Matt Schipper finished second in the pole vault and set an NCAA regional qualifying mark Friday.

All In The Family

Feb. 11, 2009

By Tim Kaiser
Notre Dame Sports Information

Junior Matt Schipper has been one of Notre Dame’s best men’s pole vaulter since joining the team two years ago, but his younger brother, freshman Kevin, has wasted no time catching up. The brothers have put up top marks for the Irish this indoor season, most recently taking third and fourth place overall at the Meyo Invitational on Feb. 6.

Kevin said that his decision to come to Notre Dame had less to do with his brother being here, and more to do with the school itself, describing Notre Dame as a place where, “academics, athletics, and spirituality all come together.

“Some other schools that I visited had one but not the others: great athletics, okay academics, but zero as far as the spiritual aspect,” he said. “This was the best possible combo.”

The two brothers have thus far proved themselves to be the best of the BIG EAST, and competing against each other might have something to do with it. When asked whether there was a sibling rivalry between the two brothers, vaulting coach Jim Garnham couldn’t deny it.

“Of course,” he said. “They wouldn’t say so, but there is. They get a little mad. When Kevin beat Matt, he was upset, he knew how many inches he lost by. There’s a little bit there, but it’s definitely healthy.”

The brothers acknowledge a bit of a rivalry, but they claim that the rivalry does not stop with the two of them.

“There’s a rivalry between all of our brothers,” Matt said. “We have six other brothers, and one sister. We have two older brothers who vaulted in college, and one who vaults in high school.”

What has become a sort of a family tradition began when one of the older Schipper brothers switched sports in high school.

“Our oldest brother moved to pole vaulting from gymnastics,” Kevin said. “Then we all tried.”

Garnham stressed that any rivalry is nothing serious.

“They get along great,” he said. “It’s funny to watch. One week, one is winning, the next, the other. There’s a competitive edge, but they’re always happy for each other.”

Matt and Kevin agree that having a brother on the team helps them during competition.

“We’re both jumping over 17 feet now,” Matt said. “It’s helped to watch each other. We push each other.”

But just because the brothers get along doesn’t mean that they’re alike.

Garnham, who arrived at Notre Dame in August, has known the brothers for the same amount of time, and has noticed that the two are not the same person.

“They’re different,” he said. “Completely different. Kevin is kind of a calm, smooth guy; Matt is energetic, more of an intense guy.”

Garnham went on to explain how this carries over into their vaulting styles.

“Matt is going to vault higher, because he’s faster,” he said, “But Kevin is more controlled. He’s very smooth.”

The brothers agreed with this assessment, and Matt offered this explanation.

“I did not have a committed coach in high school,” he said. Kevin agreed, describing his brother as “self-coaching.”

Matt saw his brother as just the opposite.

“Kevin likes the coach a lot, because he had more of a committed coach,” he said, noting that his father and older brothers sometimes helped out with coaching while they were in high school. “He’s used to that.”

The Schippers now have a reliable coach in Garnham, as well as volunteer coach John Murray. With a little extra help, Garnham expects big things from both brothers this season.

“I expect them just to carry through, wherever it takes them – NCAAs, Junior Worlds,” he said. “I don’t want to tell them they can’t do anything.”

But he was reluctant to predict how the brothers would perform this season.

“I don’t want to put a height on it. I expect them to improve on the best jumps of their careers. I want them to reach their potential,” he said. “There are goals that I have for them that I share with them.”

The brothers have some goals in mind as well. They hope to finish first and second at the BIG EAST Championships this season and go on to the NCAAs.

Matt has another goal in mind.

“I’m thinking London 2012,” he said.