
What made you want to work in sports, high school/college, etc.
Sports was a major part of our family, and following the footsteps of my Dad and older brothers in athletics was the natural path. Upon graduation from Texas Woman’s University, the passion for returning to our community and utilizing athletics as a platform to instill strong character and leadership skills in our youth was a passion that has grown throughout the years.
Past participation – what sports did you play/coach?
I was fortunate to be a high school student when Title IX opened the door for girls’ to compete in high school athletics. Although basketball and track were the two sports I competed in during the onset of Title IX in high school, I was able to compete in softball leagues outside the school setting. My first job, after graduating from the university, was coaching middle school sports, which I truly enjoyed for two years. Our community opened a new high school in the southern part of our community, Dr. Leo G. Cigarroa High School, and was fortunate with an opportunity to be a head coach and build the basketball program from the inception. I enjoyed a 20-year career at that campus and assisted in volleyball and track programs as well. We enjoyed many triumphs on the court, but our real success was building community engagement through our athletic programs and engaging our athletes with our elementary schools.
A description of your professional journey to becoming Director of Athletics for the Laredo Independent School District.
I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education with a minor in Psychology from Texas Woman’s University. This led me to my first coaching assignment at the middle school level for two years, returning to the school district that I attended, and promoted to a high school as head basketball coach. I attended the University of Kingsville and earned my Master’s Degree, completing the degree during summer months and traveling during the fall semester. I was hired as the Director of Athletics after spending twenty years coaching high school basketball and became the first female athletic director for LaredoISD. After five years, I left the school district and started a small business. I was fortunate to join the Recreational Sports department at Texas A&M International University after two years in the private sector, leading the program for the next five years. I returned to Laredo ISD, the district that helped to shape my youth and career, when a vacancy was announced for athletic director. Am blessed to be surrounded by incredible colleagues, coaches, administrators and a supportive community. We work together to ensure the success of our students on the courts, in the classroom and upon graduation.
What school districts have you worked for?
I have only worked for one school district and a University. Laredo ISD has been my home for 35 of my 40 years in education, with 5 years at Texas A&M International University.
Any notable or interesting aspects about your current position?
Athletic programs have blossomed from being sport oriented to a focus on developing young athletes in character and leadership, along with preparing them for college, careers or military service. Preparing athletes for their post-secondary journey is a major part of the Laredo ISD athletic department. We have several initiatives designed to empower student athletes and enable them to focus on their development as student leaders and influencing their communities in a positive manner. In addition to the development of student athletes, our school district works diligently to develop staff. This focus on leadership development proved to be a strong factor in the success of our programs during the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic. As a district, we held together, to ensure the safety of the students, athletes, coaches and community while successfully competing in athletic programs.
What are some professional influences you have had throughout your career?
I had the great fortune to have incredible mentors throughout my career, with my parents and siblings being the first to provide guidance through my journey. Several teachers, administrators, colleagues and students played a key role in the development of the skills necessary to experience success in several areas. I am a proud member of the Leadership Texas Class of 2016 (Best Klazz Ever) that enabled me to sharpen my leadership skills, but most importantly to extend my professional network to include several incredibly successful women in various industries. In addition, Laredo ISD is collaborating with the Holdsworth Center to assist our school district in identifying our leadership definition and developing a strong leadership bench for district personnel. The leadership definition enables staff to identify the skills necessary to lead their campus, department or groups successfully.
What are some major responsibilities you have in your current position?
Our major responsibility in the athletic department is to mentor and guide our coaches to become better versions of themselves. This empowerment enables them to successfully lead the next generation of leaders and prepare them for their post-secondary journey. As leaders in our department, it is our duty to provide our staff with the tools necessary to experience success, on and off the courts. Leadership development is a major aspect, along with providing the facilities and fiscal resources necessary for our student athletes to achieve success in a positive environment.
List any involvement with THSADA or other organizations
I have served with THSADA as a member and conference panelist. In addition, our school district invests in our staff and provides opportunities for campus coordinator and head coaches to attend the various conference opportunities.