By Tyriece Simon
Denee` Barracato is reaching her two year mark as the Director of York’s Athletic and Recreation for York College. Since then, the department endured several changes within its staff, coaches & policies. Before coming to York, Barracato worked in sports programs at Queens College, the NCAA and Madison Square Garden.
Barracato also played at Hofstra University on a four-year scholarship in women’s basketball. In 1999, she was selected for third-team in the America East All-Conference. Barracato feels her time as a student athlete prepared her for what would be her future career as an office professional.
“It was a great experience, it taught me the basic essentials to be a professional,” said Barracato.
She recalled how important a strong work ethic affected her performance as a athlete and student. During that time, Barracato averaged 10.1 points and 4.5 assists per game. Barracato’s basketball skills transcended New York and reflected her time playing for The Saints of San Juan in Puerto Rico and in Atlanta, Georgia with the NWBL (National Women’s Basketball League for the Atlanta Justice).
“I was drafted in the 5th round and was ecstatic to play with the best females in the world at that time,” Barracato said.
During that time she recalled competing with great players like Tina Thompson and the Miller Twins (Kelly and Coco Miller).
“For me at that time in my career, I wanted an opportunity to play with the top level athletes out there in women’s basketball,” she said.
Wanting to move on from professional basketball, Barracato focused her skills on office management. Barracato worked as a event manager, adjunct professor and instructor at Adelphi University and St. John’s after leaving basketball. She moved on to work as the associate director of Division I Women’s Basketball for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in Indianapolis, IN.
During her time with the Madison Square Garden Company, Barracato became the director of partnership strategy. She was in charge of strategic development, brand activation and partnership marketing for MSG to negotiate deals between the Knicks, Rangers and Liberty and their business partners like Kia and Sprint. She also spent four years with Queens College as associate athletic director/finance & administration.
In her almost two years as York’s Athletic Director, Barracato has initiated several changes to enhance department standards. She hired 8 new coaches with similar high-level experience outside of York.
One of her innovations was to hire Amy O’ Connor as the athletic trainer for York athletes and Barracato praised O’Connor’s experience as a strength and conditioning trainer.
“I think our students athletes need to be stronger and be able to compete at the highest level in our conference,” said Barracato. “That was an area that was lacking, we saw that in the off-season that our students athletes weren’t following through on their activity and were dormant.”
The women’s cheerleading team experienced a boost from its status as a club and is going to have more focus as a sport at York, according to Barracato.
Barracato is also emphasizing heavy focus on student standards by enforcing a minimum 2.0 GPA with student health with physical background checks. Barracato wants to focus more on giving student athletes who may not be able to pursue sports as a professional athlete another career path. She hopes to use her experience to help guide athletes to pursue all opportunities both on and off the court and field.
With all the changes being made the York teams are still struggling to improve their results. Teams like the men’s and women’s soccer teams, are having a lackluster season. Barracato said both teams are going through a developmental period and that the women’s soccer team had a rough start due to the late hiring of Jose Castillo and the lack of a full roster at the beginning of the season.
“There’s only so much you can do in a short period of time,” she said. “Normally it takes a program at least three years to bring kids and get them to believe in the team philosophy.”
Barracato pointed to the growth of the men’s basketball team and predicts a change in York as a whole.
“To be safe, I would say you are going to see a change in York in the next three years, but I think your going to be seeing a change next year,” she added.