By Emily Chisick
Steve Barillier '06 never really left Orange Lutheran.
He just took a break.
Barillier graduated from OLu a decade ago, but his passion for the school never left. His involvement at OLu as a student - which included four years of football, three years of soccer, two years of honors choir and two years of Ignite - explains why he is as involved as he is at the school today, serving as the Associate Director of Counseling and College Planning, the school's NCAA Advisor, and as the tight ends coach for the varsity football team.
After graduating from OLu, Barillier immediately began coaching football at the school, all while attending Chapman University, where he majored in psychology and graduated with departmental honors in 2010. He then earned his master's degree in educational counseling from Azusa Pacific University in 2013.
Fully educated and ready for the professional world, Barillier made his way back to OLu in a full-time capacity, where he has become a beloved figure on campus, especially amongst student-athletes.
Barillier sat down to answer a few questions about his journey back to OLu, how his faith remains paramount through his personal and professional life, and what it is that he loves about this high school.
What’s your background when it comes to church and education? How did you come to attend Orange Lutheran?
I grew up in Brea and attended Christ Lutheran Brea, one of Orange Lutheran’s feeder schools. I actually attended Lutheran school from preschool through high school, and really enjoyed the environment it provided.
During my 8th grade year, my parents were actually set on sending me to Whittier Christian. The principal there was a friend of theirs, and it was close to our home in Brea. Most of my friends were going to Orange Lutheran, but it was pretty much decided that I would go to Whittier. But one day while I was at home, something came over me and I felt strongly that I needed to go to Orange Lutheran. I really can’t tell you why, but I’m confident that it was the Lord guiding me in that direction. Thankfully, my parents warmed up to the idea and were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to send me to Orange Lutheran. I’m eternally grateful for that and am so glad I was able to go to OLu. I can truly say this was one of two instances in my life that completely changed the trajectory of my future. When I look back and reflect, I know it was all part of God’s plan for me.
Why did you decide you wanted to come back to OLu and be a counselor?
After I graduated from Chapman, I was at a crossroads in my life. I mentioned two instances in my life that changed the trajectory of my future. This was the second instance. I was pretty discouraged about the fact that I had worked so hard in college and had graduated, but was still working the same part time job I had been the past four years. I didn’t have a solid grasp of what I would do next, and really needed some direction in my life. I was actually a bit angry with God and wasn’t making the best decisions in my life at the time. I remember vividly the day that I prayed for a job opportunity to present itself. I told God that whatever career I ended up pursuing, I wanted the chance to serve and glorify Him. Over time, he placed people in my life and gave me experiences that ultimately led to me getting hired at Orange Lutheran.
Through those people and experiences, he certainly answered my prayer. Now I get the opportunity to work with students on a daily basis and help in whatever way I can.
You’re also an assistant coach for the varsity football team. What’s your background with the sport?
I had a couple opportunities to play college football at smaller schools after high school, but really didn’t feel that it was the right choice for me. I had some injuries during my senior year and I was beginning to lose my motivation to play the game. I had worked hard in high school and had academic scholarship opportunities and wanted to focus my attention on doing well in college. I still loved the game of football and wanted to stay around the game in some way. When I chose to attend Chapman, it was close enough that I could still be involved with the football program at OLu. My dad was the one that actually encouraged me to coach, and it ended up being a great decision. I started coaching right after high school and am in my 11th season right now. It’s been a great way to stay involved with the game of football and I really enjoy working with the players.
Apart from the football aspects, the part that I love the most is building relationships with the players, parents, and other coaches. It’s been a huge blessing to give back to a program that meant so much to me when I was a student.
How much do you enjoy giving back and mentoring students and student-athletes?
My whole focus when I’m meeting students is to build a relationship with them, show them that I care for them, and that I’m not here to judge them. Once that trust is built, I’m able to help talk through things with them and give advice and recommendations when necessary. Ultimately, I’m not here to tell students what to do. I’m here to support them and advocate for them, and help them come to their own decisions, whether it be about college, their future career, academics, a family situation, a relationship, or anything else. There are times when students need to be held accountable for their actions, too, but if you’ve got a positive relationship with the student the conversation is much easier to have. I think students appreciate my counseling approach. It’s the way that I get to show Jesus’ love and mercy to them.
Not many, if any, schools have an official NCAA advisor. What are your responsibilities in that role?
Being a counselor and a coach is somewhat of a unique combination. When I took the job at Orange Lutheran, my director, Mrs. Elizabeth Heim, and I were really interested in finding a way to combine these skill sets to better serve our students. For potential college-bound student-athletes, the college-planning process can be a lot different compared to other students, so we thought it would be great to have a point person in our department to help them. The recruiting landscape and the NCAA’s eligibility processes are always changing and evolving, so it’s been a huge help for our department to have someone keeping up with that information and sharing that with students and families. Each year, I do a seminar for families that covers the academic eligibility requirements for college-bound athletes, how to register with the NCAA and NAIA Eligibility Centers, an overview of the recruiting process, and how students can market themselves to college coaches and evaluate their options. I attend presentations put on by college coaches and athletic directors to stay up to speed with trends and changes, and I meet regularly with potential college-bound athletes and their families to make sure they are doing what’s necessary to get to the next level.
I really enjoy working with this student population and am thankful that the school has made this a priority. To my knowledge, we are the only high school in the area that has an NCAA Advisor on campus.
What do you think makes OLu special?
OLu was a special place for me as a student because it provided me with a safe environment to make mistakes and grow as an individual. The education was, and is, top-notch, and the teachers care so much for their students. The school’s commitment to sharing the love of Jesus and helping students achieve success inside and outside of the classroom is amazing to see and helps create a family culture that we all feel a part of.
As an employee, I get to see the tireless and selfless efforts of the administration, coaches, teachers, counselors, and every other staff member as they work to help students and families on a daily basis. The love that pours out of this place is incredible and makes me thankful that I get to be a part of it.