From the sidelines
Four Bisons coaches and their perspectives of the Duckworth Challenge
Considering the 25-year history, the Duckworth Challenge highlights the rivalry between the University of Manitoba Bisons and the University of Winnipeg Wesmen. The winter tournament between both menâ€™s and womenâ€™s volleyball and basketball teams is an annual tradition.
Garth Pischke has been coaching Bisons menâ€™s volleyball since the beginning of the Duckworth Challenge. As the coach of the team for the past 34 years, he offers an authoritative view of the tournament.
â€śIt is a great event with a great history, â€ť says Pischke. â€śWe have a great rivalry with (the University of) Winnipeg. The matches are always intense and competitive regardless of what the teamsâ€™ rankings are.â€ť
Pischke says this competitiveness between the Bisons and the Wesmen has remained consistent since the beginning.
Ken Bentley agrees. Heâ€™s been coaching the Bisons womenâ€™s volleyball team for 30 years. His veritable look at the 25-year-old tournament provides some additional insight.
â€śBy far the biggest change is the fact that we donâ€™t play each other nearly as much as we used to,â€ť says Bentley. â€śWhile the rivalry has always been there it certainly isnâ€™t as intense as it used to be. Back when it started we would play Winnipeg 10-15 times a year, and that can cause some hard feelings after awhile.Â Now that we are in Canada West and the league is so big we only play each other a handful of times at best.â€ť
Regardless, the tournament itself has grown and is something fans look forward.
â€śThere is more interest.Â It is a match that people come out to more often these days and that is a good thing for our schools and the sports involved in the Duckworth,â€ť says Bentley. â€śOur student body, particularly our residences come out in full force and they create an awesome environment. Especially the Big Horns â€“ they are an amazing cast of characters. And I have to give a shout out to engineering (students) as well. When they show up it is a whole new ball game.â€ť
Kirby Schepp has been the head coach of the Bisons menâ€™s basketball team for seven years. His history with the Duckworth Challenge dates back to 1993, playing for the Wesmen from 1993-96 and coaching the team after. Seeing the tournament from both sides, Scheppâ€™s perspective echoes the rivalry between the two Winnipeg universities even louder.
â€śIt gives me more perspective in terms of the big picture of the game. It draws out a wider basketball audience from the community which is great for CIS game but also basketball in general in the province.â€ť Schepp adds, â€śWe had a lot of tough battles with the Bisons back then. I think we are a stronger team but those games always seemed to narrow the margin between the two programs.â€ť
The history of the Duckworth Challenge continues to evolve. Attesting to this is Michele Hynes, who played on the Bisons womenâ€™s basketball team for five years and has been the head coach for the past two. She says the competition between the Bisons and the Wesmen has only grown healthier.
â€śDuckworth Challenge was always the best & loudest games of the year,â€ť says Hynes. â€śPositive rivalries are one of the best features of university and college sports so it’s nice to give players that experience. It’s always a great test for athletes to play in an intense environment.â€ť