By Trevor Suffield
Dec. 11, 2008
When Kirby Schepp received an email offering him an all expenses paid trip to the Middle East, he thought it was just another bit of spam.
Upon closer inspection, the Sturgeon Heights Collegiate phys-ed teacher discovered it was a genuine offer to travel to Jordan to teach a basketball clinic.
Less than two weeks later, Schepp traveled to Amman to take part in Generations for Peace. The aim of the program is to empower youth leaders through sport and make positive improvements in their home country.
Jordan’s Generations of Peace organization, which financed the trip, was established in 2007 by His Royal Highness Prince Feisal Al Hussein to promote peace through sport.
Looking for an experienced coach, Generations for Peace contacted the Coaching Association of Canada, who contacted Basketball Canada, who then recommended Schepp.
Schepp, who attended John Taylor Collegiate and still lives in St. James, admitted it was difficult leaving his wife and their 17-month-old child behind, even if for just a few days.
“I got a little bit homesick, but really enjoyed it,” he said, adding he knew very little about the region before his trip.
Schepp admits he felt a sense of culture shock as soon as he stepped off the plane in Jordan.
“It’s a completely different world obviously. Everything is in Arabic. I didn’t have any idea where my hotel was, who was picking me up, where I was going, nothing,” said Schepp, 34, who coaches basketball at Sturgeon Heights.
Schepp eventually found a ride — and says he has nothing but positive memories of his brief time in the Jordan.
“I was treated unbelievably well, like a VIP delegate,” he says.
Schepp had a day to get acclimatized to his surroundings. After that, his mornings were filled with teaching delegates from Africa and the Middle East on how to be effective coaches and how to set up sports programs in their respective countries.
“We facilitated group discussions, sat down and discussed problems in their countries and what causes them and what are some of the ways we can get around these issues,” said Schepp, who certifies local coaches as part of the National Coaching Certification Program.
Afternoons in Jordan were sports specific, with instructors in everything from soccer to softball to basketball holding court.
Schepp says basketball took a backseat to the relationships he established while in Jordan.
“The best part was probably the interactions with the people, and learning their situations and then feeding off their passion for sports and passion for improving their countries,” said Schepp, who managed to snorkel in the Red Sea and play soccer on a beach with people from 14 different countries.
Schepp nows plans to pass along the knowledge he gained in Jordan to his own students and athletes.
Schepp’s willingness to help others doesn’t come as much of a surprise to one of his former mentors.
Bill Wedlake coached Schepp for two seasons (2000-02) when Wedlake was the head coach of the University of Winnipeg Wesmen men’s basketball team. It was also Wedlake who cut him after two seasons with the squad.
“He wasn’t good enough,” Wedlake said. laughing.
Schepp later rejoined the team as an assistant coach and was part of Wedlake’s coaching staff for five seasons.
“He seized that and turned a problem into an opportunity,” said Wedlake, who is now executive director of the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference. “And boy oh boy, everything has just fallen into place for him. I am so very proud of him.”