Athletics are a big part of student life at Jeff High, which means there has to be an athletics director to keep sports running smoothly. Recently someone new has come to the position, Matt Barker. Having prior experience in the GCCS corporation and plenty of familiarity in the athletic department, Barker is ready for any challenge that comes his way. “I’m enjoying it, it’s a lot of work,” he says, “I’m really just trying to do the right thing.”
Barker has had a passion for coaching for most of his life, starting with his first coaching gig for a girls powder puff team as a junior in high school. He ended up coaching and teaching PE at Parkview Middle School, and after that Barker and his family moved to northern Indiana. He pursued his education and now has a bachelors from Valparaiso, a teaching license from Manchester, a masters in secondary education from IU Southeast and a masters in administration from Grand Canyon University. Having no plan to move, Barker was looking into an administrative position at a nearby elementary school when he got a call from an old friend from Parkview, Pam Hall (now Principal at Jeff High). Knowing the love he had
for coaching, she offered him a job as the Athletics Director. “I’ve always respected Pam. She was a really great leader. So I said let’s do an interview and I’ll let you know. I interviewed for it, I honestly, being a coach for 20 years, seeing the hours of work athletics directors put in, figured I didn’t want to do that. But I interviewed and everything was kind of what I wanted to hear, so I accepted the position.”
Jeff High can be a very intimidating place, but Barker feels right
at home. He explains that although things can be quite hectic, the people around him are truly helpful. “I’ve found in the couple months I’ve been in this job, the athletics director world is very open to helping people out.” When he first arrived during late October, Barker was informed that there was a little bit of financial strain in the athletics department. Naturally, he got right to work on this issue and a couple others, such as transportation. Barker makes sure to note that he puts emphasis on communication between coaches and student athletes. With the spring season quickly approaching, there is plenty more work to be done.
Working as an athletics director in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is complicated at best. Barker expresses his dejection about the crack down on fans allowed at games. “It sounds weird, you only have 500 people, but it would have been much easier to let 4000 people in.” He elaborates on the importance of proper mask protocol and social distancing.
Current events aren’t all Barker is focusing on, though. He is also making plans for the future. He believes that an important part of bringing up a good athletics program is a comfortable atmosphere and well-kept equipment. “My goal is to make sure that when people come to Jeffersonville — whether you’re an official, an opposing player, opposing coach, a fan — that you come here and you have a great experience.” This summer he wants to clean up the basketball lobby before the next season starts, and in the more distant future he hopes there will be turf on all of Jeff High’s fields and a new weight room. Barker isn’t only concerned with
the aesthetics of our facilities; another concern of his is our hospitality. “When you get an email about how welcoming you were as a school, that’s a great feeling.”
Barker conveys that success isn’t all in the wins and losses. He values sportsmanship and the overall experience for student athletes. He feels the most important part of his new position is getting students ready
for the world outside high school. Looking to give athletes team working and communication skills for future opportunities, he hopes that sports can be a well-needed escape for high schoolers.
By Emily Proctor