After three years as a college assistant coach, 24-year-old Barea takes over her own program
At only 24 years old, Leigh Barea has been named as the new head coach for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside women’s volleyball program, it was announced Monday.
It isn’t lost on Barea that not too long ago she was a high school player at Harper Creek, graduating in 2011. And now she’s taking over an NCAA Division II program.
“Yeah, sometimes I think it’s crazy that I am a head coach at my age already,” Barea said. “But then again, I feel like I am in a good spot and I am confident and ready.”
Barea has been an assistant coach at Jacksonville State, as her time there prepared her for this big jump up the coaching ladder.
“At Jacksonville State, I have been lucky that since I got here I have been molded to be a head coach. So this was always the next step,” Barea said. “Everybody said you’ll know when you are ready and I am ready now.”
Barea takes over for Dominic Yoder, who also has ties to the Battle Creek area as a former coach at Battle Creek Central. Yoder only coached one season at Wisconsin-Parkside, where he led the Rangers to 13-17 record. Yoder said he was stepping down for personal reasons.
Barea gained experience coaching the last three years at Jacksonville State. Prior to that, Barea was a standout volleyball player at Lewis University, where she was a four-year starter and three-time all-conference selection in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. She was a three-time captain, earning nearly 100 wins as a player at the school. She also was named a Brother David Delahanty Award Recipient, an honor given to Lewis student-athletes for academic excellence.
At Harper Creek, Barea earned all-state honors and helped the Beavers to a top 10 state ranking and a district title her senior year.
While it seems like a quick rise through the coaching ranks for Barea, getting her own program isn’t a surprise to her former volleyball coach at Harper Creek, Terra King.
“When Leigh left for Lewis, we all knew she would end up running her own program someday,” King said. “It has been so fun watching her continue to grow in the game of volleyball, and it has been so humbling over the last few years to see our relationship change as I have been the one contacting her for advice. Leigh has always been wise beyond her years. Her work ethic, knowledge and maturity will push her through the growing pains of making the volleyball program at University of Wisconsin-Parkside her own. I’m certain she will take their volleyball program to the next level.”
Barea said the interview process for the position told her that Wisconsin-Parkside was the right place for her.
“It was a job in the Midwest, which was important to me because I am familiar with the area and I could recruit that area,” Barea said. “It is very exciting to get the job. When I was on campus, I felt very comfortable from the start and had a good connection right away and that is what I was looking for. I could totally see myself here and now I will get the opportunity to be here.”