Berkley High football led by familiar face

By: Mark Vest | Woodward Talk | Published August 15, 2018

 Sean Shields was selected to lead Berkley High’s football program. Shields previously spent time as Berkley’s JV coach before being an assistant at Madison Heights Bishop Foley.

Sean Shields was selected to lead Berkley High’s football program. Shields previously spent time as Berkley’s JV coach before being an assistant at Madison Heights Bishop Foley.

Photo provided by Sean Shields

On the day in April when Sean Shields was expecting a decision as to whether or not he would be hired as Berkley High’s next football coach, he went to a golf course with his 4-year-old daughter.

Shields said he wanted to “clear my head and try not to think about it.”

Later, he was at a grocery store with both his wife and daughter when he received a phone call from Berkley Athletic Director Lori Stone. Shields learned that the job was his, giving him his first head coaching opportunity.

“I did my best not to jump up and down in the middle of Kroger, embarrassing my wife through the excitement of getting the job, but I didn’t do too well at that one,” Shields said. “Not only has it been something I’ve wanted for years, decades now, to have an opportunity to be a head coach, but also a chance to be at a school that I love and to coach kids that I love.”

Shields was already familiar with some of Berkley’s players due to his previous role as the program’s JV coach during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. He then served as a defensive coordinator for Madison Heights Bishop Foley last year.

His familiarity with players is an advantage not every new coach gets.

“I don’t have to have the kids try to buy into my system and everything; they already know,” Shields said. “They know my expectations. I know what I can expect from them. It’s a perfect opportunity for myself coming in to be back there, and (I’m) really optimistic about what we can do.”

Senior Evan Payne had a stint on Berkley’s JV squad when Shields was leading the program.

“He’s a coach to us, but we also kind (of) treat him like a brother,” Payne said. “It’s not like a dad-type relationship like a lot (of) kids have with their coaches. It’s like a brotherhood. He loves us; we love him.”

Last season, the Bears were 1-8 overall and 0-7 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division, but the program knows winning. Prior to last year, Berkley made the playoffs three consecutive seasons when Chris Sikora was leading the program. The Bears went 15-5 in the OAA Blue during that span. 

Sikora led Berkley from 2013 to 2016 until Billy Keenist Jr. took over last year, after Sikora opted to resign.

Shields would like to help give the program some continuity.

“I’m just looking to keep the program stable,” he said. “I’m the third coach in (three) years at the school. Right now, it’s just building it up and trying to keep the success that Coach Sikora had rolling there. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be. … I just (want to) be able to give some of the kids that are playing middle school ball some stability.”

Stone shared some of her thoughts about the addition of Shields to Berkley’s program.

“We are excited to have Sean on board,” Stone wrote via email. “Some factors that helped in hiring is that Sean knew the history of our program, and he has an established relationship with some of the team. … Thus far, he has done a great job in the weight room and getting kids to join the program.  Sean and the team are excited to get going and be back in the OAA Blue Division.”

Shields said he hopes to give fans an entertaining brand of football to watch on Friday nights. 

“I know the kids are pumped,” he said. “(I’m) hoping that we get some crowds out back that we had a few years ago.”