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From Classroom To Ball Court With Bison’s Coach Kirby Schepp

Kirby Schepp | Head Coach | Manitoba Bisons Men's Basketball

Being a teacher definitely made me a better coach. It helps to cement your values as an educator and see the players as learners rather than just athletes.

Kirby Schepp

Head Coach

Manitoba Bisons Men's Basketball

× The interview with Kirby Schepp was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Before you were the Head Coach for the Manitoba Bisons, you were a high school teacher. How did the opportunity arise to coach basketball at the CIS (USports) level? Was it something that you had been working towards?

Basically, I just did a LOT of coaching.

I had coached high school ball for 14 seasons (teaching at the school for 9) starting immediately after my college playing days ended. I had also been an assistant coach at the University of Winnipeg for 5 seasons at the same time.

While doing that, I coached many provincial teams, club teams, camps and clinics.

I averaged about 5 teams/year over that 14-year period. 

Additionally, I went back to school to complete my Masters in Coaching.

This grew my passion for coach education pretty heavily and I began teaching other coaches how to coach. I ran all of the coaching certification courses in Manitoba over about a 7 year period. 

When the time came for my opportunity for a college job, how has your work as a teacher translated into coaching basketball at the USports level? I had gained as much experience as possible.

However, U of M was actually the 3rd job I had applied and was shortlisted for and all of those past experiences helped to prepare me for the chance when it came up.

How has your work as a teacher translated into coaching basketball at the USports level?

Being a teacher definitely made me a better coach. It helps to cement your values as an educator and see the players as learners rather than just athletes.

The first few years as a new teacher are a real grind. Lots of long hours planning lessons and getting your material set.

Getting used to being “on” every day in a way like a performer is tough but helps to prepare you for all kinds of things.

As a coach, so much of our job is communicating effectively and being prepared and it helps to just get the reps to improve these skills.

What are three important philosophies that you have used in the classroom that you use with your players to this day?

Not sure I can give you 3, but at some point as a teacher, I realized that the subject matter I was teaching wasn’t really that important.

  1. The students were the important ones.
  2. In coaching I realized that I’m not coaching basketball, I am coaching people.
  3. Building and maintaining relationships is what it is all about for both trying to achieve our goals as a team and everyone enjoyment in the process.

You have coached a various amount of teams, ranging from youth to Team Canada. What are one beneficial and one challenging element of coaching such a diverse population of basketball players? How much do you adjust your approach and philosophies when working with diverse groups of players?

They are at a different time in their lives and have vastly different needs.

In 2017, I coached the Canadian Commonwealth Games team with a bunch of senior college players that were about to be Pros, the Canadian U17 World championships team made up of young talent trying to make their mark and impress scouts and the 5-8-year-old mini basketball group that my daughter was in.

The latter being the most challenging and fun!

All of these athletes have different needs and challenges for sure. I think the common thing is connecting with them and meeting them on their level.

Finding out what is their “why” and what they hope to gain from the experience. I try to just help them to get to where they want to go as a player and try to fit that with the goals of the group as best as possible. 

What is one thing that you miss about being a teacher and one thing you enjoy that is unique to coaching USports basketball?

I do miss the connection you make with the kids every day. Kids today are great. So connected and aware in a way we never were.

As a teacher, you get a chance to really meet some incredible young people. As a coach, you get the opportunity to build a deeper relationship with young men.

From the time of recruitment to graduation, you become a big part of their lives and they in yours.

What advice would you give to young basketball coaches who are looking to become Head Coaches at the USports level or higher in the future?

Take every opportunity to hone your craft.

Work as much as possible with good coaches to learn as much as you can, but also take opportunities to get reps as a head coach.

I think too many coaches are only assistant coaches early. You need the opportunity to sit in the first chair and make those decisions so you make mistakes and learn from them.

Matias Bueno Matias's Final Thoughts

Being able to learn more about Kirby’s journey to becoming the Bisons men’s basketball Head Coach was interesting and enjoyable. Through my work in the 2019-20 school year with Bisons sports, I was able to watch firsthand Kirby’s coaching ability and how the team rallied to have a very successful season. His approach to the game shows much of his skills as a teacher in terms of being organized, conscientious, how he treats his players and the continuous learning environment that he fosters for the team. Kirby is a model coach for young aspiring Head Coaches who want to get to the USports level. The work and reps it takes to achieve that level shows in the work Kirby has done. 

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