Throughout the 2017-18 season, U SPORTS sits down with one key athlete, coach, and staff member of each U SPORTS athletic program in our new interview series “Getting to know…”
- Name: Jon Shephard
- School: Thompson Rivers University
- Position: Athletics Assistant
- Seniority: 21 years
- Hometown: Kamloops, B.C.
1. How did you get to your current position, and what do you enjoy most about your job?
Way back in 1996, I was President of our Captain’s Council and also was employed part-time by the Athletics & Recreation Department as a student assistant. I helped with intramurals, helped with home games, worked in the concession, did some laundry and random odds and ends as needed, while attending school and playing on the badminton team. I was also involved as a trainer for the women’s soccer and men’s volleyball teams. It was these years that instilled in me a passion for sport, and so I decided to take a year off school to work and pay off some of my school loan and then eventually transfer schools to further my education in sports therapy. It was very shortly into my year off when the position of Athletics and Recreation Assistant was posted, and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and I was awarded this job. I’ve had the job ever since, and am currently in my 21st year at TRU.
What I love most about my job isn’t very hard to explain. I am paid to run sporting events; how great is that? I have a great staff to work with, and I’ve been lucky enough to have amazing co-workers all 21 years here. Helping the student-athletes continue their dream of playing competitive sports while supporting them in their academic endeavours brings an amazing feeling of happiness. I enjoy when our teams are athletically successful, but I enjoy more when our student-athletes are academically successful.
2. Who has had the most influence on your career?
I have three people who influenced my career a lot.
First of all was Jeff Speedy, who was our women’s basketball coach and also Campus Life Coordinator. He hired me as a student assistant back in 1996 and gave me a taste for working in an athletics and recreation environment.
Second would be Tracey Bilsky, the Athletic Director who gave me the chance and hired me back in November 1997. She gave me the opportunity in the first place, and then mentored me in how to be a successful Athletic Assistant, and gave me the proper tools to do what I hoped was a great job.
Last, but certainly not least, is the recently retired Athletic Director Kenneth Olynyk, who demonstrated, through example, how to excel as an administrator. I could learn something new from Ken every day, and I’m extremely thankful for his leadership.
3. What is your greatest sporting moment or achievement?
These would be all related to my personal passion of running. Currently, my greatest sporting achievements are finishing my first marathon, and my two 50km trail races. There’s nothing like crossing a finish line when you’ve been out busting your gut for three-plus hours. Or six-plus hours in the case of the 50k.
4. How would you define a Thompson Rivers University student-athlete?
I would define a Thompson Rivers student-athlete as one that successfully combines their love of sport with their interest in academia.
5. What does success look like for the Thompson Rivers University athletics program?
To me, success for the TRU athletics program is when our sports teams qualify to compete in their respective playoffs while continually producing TRU graduates. If we can help provide support to our student-athletes so that they are successful both academically and athletically, then we as an athletics program have done our job, and then we as a whole are successful.
6. What’s the biggest challenge you face in today’s sports world?
The biggest challenge is always funding. There’s so many ways we’d love to support our student-athletes, but it always comes down to what we can provide with the budget we are allocated, and that is echoed across the country. There’s certainly no lack of passion or ideas.
7. Where would you like to see Canadian university sport in the next three to five years?
I’d love to see Canadian university sport receive more attention. I’d love it to receive more media attention, more sponsorship and more support nationally, as it’s one wonderful product that is delivered, and the student-athletes definitely deserve it.
8. If you could sit down for dinner with one person in the sports industry (athlete, coach or manager), who would it be? Why? What would you talk about?
That would be my long-time favourite sports figure, Wayne Gretzky. Growing up in Northwestern Ontario and watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday, I couldn’t get enough Edmonton Oilers in my life. I wouldn’t even talk about anything myself, but rather, I’d just request to sit there and listen to Wayne talk stories about the good old days. I love to sit and just listen to people talk and share their stories, and I bet he has some great ones.
9. What would you say to a sports fan who’s never watched a U SPORTS game/tournament/competition?
I would tell them to be prepared to be surprised, as the level of talent that is showcased weekly at U SPORTS events is absolutely amazing. We have some very talented young men and women competing in U SPORTS and it makes for a very exciting product to watch.
10. What do you enjoy doing when you’re away from work?
I enjoy running, and more specifically trail running. I’m lucky to live in an amazing part of the country that has access to some remarkable trail networks and beautiful scenery. If you haven’t experience the B.C. outdoors, I suggest you do.