Elite Ipswich coach shares successful formula

Ipswich coach Di Sheppard demands commitment as she helps her athletes strive for the top.


“I’M just a button pusher.  I tell them how to do something.  It’s up to them to transfer it and then they get the rewards out of it.”

With those words alone, Ipswich athletics coach Diane Sheppard says a lot about her approach to developing young competitors.

She sees her main role as providing the ideas, body processes and nutritional advice.

“It’s a life skill to me so you make a commitment to see how far you can go,” she said.

Among the regular athletes she coaches are international and national level middle distance runners and hurdlers.

They include former IGS student Joseph Deng, who was selected in the under-20 Australian World Junior athletics team and under-19 national development squad.

Other athletes under her guidance that have made national development squads or competed at the Australian Junior nationals include Frank Kuresa, Jarmillia Murphy-Knight, Nicholas Meek, Liam Johnston and Damon Gale.

Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School student Murphy-Knight is a 400m hurdler and national medallist who Sheppard rates a future World Junior competitor.

Sheppard’s work with Ipswich Grammar and Ipswich Girls’ Grammar students in recent years is a major part of why she was named joint Coach of the Year in the 2015/16 City of Ipswich Sports Awards.

“I try to fly under the radar a bit,” she said.

“It’s not about me.  It’s about the kids.”

She enjoys working with focused athletes like those at the Grammar schools.

“It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality,” she said.

“It’s not a social gathering.  We do have fun but you’ll need to want to excel or get better.

“I have strict guidelines when it comes down to that.”

Newtown-based Sheppard is also with Fast Track Athletics, training competitors at QE2.

She started coaching in 2003 after moving to Ipswich from Sydney in 2001.

She began as a high jump coach, diversifying into other athletic disciplines including hurdles and sprints.

In recent years, she’s overseen two IGS teams that matched the best student competitors from around the globe at the International School Sport world athletics championships.

The IGS team came fifth in Poland in 2011 and again represented Australia last year, coming seventh in China having scored 100 points more.

She said IGS was the first school in Australia allowed to compete in the world event after qualifying through a national competition.

“Travelling is the best educator,” she said, believing it important for Australian athletes to see how less fortunate people live.

Sheppard has also taken athletes to the US, through her Brisbane links.

Sheppard is happy to deflect the attention to the athletes she coaches, saying their achievements are due to their hard work.

“There is no immediate rewards,” she said.

“It’s just getting them to understand that everything is about work ethic.

“Everybody can get faster but that doesn’t mean you are going to be a national level sprinter either.

“So I just try to explain to them it’s all about developmental.  You just have to work through the processes and the technical aspects.

“Technique comes first with me.”

Sheppard has also been working with the IGS First XV rugby team, helping the players improve their speed for the GPS competition.