When he isn't on the sideline, Dallas Lutheran head coach Brad Schupbach can be found working for the Euless Fire Department.
Since 1999, he has served the Euless community through various times of difficulty, including Y2K in 2000 and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. As a football coach, he’s worked around a tornado and he’s currently navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the world since March.
“In all those times, even this one, it’s been about not knowing what tomorrow brings and not knowing what you’re dealing with at the beginning,” Schupbach said.
As he heads into his sixth year at Dallas Lutheran, Schupbach is tasked with a new and difficult challenge: remote coaching.
When a tornado passed through the Dallas area on Oct. 20, 2019, the Dallas Lutheran School’s main building and practice fields took a direct hit. Although it was near the end of the season, the football team still felt the repercussions when the school’s students were forced into distance learning on Zoom and other web chat interfaces.
“[Schupbach] had no field to practice on, so we had to find someplace else for him to go,” said Kurt Frieling, Dallas Lutheran athletic director. “He had to figure out practices without as much of his equipment as he typically asked because some of it is in somebody’s backyard. So he lost some of his equipment.”
The head coach didn’t always balance his time between football and firefighting. He didn’t become heavily involved in football until 2001 when he started playing as an offensive lineman for the DFW Panthers of the National Public Safety Football League — a union of public safety agency football teams located throughout the U.S.
His playing career went on until he reached the age of 39 when he made his first venture into coaching for the newly formed Dallas Defenders.
“I always thought that I would be a coach in football and ended up in the fire department, and never knew that the fire department would end up taking me into coaching,” Schupbach said.
After his quick tenure as a defensive and offensive coordinator for the Defenders, Schupbach entered the realm of high school football. Jeff Price, current head coach of the Defenders, said he helped Schupbach learn about six-man football when he landed his first high school job at Wylie Prep Academy.
A stint at Wylie Prep soon led Schupbach to Dallas Lutheran in 2014, where he converted the football team from an 11-man program to a six-man team. As his jobs in the high school ranks changed, one thing remained constant: the teamwork skills he learned as a firefighter.
“It’s all about teamwork in both arenas,” Price said. “That’s one of the most valuable things you can teach young athletes is that you need to depend on each other and support each other and don’t let each other down.”
In 2017, Schupbach led Dallas Lutheran to its first ever TAPPS six-man Division I state title. He said he originally took the job at Dallas Lutheran because the administration helped him figure out a way to balance football and the fire department.
Essentially working two careers helped Schupbach learn how to adjust his plans on the fly. On the coaching side, he figured out how to work with his players from a distance and on the firefighting side he learned to slow down and assess an emergency situation to avoid bringing dire consequences to his department.
Schupbach said navigating through the unknowns after the October tornado gave his players an edge when they had to work remotely through the new pandemic.
“The way I look at it, if so happens Aug. 3 comes around and they say we can play, we’ll be a little bit more prepared as far as the teaching aspect of it goes,” Schupbach said. “I’m not so sure that’s gonna happen.”
As Schupbach takes on a new way of coaching, he believes he can continue to use the principles of distance learning in the future. Conducting Saturday morning meetings via Zoom calls is an example.
Occasionally the head coach will miss a practice or two because of his firefighting work in Euless, but the support he gets from those in and around the Dallas Lutheran program is unwavering.
He provides a good example to his players by balancing two careers, Frieling said.
“Our parents and our kids, they see that they have a coach that not only puts his time in as a head coach of our football program, but that he is somebody that really is on the front line,” Frieling said. “He really is one of those people that should be celebrated for the things that he does.”
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