On November 2, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2016 Community Heroes Awards to recognize the unsung heroes in our community whose actions, thoughts and words have had a transformative impact in our region. For the rest of the month, we will be highlighting our nine honorees in our Community Heroes Series.
Name: David Barton
Occupation: Athletic Director, Fresno High School
Nominated by: Department of Kinesiology
Personal hero: “My mom, Phyllis Redfield. Although small in stature, I have always admired her inner-strength, determination and grit. She taught me to fight for myself and to stand up for those who can’t.”
As early as the eighth grade, David Barton knew he wanted to work in the athletic environment. It’s a field where he could spend his life coaching and mentoring impressionable young student-athletes, particularly those from disadvantaged homes. Having been raised by a single mother of six children, Barton knew firsthand the struggles some young student-athletes face.
He wanted to be a positive force – someone to impact youth just like those who made a difference in his own life growing up.
“The biggest influences on my life were coaches who took the time to guide, correct and inspire me to be the best athlete and person I could be,” Barton said. “Throughout my playing career, I never lost sight of the idea of being a coach. I see the power of athletics and what it can do for an individual person and I want to help students who may not come from the best homes. I feel like that is the attraction for me, being able to impact someone’s life with athletics.”
After playing football in college at Tabor College and overseas in Europe, Barton received his first head coaching job at Fresno Christian High school where he coached for five years before being offered a position at Fresno State as a graduate assistant football coach in 2001. During this time, he was also completing his master’s degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Sport Psychology.
He came onto the team during the prized David Carr era when Fresno State was ranked no. 8 in the nation. However, he noticed something with the student-athletes. Although in a different league, they held the same emotional, social and physical needs as student-athletes in high school.
Coupled with his newfound education and experience in sport psychology and coach education, Barton decided to return to high school athletics to put into practice what he learned in graduate school.
This led him to McLane High School in Fresno, where he took a position as a physical education teacher, and was later hired on as the varsity head football coach a year later. Regardless of his many years of experience as both an athlete and coach, Barton soon realized he was ill-prepared to handle the challenges of coaching at an inner-city high school.
“The lack of resources, the level of poverty and the significant social and emotional needs, along with the daily challenge of being safe off-campus, challenged my approach to coaching, and made me more determined to provide a positive environment where the athletes felt safe, challenged and loved,” Barton said. “My experiences coaching at McLane showed me more than ever how participation in a positive athletic environment can impact someone for the rest of their life.”
Barton took that experience as an opportunity to implement the Academic Gameplan program he used while at Fresno State. The program encompasses the idea that organization is equally as important as intellect. If students can organize their academics, athletics and responsibilities, then they’ll be able to better succeed in other areas. The results were positive, and after his first year, 22 football players graduated as a direct result of his academic intervention.
After five years at McLane, including other coaching stints as varsity head track coach and freshman football, Barton embarked on a new journey at Edison High School. Much like his work at McLane, he was able to help student-athletes achieve academic success and get on track to graduate.
In 2011, Barton accepted a position with Fresno High School as their athletic director, a position he still holds today. There, he is able to use his experiences as a head coach, as well as his academic background, to develop an athletics program focused on maximum participation, maximum retention, athlete feedback and competitive success.
He credits his collaboration with Dr. Wade Gilbert, a professor with the Fresno State Department of Kinesiology, for getting that program off the ground and running. Together they strategized about coaching, teaching and explored ways to developing quality coaches.
In the past five years, Barton is proud that the environment he helped create is one where student-athletes take pride in their school and are proud to be an athlete representing Fresno High. They’ve significantly increased participation, and last year the school won the most league championships in over 50 years.
“The most significant contribution to Fresno High that I feel I have made is creating an athletic program where coaches make participation, and enjoyment of the athletic experience, a top priority,” Barton said.
The 2016 Community Heroes Awards, which celebrates heroes from each of the seven academic departments, as well as centers and institutes within our college, will be held on November 2, 2016 at Fresno State. For more information on the event, contact Sandra Daily at 559.278.3603 or firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.