Staples volleyball in good hands with Shepro
Updated 3:09 pm, Sunday, November 24, 2013
The architect of the one of the most successful calendar years in Staples volleyball history has built up quite the resume in his career on the hardwood.
During his time as coach at Staples, Jon Shepro's girls teams have a 69-21 record and boys have a 58-8 mark. Shepro took over both programs from longtime coach Bruce Betts -- the girls in 2010 and the boys in 2011.
Shepro began his coaching career at Trumbull in 1996 with the freshman girls team. Without an extensive volleyball education previously, Shepro studied under varsity coach Tina Rembish and slowly worked his way up the ranks, coaching the JV girls team before moving on to found the boys program.
"I said `I had no idea what I'm doing; I don't know anything about volleyball,'" Shepro recalled. "(Rembish) gave me a book and said no problem get to it. I just learned from reading, watching and playing with (the players) and doing that kind of stuff."
Shepro's first varsity experience came with the boys program at Trumbull. In the first CIAC tournament held in 2001, Shepro's Trumbull team took down previously-undefeated Amity in the final 3-0. The Spartans had won their last 75 matches.
"We had an incredible season," Shepro said. "We took a team that was only in existence for two years and won the FCIAC and State Championship. We came into the final and won in three straight games; Amity didn't have a chance. They were shocked; they left the gym absolutely shocked."
Boys volleyball has a shorter history than girls in Connecticut. 16 teams independently formed a league in 1989 and once the number reached 35 schools in 2001, the sport was officially sanctioned by the CIAC.
"The boys competition has progressed so much since the early days," Shepro said. "The individual skills have also gotten so much better with the players playing in the offseason; all playing travel. Early on, my guys were playing in the high school season and playing on the beach and that's it."
Due to scheduling, volleyball is one of few sports where coaching boys and girls are possible. Coaching each gender poses differences and challenges.
"It's funny, I used to enjoy coaching the boys more just because it matched my personality more when I was younger; a lot more `rah rah' scream and yell and dive on the floor, almost like a wrestling or football mentality on the court," Shepro said. "As I got older it moved towards the girls team; more fun and giddy and light. I think the girls don't react to the pressure as well so you have to keep it positive. For the boys you can motivate them by challenging them."
The girls had a season for the ages in 2013. The Wreckers reached both the FCIAC and Class LL final, places the team hadn't been since 1992. The season is arguably most memorable for a trio of battles with Greenwich. After losing the first two times in five games, Staples prevailed in the state semifinals 3-1.
"(Shepro) is a good volleyball coach, he has a good mind, and every match seems to be a battle with him," Cardinals coach Steve Lapham said. "I think Staples is a great program; the girls had a great season and the boys team is unbelievable. I respect Jon."
The boys enjoyed an even more prosperous season in the spring, posting a 21-1 record en route to FCIAC and Class L titles-- both firsts at Staples for Shepro.
"It was such a fun ride, going through it you realize how important it is for the kids," Shepro said about both teams. "We talk a lot about the memories that we're creating now, coming back to experience these games; these are 17 year-old kids and this is the biggest game of their lives. The whole town got behind us and the school was behind us."
While both programs have been successful over the past two decades, each has its own history. The boys had a 101-game winning streak spanning five years prior to Shepro taking the helm and won eight straight FCIAC championships from 2003-10 and seven of eight state titles from 2002-09.
Shepro has helped athletes reach the next level as well. Joosje Grevers, who is now a sophomore at Gettysburg College, played for the Wreckers from 2010-2012 and credits Shepro for his guidance on and off the court.
"I loved playing for him; it was a great relationship and I learned a lot as an athlete and person from him," Grevers said. "He's competitive; he's compassionate, understanding and an all-around great guy. He really does care about the team and he puts himself into the whole program."
While the list of accomplishments during such a short time span is already impressive for Shepro and the Wreckers, the infrastructure is well in place to go on a long run of success.
"We're trying to win it every year, I go into it like that every year," Shepro said. "I have to have that attitude. That hasn't changed."