Chatham Wealth Management Athlete of the Week: Luke Barbera

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CHATHAM, NJ — The joke inside the Barbera family is that Chatham High senior Luke Barbera reached the high point of his athletic career at a very young age.

“My parents always make jokes that I peaked as an 8-year-old,” Barbera said. “When I was 8 years old, I placed 8th in the state of New York in the 50 backstroke. Ever since it’s been downhill for me.”

While his competition as a swimmer is long over, it’s become apparent over the past year that the athlete in Barbera has climbed back up the hill and is looking over a lot of people he goes up against on the lacrosse field.

In the month of May, the 6-1, 190-pound middie has scored 15 of his 22 goals and played a key role in wins vs. state powers Summit and Mountain Lakes. His goal and two assists helped Chatham defeat Mountain Lakes for the first time since 2017 this past Tuesday.

“I think he was getting into his own head a little bit at the beginning of the year and we kind of said, you have all the athleticism in the world,” Christian Scarpello, Chatham lacrosse coach, said. “I think he’s playing with a lot more confidence now and it’s showing.”

Perhaps, Barbera had to hear someone say how good an athlete he is because, until his senior year, no one at Chatham High knew how talented he is.

Barbera admits that he’s heard from his father, Bruno, over the years that his personality comes off as “lackadaisical” and he is not arguing the point. However, for whatever reason, the 18-year-old has shown that he’s all about winning during his senior year, both in football and lacrosse.

“Once senior year came around, I’ve had a buildup of confidence,” he said. “I’m not very selfish, I like to let other people have their moments. I’m enjoying myself more, realizing what all this stuff means and having a lot of fun along the way. It’s benefiting me in all different ways. I just kind of do my job and if the team wins, I win. I’m just having fun.

“I’ve got more confidence now with a bunch of goals and I’ve gotten a bigger role. (Scarpello) has some trust in me to dodge more. I’ve just been finding ways to bury shots. I get a short stick on me up top, I can just run by them, draw a slide and create some offense.” 

Barbera is thriving on a middie line with junior J.P. Lagunowich, who is a University of Virginia commit.

“Obviously, it’s awesome to have someone like him out there,” Barbera said. “He takes a lot of pressure off of everyone’s shoulders. Since he’s out there, he gets the pole every single game, so I just get the short stick and it’s a lot easier for me to score against short sticks than the pole.

“I also watch games on TV and see big-name college guys scoring and kind of implement what they do into my own game. You have to develop and learn how to score. You find the opportunities and when you do, you hammer at them. When I’m on the field as much as I am right now, I’m getting a lot of opportunities and I’m capitalizing on them.”

Barbera and his older brother, Frank, grew up on the north shore of Long Island playing lacrosse before he moved to Chatham at the age of 11. Frank Barbera was a high school All-American defender at Chatham High and Luke will be joining him to play lacrosse at Gettysburg next year.

Chatham football coach Evan Picariello noticed Barbera’s potential last spring in the halls of Chatham High School.

“All of a sudden in junior year lacrosse I saw him walking around the hall, he was just a big body,” Picariello said. “I was like, dude, we’re moving you to linebacker or defensive end, so get ready. He really emerged. He was a first-team all-conference linebacker only playing the position one year, it was really impressive. He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s physical and he’s very athletic. You could say he’s a late bloomer.”

Consider that Barbera had been a wide receiver during his youth football career and never caught a varsity pass. But he stepped into the Cougar defense at outside linebacker as a senior and helped Chatham win the Liberty Blue Division of the Super Football Conference.

Despite missing one game with a dislocated joint in his hand, Barbera endured the pain and played the final two games with a club on his hand in Chatham’s 6-4 season in which the Cougars made the playoffs for the second straight year. In 2022, he was in on 56 tackles, forced a fumble, recovered three fumbles and made 7.5 tackles for losses.

“I’m still a good swimmer,” Barbera said. “Football wasn’t my main sport and I didn’t play that much during my sophomore and junior years. Ultimately, I was involved in every single play and had more purpose as a linebacker.”

In his downtime, Barbera likes to watch movies, naming “Fight Club” as one of his favorites to watch. 

Editor’s note: The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Chatham Wealth Management in recognition of the commitment a Chatham athlete has made to their sport, their school and their community.  For over twenty years, Chatham Wealth Management has been committed to putting our clients first by crafting customized investment solutions.  Call us at 973-635-4275 or email us at to discuss how we can help meet your financial goals.  To learn more about our products and team, visit us at 

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