Not all heroes wear capes, and that is the case for North Lamar ISD coach and teacher Kathy Barker.
Barker, who is going on 30 years as a teacher and coach, loves to serve the school district she proudly works for, and she doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“I was a North Lamar graduate, went to (Paris Junior College) and then to Texas A&M-Commerce,” Barker said. “I was ready to come back home. I taught at Cooper for two years, and as soon as an opening came, I started teaching and coaching in middle school at North Lamar. I started with seventh- and eighth-grade basketball and, after a year, softball came open that I took on with Coach (Alden) George.”
“I love softball and I love being outside — I truly love softball. As soon as that came open, I took it, and I plan on staying until I’m completely out.”
Softball is a life-long passion for Barker, as it was for a former colleague who credits Barker with a strong presence in the softball program.
“We both had the same goal and that made it great to work with her,” Jimmy Fendley said. “She allowed me as an assistant to have a voice in what was going on, and then when the roles changed, she had a voice as well. We never made a decision without talking to the other about it first. When you get along like that, it makes for a great environment not only for us as coaches, but also for the girls.
“It’s hard to explain what she has done for the program. I think the best way is to look at her record as head coach. She had over 300 wins and won a state championship in 2010. That says enough right there. She has been a valuable asset for North Lamar as a head coach, assistant coach, teacher and counselor.”
From former to current coaches, Barker has always been instrumental in helping her colleagues adjust to their new jobs or helping to maintain the excellence they try to uphold. Whether it has to do with building relationships or rekindling old bonds, Barker is the woman for the job at North Lamar ISD.
“She’s helped make the transition easier for me in terms of things that have come up in the past, or any other issues that could have creeped up,” head softball coach Ashley Endsley said. “She also knows me and how I am, and she’s taught me to calm down and see the positives in everything. Sometimes as a coach, we’re quick to see the negative, but she helps me look at what the girls have done instead what they haven’t done. That’s an area she’s helped me grow in as a coach in terms of the bright and positive things we have here.”
“Coach Barker is one of the first coaches I’ve gotten to work with that has as much experience as she has as far as years in this business,” said Sara Beth Upchurch, who is a fellow softball assistant and current North Lamar head volleyball coach. “Something I can attest to is that 30 years later since she’s started here, she still has relationships with kids she’s coached 10 or 20 years ago, and that’s something I look at to strive for. I love that she still keeps up with those relationships, including Coach Endsley, which I think could have played into her wanting to come back home. She does a great job of keeping those relationships beyond their time in high school and still impacts them to this day, which is something I think myself and all coaches should strive for.”
Player, program impacts
Along with being a supportive figure to fellow coaches, Barker has impacted many players. The family atmosphere she creates along with the high expectations are two things Barker upholds to this day.
“Coach Barker has always been a mother figure to me,” former standout Pantherette softball pitcher Reagan Richardson said. “She is the coach who will sit after a game and cry with you after you played your very last game; the coach that truly made you believe in yourself. Coach Barker brings a lot of respect and history to the program. She’s won a state title, and has been a runner-up. She knows what it takes to prepare athletes to be the best.”
Barker is the only person at North Lamar High School to lead a sports team to a state title. She led the Pantherettes to a state title in 2010, a 1-0 thriller in 12 innings over West, as the head softball coach. This feat is something that still resonates with her strongly to this day.
“I look back and you think about how many teams there are in the state of Texas in general — four in your region and 20 in all — it’s huge just to get there,” Barker said. “It takes a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck towards the end, and everything has to fall in place just right. When we got there, I was just going, but then we saw we were seeded number two out of the four teams. Once we got over the shock of it all, we really knew were here with a purpose … After we won, I realized how hard it is but how huge of an accomplishment we achieved.”
A role that does
not define her
Barker has worked with numerous people in different positions. Whether she is calling the shots, following instructions or contributing in any other way, she doesn’t care. Her role doesn’t need a permanent definition, as long as she knows she is bettering and impacting the lives of those she is around.
“When I left high school, the teachers were still supportive when I came back — it’s just home for me and it will be until I retire,” Barker said. “There’s still teachers here that taught me, and I know that I could go to any of them and would completely have my back. North Lamar has taken care of me in letting me go from teaching to counseling, letting me have an athletic period and coach. Not all school systems do that for employees, but North Lamar has let me do that and, in return for letting me do that, I continue to give 100 percent and try my best to produce results for what they’ve done for me.”
Barker strives to do her best for the program, and the program has produced results in return. Seeing North Lamar softball and its players continue to thrive is something Barker takes pride in.
“What’s rewarding for me is the tradition that continues on with the program,” Barker said. “Last year, our motto was, ‘Team 28,’ and this year it’s, ‘Team 29,’ which is symbolic of carrying on the strong softball program we have. Another thing that makes me proud is having Coach Endsley come back after four years of playing for me and four more years of playing in college. I’m proud to have the honor of working with her, and it’s like she didn’t miss one step. All the hard work she put in through age 18, she came in expecting even more out of the girls. It makes me proud to see all the girls go off and be successful in the world.”
Kathy Barker is truly a hero, and she doesn’t need a cape or any superhuman power to prove that. She has put in the time, effort, work and passion into enriching lives at North Lamar ISD, which hopefully continues for years to come.