Basketball and volleyball fans at UBC might be confused by seeing “Shephard” on two different roster sheets this season, but for siblings and T-Birds Danae and Grant Shephard, sharing a competitive circle has been part of their lives since they were kids.
A first-year arts student and member of the men’s basketball team, Grant started at UBC the same year his older sister, Danae, transferred into her fourth year from Capilano University to play volleyball.
“UBC is the stronger program, it offered better academic potential,” said Danae, who chose UBC over offers from Dalhousie and Thompson Rivers University. Now at UBC, she’s also been pleasantly surprised by the team dynamic.
“I think [head coach] Doug [Reimer] recruits really nice people, not just good players. I’d say we’re all pretty like-minded and pretty focused on like our classes and just building good relationships and being good at our sport.”
Grant, who was recruited by UBC and turned down offers from other university programs including NCAA Division 1 schools, is also excited to be back on familiar turf. He played most of his career in Kelowna, where the Shephards grew up, before spending his final year of high school playing in Florida at Montverde Academy, a private preparatory school.
“I really like my team because I … have known most of them for a couple of years already, I played with three or four of them on different teams in high school, and then I’ve known the coaches for a couple of years,” said Grant. “They’ve been recruiting me since about grade 10, so it’s just a well-known place for me.”
While UBC offered both siblings plenty of opportunities to grow as students and athletes, they agree that family was also a massive deciding factor in their school choice.
“I thought Vancouver in general would be a better fit for me because my family and my friends were all here and I had made connections at Capilano already,” said Danae.
“A lot of family lives around here so they can come watch our games, so that’s probably one of the bigger reasons why I chose here instead of a school in the States,” added Grant, who made his decision after his sister accepted her offer.
“Even if she weren’t here, I definitely would have chosen UBC, but it’s definitely a big plus that she’s here.”
As Grant begins his first year of university and Danae moves into her fourth, both appreciate having family around to support them — especially when academics, sport and sleep seem to always be fighting for time.
“I feel a lot more relaxed though now because I’m better at time management now that I am a fourth-year,” said Danae, who takes a full course load in the natural resource conservation program in addition to practicing with the team. “It’s pretty much the same as everyone else, but I’m just in a sport, so that’s taking like two more or three more courses.”
Grant, who stands at 6’10”, is under particular scrutiny as current veteran and star forward Conor Morgan is in his final year of eligibility — leaving space for someone to move in on UBC’s starting lineup.
Danae credits their athletic goals to their parents’ own commitment to athletics and steadfast refusal to let her or her brother quit anything even when “[they] just want to sleep.”
“Our parents were good at not letting us quit something that we had started. They made sure that we stuck with things and like actually tried our best,” said Danae, recalling a time she had a “total temper tantrum” over going to karate and her parents still made her go. “That’s something I think we’ve probably carried into our lives now.”
And even though the siblings are still competitive — family bike rides often turn into races between the two in seconds — they’re also each other’s biggest supporters when it comes to athletics.
“We just kind of encouraged each other because we play different sports,” said Grant. “But if it’s a game or something like that — any other game not even involving sports — then we’ll be really competitive.”
Ultimately, the two are happy to see more of their family — their “biggest fans” — and of each other as they transition to life at UBC.
“Being here just feels like home,” said Grant.
— with files from Sherwyn Kalyan.