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Admirer from afar: Barnes excited to begin work as Thetford Academy AD

  • Bri Barnes introduces herself as Thetford Academy's new Director of Athletics and Activities to girls soccer players at the start of their practice in Thetford, Vt., on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Jennifer Hauck

  • Bri Barnes speaks with Thetford Academy girls soccer coaches Dave Williams, left, and Ted MacVeagh during team tryouts in Thetford, Vt., on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. Barnes is the school's new Director of Athletics and Activities. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to valley news photographs — Jennifer Hauck

  • Bri Barnes, who was recently named Thetford Academy's new Director of Athletics and Activities, works in her office at the school on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, in Thetford, Vt. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Photographed on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, in Thetford, Vt., Bri Barnes is the new Director of Athletics and Activities at Thetford Academy. ( Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Name hereJennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/18/2022 9:33:43 PM
Modified: 8/18/2022 9:30:16 PM

Bri Barnes knew that if she were ever to take another athletic director job, Thetford Academy would be her first choice.

Barnes spent two years leading the athletic department at Oxbow High before stepping away to become the director of athletic programs for Hanover Parks and Recreation in 2018. But she had moved to Thetford during that time, and after previous AD Blendon Salls announced his departure earlier this summer, Barnes jumped at the chance to return to high school athletic administration.

“While working at Oxbow, I saw the passion and tradition and history within (Thetford) and sports programs here,” Barnes said. “It’s been a dream of mine to work in the community that I’m going to be living in and raising a family in. I’m really looking forward to continuing to have successful programs here and continue with our traditions and create new ones at the same time.”

Originally from Merrimack, N.H., Barnes grew up playing softball, soccer and basketball, and continued her basketball career at Keene State College. She moved to the Upper Valley after graduating in 2007, teaching physical education at Richmond Middle School in Hanover.

But by that time, her interest in working in sports had already been sparked. Barnes announced some sporting events and worked the scoreboard as a high school senior, and she later earned a master’s degree in sports management through an online program at the University of Central Missouri.

While working toward her master’s, Barnes worked for Zero Gravity Basketball in Beverly, Mass., organizing Amateur Athletic Union tournaments across the Northeast. It was that experience that put her on the path toward becoming an athletic director.

Barnes taught P.E. in the Lebanon School District before moving onto a more permanent job at Oxbow, becoming the AD in 2016 after completing her degree. She had also coached junior varsity softball for the Olympians.

“The athletic director before me, Hank Van Orman, was a great role model,” Barnes said. “I was able to learn a lot from him and assist him while being a P.E. teacher. Knowing all that information from him and knowing the school and coaching staff (made) the transition smoother for me.”

Oxbow won the VPA Division III softball championship both years Barnes was athletic director, which she said was especially rewarding because those teams included several players she had coached at the JV level. But when budget cuts forced her role to become part-time, Barnes began searching for new opportunities, landing the recreation job back in Hanover.

The Thetford job, however, was too appealing for her to pass up. Carrie Brennan, the head of school at TA, said Barnes’ previous athletic director experience in the area helped get her the offer, but her time working in teaching and recreation were just as important.

“We really liked that she came from P.E. and health teaching, so she’s bringing a teacher’s mindset to the job and her understanding of how schools work,” Brennan said. “She’s had experience working with all of those ages, and it’s helpful thinking about how the younger programs feed into the sports programs at the secondary school level. If we don’t have thriving and healthy programs for the younger kids, we’re not keeping up the interest in the sports.”

Barnes will also oversee extracurricular activities like robotics and performing arts, as well as club sports like Nordic skiing and bass fishing. As for the varsity teams, boys soccer and girls basketball will have new head coaches this year, while programs like cross country, track and baseball will look to continue contending for state titles.

Co-cross country head coach Joe Deffner, who was on the interview committee, said Barnes’ energy and outgoing personality stood out, which should work well with Barnes’ top priority of making connections with students and the community.

“Having positive relationships with parents, with coaches, other athletic directors in the area and continue providing awesome opportunities for our student-athletes here,” Barnes said of her goals for the new role. “I’m incredibly excited and thankful to be here.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at or 603-727-3302.

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