Bruce Shang

"Every single practice, every single game, try to be perfect."

Practice makes perfect, the old saying goes, and if you play on a team coached by Bruce Shang, you spend a lot of time trying to prove the adage true.

“I have a standard bar when it comes to athletics,” Shang said. “Every single practice, every single game, try to be perfect. If you work as hard as you can, you’re going to be pretty good in the end.”

That philosophy has worked out well for varsity girls volleyball, varsity girls squash and varsity boys volleyball – a team he helped steer to varsity status in 2014. Shang has led these Big Red programs to five New England titles over the past four years and has guided the girls volleyball team to an 8-1 record this fall. 

Shang started his coaching career while he was a student at Rutgers University. After coaching the girls club team, he joined the varsity staff as a volunteer assistant coach during his senior year. He would stay on staff for two more years as a full-time assistant while studying for his master’s degree at The College of New Jersey.

“I was definitely busy and could not go on all of the road trips because of my course load, but I love volleyball and it was a great learning experience for me,” he said. 

Now in his 10th year at Exeter, Shang has only gotten busier. On top of coaching three varsity sports, he teaches in the Physical Education Department, serves as dorm head at Webster Hall, is a member of the Admissions and Financial Aid committees and advises several clubs on campus – all while raising two young daughters with his wife, Leanne. 

Growing up as an active athlete, Shang knew that a career in athletics and fitness was the right fit for him. After earning his undergraduate degree in exercise science and his master’s in health and education, he spent time teaching health and physical education in San Francisco before coming to Exeter. 

He savors his multiple roles and the opportunity to teach and interact with a broad mix of students.

“The goal in my classes is to always give our kids something they can take with them for the rest of their life,” he said. “Right now I am teaching a volleyball unit, and at the end I think most of the students can then go teach a group how to play volleyball. In our fitness classes, we go through a progression from body-weight exercises, to free-weight exercises, agility, and stretching to teach how to take care of your body throughout your life.”  

The attitude on the volleyball or squash court is similar for Shang. “Coaching and being tactical in a match is fun, but the other aspect of coaching that I love is to see how much our student-athletes grow. To see someone start at the JV level and develop into a polished player over the course of a few years at the varsity level is really nice to see as a coach.”

“The students we have on campus are exceptional, and I forget that sometimes — how truly amazing they are. I have them for two hours every day at practice where I ask them for 100 percent of their focus and effort. But they are also giving 100 percent in the classroom. They have homework, they are involved in clubs, band, orchestra, some of them serve as proctors. To see how they balance all of that and still be competitive is incredible to me.” 

As the girls volleyball team continues its attempt at a third New England title in four years, the coach and players know that the annual Exeter/Andover matchup Nov. 11 will present its usual challenge. Andover handed Big Red its first loss of the season Oct. 19. The weekend will kick off with a bonfire and pep rally before the teams clash in the oldest independent-school rivalry in the country, with Exeter looking to avenge that defeat. 

“Fall E/A is the best,” Shang said. “Having 2,000 people watching our match, the energy and the atmosphere is just so loud, and with so much emotion built into it, anything can happen. Our team is super-focused and they only have one thing on their mind that week and that is to beat Andover.”

As much fun as it is to compete in front of such a raucous crowd, Shang appreciates that the competitiveness stays between the lines. 

“The best part of E/A is the relationships we have with Andover as coaches and as players. Exeter students are friends with Andover students, Exeter coaches are friends with Andover coaches. It’s really cool to be able to fight, fight, fight for our school and at the end of the day we can take a picture together and be friends.” 

Sounds perfect. 

–Brian Muldoon