When longtime coach Darren Eaton stepped down last year, it was not surprising to have Randy Shepard become the girls basketball head coach. He had assisted Coach Eaton for two years. He also played basketball for the Mariners under Coach Joe Mesi, graduating in 1988 on a team that lost in the Eastern Maine finals.
For those of you who don’t know him (most local people do), Randy is a fisherman who is pretty easy-going about most things. He does have a passion for basketball and enjoys sharing that with the girls he coaches.
What he likes about coaching is his relationships with the players. When he is explaining his strategy and game plan, the girls make the effort to understand what that means for them and work hard at making that happen.
He did have a daughter on the team (Megan Shepard graduates this year) and was able to gain the respect of all the girls. He was grateful for all the help he received from assistant coach Elissa Haskell. She was able to work on conditioning the girls, which is so critical for a team with small numbers, while he planned the practices.
He patterned his practices after what he learned under Joe Mesi, back in the 1980s. He worked on the fundamentals and used the drills he had done, modified to fit the girls team. Things like boxing out, dribbling with your head up, using both hands in dribbling and shooting, are important habits for success at the varsity level.
Two things that were the hardest part for him were time and strategy. Being a fisherman, he had to plan his work on the water around the demands of practice and games—especially while taking a trip to Shead in Eastport, on a school bus, in the middle of January, or Fort Fairfield in Central Aroostook, for that matter.
Coach Shepard likes planning the strategy, but it’s a discipline he didn’t have to deal with as an assistant coach. Changing strategy in a game, when plan A doesn’t work, has been a challenge, and he feels he will get better at that next year.
Overall, Coach Shepard sees his job as not just getting wins but preparing these girls for what they will face in the future, overcoming adversity, working as a team, and turning failure into success. In his words, “In the end, it’s really about the girls.”