New Rams coach expecting player success off the field

By Costa Maragos Posted: September 8, 2016 6:00 a.m.

“We’re here developing young men and pushing them towards graduation and pushing them to be academic successes.” – Coach Stephen Bryce.
“We’re here developing young men and pushing them towards graduation and pushing them to be academic successes.” – Coach Stephen Bryce. Photo courtesy of Braden Konschuh.

Stephen Bryce, the new head coach of the U of R Rams, has high expectations for his players – on and off the field.

On the field, it’s about winning, as the club prepares for its home opener today 7 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium. But for Bryce, the key to measuring success for the Rams is what happens to his players away from the game.

Bryce was hired as head coach in March 2016. He’s well versed on the long and winning history of the Rams. He played for the team in the 1980s, helping the club win a national championship.

He then played football at Jamestown College in the U.S., and in 1997 graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with an emphasis on human biology. He had a successful high school coaching career, at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Bryce has earned his players’ respect on the field and in class.

As recently as 2015, Bryce earned top marks in his class on his way to a Bachelor of Science in Geology at Cal State San Bernardino.
We spoke with Coach Bryce about his return home to Regina.   
What’s it been like for you since arriving on campus?

It’s been busy and rewarding. I can’t wait to get here every day. I’m surrounded by outstanding people. It’s more than just the football aspect. It’s all encompassing with the University.

Everyone is gracious and they make you feel very much at home. Everybody is extremely helpful and very accommodating.

What was your first reaction when you found out you got the job here?

Rams quarterback Noah Picton (#4), in action against the U of S Huskies Sept 2, was named offensive player of the week in the Canada West division. Picton is enrolled in Business Administration. – Photo by Darren Steinke.

I was elated.

I told my wife a long time ago about the Rams. She had asked me why I don’t explore some of the options in NCAA football, because the option had been presented to me.

In networking you get to meet a lot of people and you get invited to things and join staffs. I turned them down. My wife wondered why, and I said: “Take a look at the coaches we’ve become friends with, and you see the same faces every year and the same faces are wearing a different polo shirts every year because there’s just a carousel of coaches in the NCAA.”

And I told her at the time that I’ll move up to coach in college football when the University of Regina Rams job opens. And I said this to her a long, long time ago.

At that time Frank (McCrystal) was here coaching and he never seemed to age and I thought he was going to do this forever. So I said jokingly that if the Rams job ever opened up, and having been a Ram myself, it was a dream job.

What are your goals for this team?

Number one goal there is a scoreboard that means a lot to me. And the scoreboard is a little deficient. It’s not nearly where it needs to be and that is the graduates. The list of graduates since the Rams joined the University of Regina in 1999 is far too sparsely populated.   

I think too many people come here and join the team and don’t finish what they start. So when we make that agreement with the young man when they come here out of high school and having the opportunity to come here and play football and go to school, when they leave here five years later, if they don’t leave here with that very important piece of paper, we’ve fallen short on them somehow. We shortchanged them.

We’ve taken advantage of their physical attributes and didn’t pay them back with the most important reason of going to school in the first place.

Atlee Simon is enrolled in the Faculty of Education. He’s a graduate of Thom Collegiate in Regina and is rated as one of the top university running backs in Canada. Photo by Braden Konschuh.

How do you balance that with winning on the field?

I always like to keep the winning part as something somebody else needs to account for.

Winning is a by-product of a successful program. If your only goal as a coach is to generate wins, what an empty experience that you are in for as a coach.
We’re here developing young men and pushing them towards graduation and pushing them to be academic successes.

I’ve coached long enough and I can say that I was a success - and I’m not even talking about championships that I’ve won or the win-loss column that I don’t even care about because I let somebody else take care of that.

I now know some of the men that were boys when I coached them, and I’ve seen what they’ve become now that they’ve graduated - and I can say I’ve played a hand in their successes in becoming good men.

You earned a second degree recently. What made you decide to return to university?
My wife and I decided we were going to move. It was a hard decision. 

At the time my wife had to immigrate here and had to do all of the paperwork. Immigration said it would take 16 to 18 months to do all of that. So I said well I’m not coaching and I got a baby on the way at the time so I’m going to go back to school because I didn’t know that in Canada they take all of your years of service as a teacher when you transfer from one district to the next.

In the U.S. they take seven years only. So that would mean a massive pay cut. So I anticipated a probable career change. My brother is a geologist. I was always very interested in that.

The university at Cal State San Bernardino took all of my courses from my previous science degree. So I just had to jump in and a year-and-a-half later I graduated at the top of my class with a 94 per cent average.

I learned a lot of lessons in the classroom, as a teacher, of what are effective strategies. I never once thought that I was smarter than anybody else in the room. It was all proper preparation, and that’s what I will try to instill here.
How do you feel about the season?

I feel really good because of the calibre of people we have inside the helmets.

From the fans’ perspective you have fast players and you have big strong players. But what you don’t see from the stands is what I get to see every day in the weight room - and that is we have guys that have huge hearts.

We have really high-character people that are in those helmets. So I’m very proud to be the coach of these guys and I have high expectations that they are going to perform very well.

Come and support coach Stephen Bryce and the U of R Rams as they take on the University of Manitoba Bisons tonight (Sept. 8), 7 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium. Come cheer on the team at the Rams tailgate party at The Owl starting 5 p.m., hosted by the University of Regina Students' Union.