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From her “humble beginnings” (her own words) as the second oldest of five children, and the oldest of four sisters, Mission native Leticia Trevino Ibarra has climbed the athletic ladder of success all the way to the top at Mission CISD. That’s because even though the deck was stacked against her, Ibarra has worked her way through the ranks and overcome the odds to become the first female athletic director in MCISD history.
A 1980 graduate of Mission High School, Ibarra’s skills on the volleyball court earned her the opportunity to attend college, something that her parents would never have been able to afford on their own. And with her three younger sisters, Coach Diana Lerma, Dr. Sonia Trevino and Coach Gloria Trevino all following in her footsteps by earning volleyball scholarships of their own, it is safe to say that the sport of volleyball runs in their family.
So how did she and her sisters get into volleyball in the first place?
“My parents could never afford to send us to the Boys and Girls Club or to camps or clinics,” Ibarra said. “So we’d play in the back yard. We used our swing set as the net, believe it or not, and the water hose to outline the court. And I tell you what, we had some awesome games growing up using what we had at home.”
But while those backyard games got her and her sisters off to an early start in the sport of volleyball, Ibarra is quick to acknowledge the coaches that helped her hone her skills to the point that she did what few Valley high school volleyball players did at the time, earn a full-ride scholarship to play at the collegiate level.
“We were truly blessed,” Ibarra said, “I myself, being the oldest and all four of us were blessed by being able to move forward and go to college on volleyball scholarships. Our coaches, in elementary school and junior high and our coach in high school, Carmen Martinez, were instrumental in all our lives.”
Had it not been for Eliseo Pompa, her physical education coach her freshman year however, Ibarra may never have gone out for volleyball in the first place. That’s because he kept encouraging her to go out for athletics but with both of her parents working and her two youngest sisters needing to be taken care of after school that was not possible; at least not at first.
“It wasn’t until my sophomore year that in talking to my mom, she allowed me to join athletics. This was because my grandmother came to live with us. And that allowed me and my sister Diana, who was a freshman at the time, to try out for volleyball. And the rest is history.”
In her three years of playing for the Lady Eagles, Ibarra proved that she had what it took to play at the collegiate level. While she would’ve preferred to have stayed close to home by attending Pan American University (now U.T.R.G.V.) in Edinburg, Laredo Junior College would end up being the next rung in her climb up the athletic ladder of success.
Had it not been for Coach Martinez however, Ibarra’s post high school years and her eventual career path would’ve been much different.
“I was ready to enlist in the military right out of high school,” Ibarra said. “But when Coach Martinez found out, she said to me, “What are you doing? I want you to go try out at San Antonio College.” But I told her that I didn’t think I was good enough. She then said, “Do it for me. If I’m going to ask you to do something for me, this is it.” So she asked my parents for permission and she drove me to San Antonio College to go try out for volleyball.”
While San Antonio College did not work out for her due to their lack of housing, a good word from the volleyball coach there did get her a scholarship to Laredo Junior College where she played volleyball and tennis one year.
Ibarra then transferred to East Texas State University (now Texas A&M Commerce) where she continued her volleyball career and earned a Bachelor’s degree in 1984. She then went on to earn her Masters of Science degree one year later, also at East Texas State.
Needing a job immediately after graduating, Ibarra’s choices were extremely limited due to the time of year.
“I graduated in the summer of 1985 so there weren’t any teaching positions open here in the Valley,” Ibarra said. “As a result, I ended up at little Gilmer I.S.D., a 3-A district, in east Texas at the junior high. I coached every sport, 7th grade and 8th grade, which looking back at it now, is something that I would recommend to anyone that is going into the coaching field; to go through at least one year of coaching at that level because that’s a foundation that enables you to work from the ground up and establish sports programs.”
After one year at Gilmer Junior High, Ibarra returned to Mission to coach the Junior Varsity volleyball team at Mission High School where she coached under her mentor, Coach Martinez for four years.
Her first head coaching position at the varsity level came next when she took the head volleyball coaching position at La Joya High School. That was also where she teamed up with her sister, Diana, as her assistant.
“We were at La Joya High School for eight years and we put the volleyball program there on the map,” Ibarra said. “It was exciting. We advanced into the playoffs and working alongside my sister was the icing on the cake, so to speak. Those are some very fond memories for me.”
Taking that job was part of Ibarra’s plan of gaining enough varsity coaching experience to someday return to Mission High as the Lady Eagles head varsity volleyball coach. And that is exactly what she did in 2001.
“When I became the head volleyball coach at Mission High, I was living the dream,” Ibarra said.
With an ultimate goal of becoming an athletic director someday, preferably at Mission, Ibarra decided it was time to return to school.
“My two idols were Coach Martinez and Mission A.D. Roy Garcia, and having looked up to them for so long, I decided to go back to school to work on my second master’s degree and my principal’s certification,” Ibarra said. “I was arming myself with the requirements I would need to be where I aspired to be and to reach bigger and better opportunities.”
In 2008, Ibarra was one of two finalists to fill the A.D. position for Mission CISD. However, the job went to Coach Joe Sanchez. The following year Ibarra stepped down as the Lady Eagles’ head volleyball coach and took a coaching position at Trevino Middle School in La Joya, where she stayed for four years.
Ibarra then returned to Mission where she took the position of P.E. Health Coordinator. Among her responsibilities at this newly created position was to establish new guidelines and policies for better nutrition and physical activity for the district’s P.E. students. This was a position she would fill until Sanchez, in his 10th year as MCISD A.D., made the decision to retire.
Ibarra, who was hired to replace Sanchez, spent the 2016-2017 school year shadowing him as a way of preparing her to be his successor. That made the 2017-2018 the year that Ibarra finally completed her 30-plus year climb up the coaching career ladder of success when she assumed the position of MCISD Athletic Director.
“It’s been very challenging but yet exciting,” Ibarra said. “Every day is a new day but even now I still have a hard time believing that I’m the athletic director. It was a long time coming but all you can do is to keep moving forward and gaining the experience, the requirements and the degrees that go behind the position itself.”
“I pride myself in the fact that we have outstanding staff at our high schools; from our athletic coordinators in Coach Gilpin and Coach Detmer to our female coordinators in Coach Howell and Coach Clemens,” added Ibarra. “And even in our junior highs, we all come together as one. And as I tell them, “I am here to empower and assist you in moving forward and to give our kids everything that they need to excel on the field and even more importantly, in the classroom.’”