Ms. Barcomb

For her senior spring term project, Tianyi Shen interviewed women administrators at Govs. Here is her interview with the Director of Afternoon Programs and Athletics, Ms. Claudia Barcomb.

Tianyi Shen, Editor

Q1. How did you decide to enter the education field? Were there any mentors that inspired you along the way?

When I was a senior in college I didn’t really have a thing that I wanted to do. I remember interviewing for jobs like consulting, investment banking, and a friend called me and told me that they had an internship at a school. I asked, what do I do [in this internship]? They said: you teach and you coach and you live in the dorm and help. I thought, maybe I’ll try.

When I interviewed I felt strongly like it was my calling. That’s sort of how I got into it. 

Was there a particular reason behind the calling?

I had some really amazing mentors when I was in high school. Kathy Giles, the head of school at St. Paul’s, was my advisor, and she was my hockey coach as well (I had a lot of female coaches in the 90s because men weren’t really coaching girls then.) She helped me navigate the challenges of high school and we always stayed in touch. There were a few longtime faculty at my high school that I feel inspired by.

Q2. What does your day-to-day job include, and what do you find particularly meaningful?

[What I find] particularly meaningful is the easiest. Coaching is the best. Being able to [coach] during Covid was outstanding because we could get away from thinking about what we can’t do and do what we were allowed to do, that gave the kids real joy. I didn’t see a lot of joy during covid among our students— they were frustrated and angry that they had to do school online, but practice brought them relief. 

I also loved advisory. I think you remember [how] we met all the time online during covid. We built good connections and I almost miss how much we met then versus now.

My day-to-day job is always very different. On game days, depending on whether it’s indoors or outdoors, I watch the games and make sure that everything’s in order. I also have a lot of meetings with students, coaches, and faculty members [as the director of afternoon programs], to try to figure out what’s going well and what we need to work on. A big part of my job is to listen and then problem-solve. Not all problems are easy to solve, but we try— like we could have a lack of interest in one of our programs, and we need if we are going to continue to offer it or not. 

Do you find that you enjoy a mixture of both administrative and coaching duties? 

Yes. I think if I only administrated all day, there would be hard conversations, but in a rink or on a field, I get to relax a bit more, and that’s important. 

Q3. How has your experience as a female faculty at Govs been?

It’s good. I think administratively, Dr. Quimby’s really grown the [number of] female administrators, and I almost would say that he’s grown the female faculty members as well but I don’t know those statistics as well. Truly on the administrative side, there were three or four women when I came, and now there are seven or eight on our big admin team. That says a lot.

The good thing about Govs is that when you come in here mid-career, you can bring some of the things you’ve learned to here to make changes, and you can continue to learn a lot from the group too. 

Q4. Were there any specific challenges that you’ve faced as a female faculty in the realm of sports?

Yeah. It’s interesting because the first question I always ask is when I’m in a discussion with parents or another faculty member is “Are they treating it because it’s the problem or because they think that I’m approachable (or unapproachable?)” It’s either one or the other. 

When I first came to Govs, there were a lot of people worried about the coaching: was it good enough in certain sports? Do they think I know the game more because I have a sports background? I remember specifically a parent in my office once said, “You don’t really know the basketball game,” and I doubted whether they would say it to a man who was a hockey coach that didn’t coach basketball.

So there are definitely times I’ve spent wondering whether [my gender has led to different treatment towards me than other male faculty in similar positions]. I don’t let it affect me though. There’s an assumption that men know the sport and I have to work hard to show them that I know the sport as a female too. 

Q5. What changes do you wish to see in the education field in the future?

There’s a big issue among high school athletes around name, image, and likeliness— that’s your ability to make money on who you are right now. I fear that it will distract student-athletes from why they’re really here, either academically or athletically. Additionally, there is also the issue of kids wanting to participate in not any but single sports here at Govs. I think many students here want to be an expert in one field and so they are afraid of trying new things in afternoon programs. I hope that will change in the future.