NMMI Sports Press
By his own statement, New Mexico Military Institute’s current athletic director, Colonel Jose Barron, is lucky to have the people working for him who do.
His staff is composed of many long-time veterans. Jan Olesinski is a previous Polish Olympian who has coached multiple sports at NMMI for over 30 years. Sean Schooley has 27 years of experience at NMMI, and now leads the department’s development efforts. Women’s volleyball coach Shelby Forchtner began her NMMI career at the same year as Barron, and this season, led the Lady Broncos to a third-place finish at the NJCAA D1 National Championships. Her husband, Joe, is in his 12th season at NMMI and his 8th season as head coach of one of the largest athletic groups on campus, the Bronco football team. Andy Robertson is the men’s head golf coach. His term at NMMI includes 20 years of service, coaching everything from girls’ basketball to wrestling.
“This place really is a place of extended family,” explained Barron. “Not just in the athletics department, but also around the school. We take ownership of our roles and responsibilities and think of it not as just a job, but as serving our cadets, they are the reason we are here. I feel like in this department we’ve got the right people in the right positions and that we’re clicking on all cylinders. My job is often just to facilitate: providing general guidance, consulting with and advising the professionals we’ve already got on staff who are doing the work.”
Barron first became familiar with NMMI when he was working at the Sprint Sports Rehabilitation Clinic, after having served as an athletic trainer in professional baseball.
He attended New Mexico State University and graduated with a B.S. in Athletic Training Education. He worked at an out-patient clinic in Las Cruces as an NMSU student and for a few months following his graduation in 2001, then accepted a job offer to serve as an athletic trainer in the Houston Astros organization.
In 2003, Lefty Stecklein, NMMI’s athletic director at the time, contacted him.
“I had lived in Roswell, moved to Albuquerque, then moved back to Roswell,” explained Barron. “Lefty Stecklein called me, saying he was in need of a full-time athletic trainer at NMMI. I still remember the interview process vividly. It was a big group, with several head coaches on the interviewing committee. Fortunately, I knew some of them due to my prior work with NMMI. But I remember stumbling on one of the questions. Colonel Stecklein wanted someone who would remain in the position for several years, to ensure stability. I told him that I just did not see myself staying here for more than a few years. At the time, I figured I’d go back to professional baseball.”
He avows he has said “never” more than once in relation to his job. He felt he would never stay in Roswell for more than two or three years – this semester, he received his 15-year NMMI service pin. He thought he would never be an administrator – as NMMI’s current athletic director, he now leads one of the largest mission elements on campus.
Barron’s continued stay at “Old Post” has been marked with a move up the organizational ladder, from head athletic trainer to athletic director, due to his organizational and leadership abilities. He’s also got a great business savvy, gleaned from his time spent managing and directing private companies. He served as assistant athletic director for both Dwight Burns and Reggie Franklin before being tapped to be the athletic department head, and was named the ‘Rookie Athletic Director of the Year’ in 2015 by the New Mexico Activities Association.
“We learn many things from every person we work for and with,” stated Barron. “Coach Burns encouraged me to consider becoming athletic director, and Reggie Franklin made sure I finished up my graduate degree that I had started several years earlier.”
That grad degree is a Master’s in Human Performance and Sports with a concentration in Sports Administration from New Mexico Highlands University in 2013.
One example of Barron’s leadership came early in his NMMI career and involved his vision for creating a truly top-notch Sports Medicine program at NMMI.
“When I took the job as head athletic trainer, we were, back then, a department of one,” laughed Barron. “Over the course of several years, we were able to incorporate another full-time position, greatly expand and improve the sports medicine facilities, and develop an education curriculum where cadets could earn college credit towards degrees in athletic training. The department was also able to implement the first corps physical training program, and refine the academic offerings in HPER classes (Health Physical Education and Recreation).
Part of that facilities expansion was a 2006 remodel of the basement area in the Godfrey Athletic Center, turning it from mostly unused space into a state-of-the-art athletic training center, complete with office space for Barron and his new full-time assistant.
As athletic director, he was also intricately involved in the 2014 reconstruction of NMMI’s 12 tennis courts, along with several upgrades to the NMMI Ballpark in 2016, including synthetic turf for the infield, a suspension netting system to replace the old chain-link backstop, and locker rooms for both coaches and umpires.
Current projects include a complete renovation of the Cahoon Armory building. Cahoon is the headquarters for the NMMI athletic department, housing the main gymnasium, a weight room, and most of the offices and locker rooms facilities. Initial steps in the remodeling effort have already begun. Construction is expected to begin this summer and could continue for well over a year.
“I definitely didn’t do this by myself,” explained Barron of the projects. “This was the work of many, many people, all pulling in the same direction for a desired result, all to help improve the services for our cadet population.”
Barron feels his most important skill in his position is his talent as a multi-tasker. As a joint four-year high school and two-year junior college, the NMMI Athletic Department oversees 24 sanctioned sport teams: eight at the junior college level and 16 at the high school level. As such, Barron has to organize his thinking in a way that allows him to track the myriad activities and teams on campus and how they utilize the limited time and facilities available to them.
He considers himself fortunate to have Randy Montoya handling the NMAA compliance on the high school side and Shelby Fortchner handling the same job on the junior college side.
He is also proud of the support programs NMMI has continued to develop during his term, such the Athletic Training and Sports Medicine Program and the Strength & Conditioning program. The S&C program now also has two full-time certified coaches. In addition to training NMMI’s athletes, S&C also implements the physical training program for the entire corps of cadets, with the high school Corps PT recently winning a national fitness award from the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States.
NMMI also boasts a Sports Information program, headed by Geoff Gunn, who’s been at NMMI for 10 years. Their mission is to get the word out about NMMI Athletics, using a wide variety of mediums and media outlets.
On the personal side, Barron is most always jovial and pleasant, ready to open his office and his heart as needed. He trusts his people implicitly. He makes himself available at all hours of the day, for both the good and the bad news. When a game is going, Barron is there, no matter the sport.
In additional to giving thanks to his departmental staff, Barron also wanted to express his gratitude in having been given the chance to serve as athletic director. “I am very grateful that General Grizzle gave me the opportunity to lead this department. I also appreciate the confidence he shows by setting the direction and allowing our department to execute the mission.”
“It’s all about our cadets,” finished and reiterated Barron. “We are entrusted to running this school as best we can, doing the most with our available resources. We owe them our best, from the newest of the RATs [Recruits At Training] to the regimental commander, all while honoring the legacy of the alumni that came before them.”
“I believe that NMMI has done a lot for me and I aspire give back just as much. I hope to build upon the foundations that my predecessors have laid, and set the NMMI Athletic Department on a path towards continued success.”