Jeff Barker

 In mid-November, University of St. Francis head cross country coach Jeff Barker was named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Midwest Region Coach of the Year on both the men’s and women’s sides. Barker guided the Fighting Saints to a sweep of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships on November 4. In the victories, the Saints brought home 10 all-conference honors, including six on the men’s side. Barker was also named the CCAC’s Coach of the Year in both men’s and women’s cross country. During his six years at St. Francis, Barker’s teams have won eight total CCAC team titles, five men’s and three women’s. He also brought an NAIA National Championship to Joliet in 2012 in men’s cross country.

Q&A with the Coach

Q. What is your personal coaching strategy or philosophy? 
A. To have an athlete-centered approach. Focusing on developing character in life, classroom, and in competition. We want passionate people in our program that are passionate about life and running.

Q. What is your proudest achievement or memory as USF cross country and track coach?
A. For the men it was winning the 2012 cross country national championship. For the women it would finishing 4th in country at the indoor track and field national championships in 2017.

Q. How do you encourage your students to stay on track academically while participating on sports throughout the year?
A. I encourage them by trying to set team GPA goals in cross country. Also, I give constant reminders of how important academics are in our team meetings.

Q.What was your reaction to being named coach of the year for both associations? How did it make you feel?
A. Coach of the Year accomplishments are always a great honor! However, they are not important in the work I do. My ultimate goal every year is to try to develop good character and passion within student athletes at USF. I look at the award as a “team award or team trophy” for the program doing the little things or “intangibles” all year long that created our success for the season.

Q. Do you want to mention any fellow employees who helped you achieve these successes?
A. Assistant Coach Jeff Chiapello has been my assistant in cross country for the last six years. He has major role in the development of the student athletes in our program. 

Q.What do you do for fun outside of coaching?
A. I spend time with my family– I am married and have two kids. They are my everything outside of work.