Girls soccer: Longtime coach takes over program
Twenty-seven years ago, Dwight Sheppick received a seemingly innocuous phone call that would change his life.
He was told that he would receive his money back for soccer registration because the coach of his daughter's first-grade team would no longer coach the team.
Not wanting his daughter to miss out on the opportunity, Sheppick had an idea. He had played soccer here and there and decided he could be the head coach.
He has coached soccer ever since. And recently, he accepted the girls soccer head coaching position at Wilsonville High School.
Sheppick replaces Becca Shook — who coached the team to the state finals in 2011 and to the semifinals in 2013.
After taking up the helm of his daughter's team, Sheppick became a voracious learner. He hoped to glean as much information about coaching the sport as he could.
"Not having played at a high level actually helped me because I had to work harder than everyone else. A very successful player might go by what they know without going deeper," he said.
In recent years, he's coached for programs at Sherwood, Lakeridge and Tigard. He's also coached many club teams including in the Crossfire program — which has featured some Wilsonville players.
On a plane to Las Vegas with his U-15 team, Sheppick received another monumental phone call.
The Wilsonville program had been on Sheppick's radar, so when Athletic Director Dennis Burke called him to ask if he would be interested, he jumped at the chance to apply. But he didn't expect to actually earn the job because, at age 66, he might not stick around for the long haul.
"I figured they would take someone who would be around for the next 10-to-12 years and that's probably not going to be me," he said.
Nevertheless, Burke chose him.
Next fall, Sheppick will coach three youth teams along with the high school team. His passion for the sport and with working with kids hasn't waned and he says he will quit when it does.
"I just have a love for working with kids. I love to be a part of their lives. I love to see how they develop and how they change," Sheppick said. "Soccer isn't just a game itself. It develops life skills. It's just a big puzzle and I love to see everything fall into place."
Sheppick says his strengths as a head coach include malleability and communication.
"I think I'm a good communicator. I think I can simplify things. I change systems a lot. I get through to the kids so they can understand it. I've been doing it so long I can break things down easily. I can switch quickly when something is not working," he said.
Sheppick has briefly watched prospective Wilsonville players practice this summer and is impressed with the team's athleticism; though he says they could use some polishing.
He fancies himself as an attacking coach and plans to use a midfield-oriented system in order to dominate the middle of the field and throw other teams off kilter.
"I would rather beat somebody 6-5 than 1-0 but that's not always the right thing to do," he said.
He plans to spend as much time developing fundamentals as augmenting tactics.
"The season is very short so we're limited to what we can do. At Lakeridge, we spent more time on the tactical part. Here I'll do 50-50 with technical and tactical work," he said.
He's also planning a trip to the beach to develop team chemistry. He's coached teams that felt like a family before and hopes to build that sort of close-knit camaraderie at Wilsonville.
"They have to not only buy into my philosophy. They have to buy into each other," he said.
This fall, he hopes to foster and entertaining style of play so that the Wilsonville community comes out to support the Wildcat program.
"I want people to look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays and to come watch us play," he said.