Driven by the profession
Former TAMIU Rec Sports director keeps busy
By David Solis
Bridge contributing writer
Published Friday, Sept. 10, 2021
Former director of TAMIU Rec Sports, Sylvia Barrera, always had a drive for teaching and leading. Her focus always remained in growing as a teacher, coach and director.
Barrera started her teaching career at Christen Middle School in 1981 as a physical education teacher and coach.
“I got the opportunity to work with a great staff my first year that welcomed me to the program and helped me grow as an educator and a person,” Barrera said.
As she slowly built a reputation for herself, she was given the opportunity to coach the girls’ basketball program at Cigarroa High School in 1983. She led the program to new heights, advancing to the regional tournament twice as a coach during her 20-year stint.
This success gave her the opportunity to become the athletic director of Laredo Independent School District in 2003. A turn of events occurred when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007.
“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I faced it like everything else. I was going to face it head on, overcome it and grow from it,” Barrera said.
Barrera decided to take on the role of director of Rec Sports at Texas A&M International University to concentrate on her health and a smaller department in 2010.
Barrera instilled the same mentality leading a district athletic department to the Rec Sports department at TAMIU.
“As the A.D. of LISD, I tried to instill a growing mentality to the coaches for their programs; in the Rec Sports department, I tried to prepare them for their career challenges,” Barrera said.
Under Barrera’s tenure at TAMIU, a brand-new state of the art Rec Sports facility was built.
“It was great to see that come into fruition under my tenure,” Barrera said. “It was desperately needed for our enrollment [which] kept increasing yearly.”
TAMIU Rec Sports employees take pride in promoting health and wellness and giving students the opportunity to play competitive sports.
“We hosted so many competitive events for our students and prepared our department for coaching opportunities or even opportunities to referee outside of TAMIU,” Barrera said.
After a four-year stint, Barrera jumped back into the school district to become the athletic director for LISD once again in 2016.
“I grew as a leader and I grew as a person. I now saw things from a coach’s point of view and now from a student athlete’s point of view,” Barrera said.
Alex Loredo, former Rec Sports employee and current LISD coach for Cigarroa High School, saw firsthand the impact Sylvia Barrera had on her department.
“She was like a mother figure to a lot of us employees,” Loredo said. “She was always smiling and positive and asking how we were doing before even talking about work. It made you want to work extra hard for her because she genuinely cared. She brought that out of you.”
Jorge Tijerina, current LISD coach who worked with Barrera at Christen Middle School when she first started, shared the same sentiment about Barrera that Loredo shared.
“She was extremely competitive when she initially got hired,” Tijerina said. “She didn’t want to take any shortcuts and was willing to get her hands dirty, as they say. Now, as my boss, you still see her working long hours at events, but always with a smile.”
Under her second stint as athletic director at LISD, coach B—as a lot of people refer to her—has renovated both Veterans Field for baseball and Shirley Field for football to state-of-the-art facilities that house LISD athletic events and multiple playoff games throughout south Texas.
“From day one, I talked about growing as a student, teacher, coach and director and to see the big picture. Now—from the day I started—[it] is pretty surreal and humbling,” Barrera said.
Barrera is modest about her impact on the educational career path she took. Her Impact shows through her interactions with students, athletes, coaches and coworkers, by overcoming adversity and growing into prepared professionals.