Sabinal ISD’s athletic director talks leadership, culture

My first thought when I pulled into a parking space at Leakey School on Saturday morning was that I didn’t want to get out of the car.

I had told my boss a few days before that I wanted to check out a symposium being hosted by the Hill Country Alliance in the Leakey School cafeteria on “Leading in the Rural Hill Country,” but somehow through the course of the past few days, I had lost my gumption.

I had a terrible sinus headache lined with a touch of irritability. I had spent the day before taking truckloads of items from my father’s house to Goodwill – an exercise that illuminated the fact that you can condense a person’s 77 years on earth into a few boxes of keepsakes.

Also, on Friday, assistant band director for Uvalde High School Bryan Snyder died, and even though I had never met him in person, we had emailed and texted about he and his wife’s journey during her breast cancer diagnosis for an article in the newspaper, and my heart was heavy for their family.

To say I was pondering the meaning of life, consumerism and purpose is accurate. Nonetheless, after a 10-minute conversation, which included counting the cars in the parking lot, I talked myself into getting out of the car and checking out the seminar. 

I had specifically sought out to attend the afternoon session because Rob Goebel, the new athletic director for Sabinal ISD, was giving a talk on leadership.

I really don’t know why I was drawn to his segment other than I had read a snippet about him from our Sabinal correspondent – it’s not like I really follow high school football – but something told me it might be interesting. Why else would an athletic director be on an agenda for a Hill Country leadership symposium?

Goebel gives an awe-inspiring talk on what it means to be a leader, and how culture defeats strategy. He’s authentic, humble, and motivating.

Turns out that he is often asked to visit universities and corporations to give presentations on culture and leadership.

He’s been in education for 22 years, came to Sabinal from Fort Worth ISD, and is building a culture of elite student athletes in Sabinal. He believes that culture is based on service and sacrifice.

This year, Sabinal had one of the youngest varsity teams in the state – starting mostly freshmen.

There was a lot that stood out to me about his talk, but it was his focus on “knowing your why” that resonated with me.

He says people get burned out because they forget their why.

And knowing and remembering your why keeps you going – why are you here, why do you do what you do, why do you care about your job, passion, community, etc.?

I think it’s easy to forget your why and get bogged down with daily nuances.

I know I’ve lost mine before. It’s hard for me to really convey how impactful a speaker he is. I feel like my words won’t do a good job. Just know there was a lot more said; he also talked about his struggles, his students, and his family, and how he puts into practice the service and sacrifice he instills.

By the end of his hour-long talk, it was as if my whole attitude had changed, and my Saturday was rerouted in a better direction.

I want to be trite and say Sabinal is fortunate to have him in their ranks, because it is how I feel. But it’s more than that. It’s so awesome that the students at Sabinal are surrounded daily by such a positive energy.

My last thought as I got into to my car: The universe did me a favor and landed me in Leakey. Even though I couldn’t see it when I pulled in, I was lucky to be there.

Sometimes life gives you exactly what you need when you least expect it.

Melissa Federspill is a staff writer for the Uvalde Leader-News; she lives in Uvalde and recently wrote “remember your why” on her bathroom mirror.

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