Union Athletic Director Emily Barkley

VYPE Magazine’s Editorial Director Brad Heath grabbed a quick interview with Union High School Athletic Director Emily Barkley to discuss the upcoming school year and her goals for the athletic department.

VYPE: Where did you get your start coaching and where did you originally graduate from?

Barkley: I am a 1996 graduate of Union High School and a 2000 (Bachelor) and 2002 (MBA) graduate of the University of Tulsa. I was a student-assistant for the Union girls basketball team all six years I was at TU and jumped straight into administration when I began in August of 2004, after serving as a Graduate Assistant at TU for two years.

VYPE: We’re dealing with unusual circumstances trying to operate during a pandemic. How do you feel the covid response by your coaches and staff has been and how ready is everyone to get back into a more normal routine?  

Barkley: Our coaches and staff really answered the call in terms of mitigating situations that might potentially expose each other to COVID. Thankfully, everyone saw the prevention efforts as a pathway to give students opportunities to compete, which I believe was good for the mental health of everyone involved. We are cautiously optimistic that we will return to normal for the 2021-22 school year but the health and safety of our students and staff will remain our number one priority.

VYPE: What is the message to the athletes at Union under your guidance and leadership?   

Barkley: It has always been a goal of mine to provide opportunities for student-athletes to grow as individuals as well as athletes. I am hopeful that our coaches create a safe environment where kids can learn from both their successes and their failures. I want to create a family atmosphere where we are celebrating each other. And ultimately, we hope to equip our student-athletes to problem solve, to lean in to each other, and become outstanding husbands/wives/fathers/mothers/contributing members of society.  

VYPE: Do you have a coaching/teaching mentor? Someone you have looked up to or call on for advice? Maybe it’s someone who has influenced you in the past.  

Barkley: The reason I am in high school athletic administration is because of all the wonderful coaches/teachers I had during my time at Union. Specifically, my high school basketball coach, Edie Allen, was a strong female role model and remains a steadfast presence in my life today. She is a tremendous encourager as well as someone who has been a constant influence in my life. She cared about me more as a person than a ball player and my family is her family. In addition, I was exceptionally fortunate to attend TU when the athletic department was led by Judy MacLeod, who is now the Commissioner of Conference USA. Seeing Ms. MacLeod lead as the AD as a young female really changed my perspective of what I might be capable of becoming.

VYPE: Let's give the readers an opportunity to get to know you a little better. Where is your favorite place for lunch or dinner if you’re eating out?

Barkley: My dad owned a Mazzio’s Pizza for twelve years and worked for the company for twenty years prior so I am particularly biased to a good Mazzio’s Pizza buffet.  

VYPE: Do you have any hobbies? 

Barkley: Right now, my biggest “hobby” is being Sutton’s mom as well as a team “mom” to the RSU men’s basketball team where my husband is the head coach. I do enjoy working out and traveling with my family when our schedules allow.

VYPE: Favorite sports team? College or pro. 

Barkley: UNC Tar Heels men’s basketball, Rogers State University men’s basketball and all sports programs from my alma mater, TU.

VYPE: Your favorite sports movie?  

Barkley: Hoosiers.

VYPE: First concert you attended?  

Barkley: I believe I fell asleep on my mom’s lap at The Beach Boys outdoor concert when I was a kid.

VYPE: Have you ever visited another country? If so, where? 

Barkley: I took several classes at TU that afforded me the opportunity to travel to Beijing, China to work the World University Games and Buenos Aires, Argentina for an International Business course. In addition, a friend of mine moved to England right after college so I visited her and her husband in Manchester, England and attend the British Open that was held in Liverpool during my stay.  

VYPE: Finally coach, tell me what you have come to love most about Union, your athletes and where is the future of the program headed? 

Barkley: The Union Board of Education and our administrative team deeply believe in the value of co-curricular activities and the importance these activities provide to the educational experience. Therefore, they cast great vision and promote the growth of our district through passage of bond issues, that include many uniforms, equipment and facilities for our student-athletes. Our community and parents fill in the gap and contribute countless hours of volunteer service to give our student-athletes a first-class experience where they are fed, feel safe, and have others to lean on. Our operations, transportation, and child nutrition department are second-to-none and our kids and coaches can focus on their sport while others contribute to their success behind the scenes. It is truly an #allin attitude and our ultimate goal is for kids to feel that they had a positive experience throughout their time as a Union student-athlete. While we love to win on the playing field, our ultimate mission is to help our student-athletes reach their academic and athletic potential; to inspire champions today and prepare leaders for tomorrow. In short, we pride ourselves on building champions.

VYPE: Here is your chance to give a shoutout. Who would you like to thank?

Barkley: My family’s support is the reason I am able to have my dream job and I hope to be an inspiration to other young ladies who want to pursue a career in a male-dominated field such as athletic administration.    

Pictured: Justin Barkley, husband of 7 years and Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Rogers State University, and five-year-old daughter, Sutton Caroline, Pre-K student at Union Schools.