Manny Barocco has the next stage of his life planned out.
He’ll play a little golf. He’ll travel. He’ll do chores around the house. And, most importantly, he’ll get to spend a little more time with his wife, Sydna, and his four children and five grandchildren.
His immediate family’s gain will be Jefferson Parish’s loss.
Barocco is retiring at the end of June after a successful 13½-year run as athletic director of Jefferson Parish Schools
“It’s a very demanding job but a very rewarding job,” Barocco said. “I spent 40 years in education, and that’s a long time.
“I just knew it was time to move on and give a younger person a chance to do this. It’s a great job. You sort of know when it’s your time to retire is, and I just felt it.”
But Barocco, 62, has plenty to be proud of in his tenure where he directed athletics and physical education for 14 high schools, 14 middle schools and almost another 50 elementary schools.
“It’s not just about me,” said Barocco, a former baseball coach at Bonnabel. “It took a lot of people coming together and doing things that were going to help the kids. We have certified trainers at our schools now. That was a major step up for our school systems. We are in a blame game society, so that was a big deal.”
That was just one of many changes that came together during Barocco’s years of service.
The two football stadiums used by most Jefferson Parish schools, (Yenni Stadium in Metairie and Hoss Memtsas on the west bank) were renovated, including artificial turf.
High schools in the districts also now have their own athletic directors.
And Barocco helped with athletics a decade ago as schools recovered from Hurricane Katrina.
“We had to go through that,” Barocco. “That was a great time for athletics. It helped bring people back to our area to go to school.
“ When everybody evacuated, we had to go through the grind to get people back in. We got sports up and running right away.”
Barocco played a key part in putting together all-star football and basketball games for Jefferson Parish athletes who would compete against players from Orleans Parish.
His work as athletic director hasn’t gone unnoticed.
He was named national athletic director of the year in 2011. It was just one of many honors he has received. In 2004, the Louisiana Association for Health, Physical Education, recreation and Dance named him the Outstanding Athletic Director of the Year. He won that honor again in 2010. He was also the 2007 Louisiana High School Athletic Director’s AD of the Year.
“It’s a big loss,” Helen Cox football coach Willie Brooks said. “Manny was very personable. He got along with everybody in the parish and was well respected throughout the state. His heart was always in the right place, with the children. He tried to help everyone’s program.”
Barocco said the process in finding his replacement has already started, and Jefferson Parish Public Schools hopes to have a replacement in place by July 1.
“There is going to be a good transition,” Barocco said. “There are good quality people who have applied, and I will do whatever I can to make it a good transition. I want to see the next person come in and do better than I did.”
That may be easier said than done.
“Whoever comes in will have some big shoes to fill,” Brooks said.
Barocco, doesn’t plan to use his retirement to rest though.
“There are so many things my wife and I haven’t experienced that I can now with retirement,” he said. “I’m not going to sit on the porch in a rocking chair.”