Ryan Bishop has always loved sports.
And when he says he loves sports, he means all of them.
Bishop’s career in sports began at Pomona where he was a three-sport athlete, lettering in track, basketball and football. After high school, he had the opportunity to play football at Texas Tech University and was a four-year letterman there. Once he was done, Bishop left Lubbock, Texas, as fast as he could and had the opportunity to coach at Columbine under Andy Lowry back in his home state of Colorado.
Bishop arrived at Boulder in 2008 and currently teaches language arts at the school. In his time with the Panthers since then, he has coached boys and girls basketball, boys and girls track, and boys and girls golf. He took over as head coach of the football program in 2018 and has infused an energy that appears to be bolstering a program that struggled for years before he took over.
How did your journey in athletics lead you back to Colorado area and Boulder High?
I coached one season and student taught at Columbine High School before going back to teach and coach at my alma mater, Pomona High School. I coached football, girls basketball and track while I was there and taught freshman and senior language arts. After two years, I took an opportunity to work outside of education while continuing to coach at Columbine. After one full year of living way up north and commuting down south, my wife and I decided it was time to find a job closer to home. I live by the saying happy wife, happy life, so I started looking closer to home.
Never in a million years did I think Boulder. I drove through Boulder a couple times in high school to go to Gateway but never once went to Pearl Street. After talking with coach Jeff Santee about an opportunity to rebuild a program, I jumped on it. Learning the tradition and history at Boulder High and the high level of academics made it a no-brainer that Boulder High was the place for me. Not to mention the fact that when I was 11, BHS beat my dad´s team 10-9 in the state championships game at Folsom (this is still a sore subject at the dinner table). I don’t remember the game but I remember sledding down the end zone with Joel Klatt until the final kick, of which we are still waiting for the official review.
Who were some of your main coaching influences in high school, college, etc., and can you talk a bit about how they may have inspired you to become a coach yourself?
I grew up around coaching. My dad has been a coach my entire life and I grew up as his ball boy. He spent 30-plus years coaching in Jeffco and is currently at the ripe young age of 68 coaching at Holy Family. I went to Pomona on the way to elementary and middle school and stopped by for practice after school. I grew up being a coach’s kid and seeing the impact my father had on so many young adults was something I dreamed of for myself. I will do this my entire career and will only be half the coach and man he was but it is my goal. He is the definition of old school but I mold my coaching after what I saw him do and how is still does it.
Some other influential coaches I had were from my playing days at Texas Tech. I was around some of the best still in the business. From Mike Leach, Art Briles, Dana Holgorsen, Dennis Simmons, Sonny Dykes and to Ruffin McNeill, I was always around successful coaches. They allowed me sit in meetings with them, watch film with them and still continue to talk ball with them. Coach McNeill still takes the time to check in on me and the Panthers program. At the end of the day the two people that drove me are my parents. My dad was the coach I learned from and strived to become, but my mom was the person I wanted to be. He was one that didn’t allow me to make excuses and she was the one that challenged me to become my father. When it came to work ethic my mom and dad were the ones who were up early and stayed late. They set a bar that was tough to reach while making family a priority.
My buddy Justin Flansburg is another person that keeps me grounded and driven. He is the first to tell me and remind me that wins matter but he is also the first to remind me about why the team matters. He is at every game and makes sure that I know what we did right and wrong but always keeps me leveled. He and his father remind me that if we do it all the right way, we will win games and we will get better and that’s what’s happening at BHS. Our seniors are leading by example and this will be a fun year. The back story is in 1999, he won a state title with Columbine but Pomona beat them that year. His ring says 13-1 and I was the one. We still debate what really happened that day.
Now that you’ve been head football coach at Boulder for a couple full seasons, what do you think about where the football program stands and what have been some of the keys to turning things around there?
The program is right where we want it. Our numbers are at an all-time high, the attitudes are where they were with coach Santee and the players are buying in. The coaching staff is passionate about building the program and we are working every day to teach them the values of football. I say it all the time that we can go 0-10 but at the end if they learn the value of the game and the life lessons this great game teaches us, we win. We can’t just talk about doing the right things, we have to do the right things.
You’ve coached a little bit of everything during your time at Boulder High. How did you end up getting involved in so many different sports? How do you see your future in coaching going and is coaching sports at the high school level something you see yourself doing long term?
I have coached a ton of sports during my years in education and if I haven’t coached it, I have watched it. I am lucky to have such a supportive wife and kids who allow me to make BHS a second family and, at times, my first family. They, like me, are all in. It’s important for me to be involved. This stems from my father. When you have the passion for something, you have to be willing to go all in. Yes, he missed dinners; yes, he missed games; but, he was always there for the family. He taught us what it meant to commit to a cause and strive to make everyone around you better.
During my time at BHS, I have coached boys and girls basketball, boys and girls golf, track, and football because impacting as many young lives as you can is what education is about. The more I am involved in, the better chance I have to help a student. A teacher talks to 120 students a day where a teacher/coach impacts 200-plus. There is no better job for me and I see myself at Boulder High for the remainder of my career if everything goes as planned. I wore red and black throughout my time in high school and college but now I bleed purple and gold.
Given the uncertainty under which high school sports in Colorado have been operating lately, what has it been like to try to keep a football program together over the past several months and prepare for a season that isn’t guaranteed to happen?
Keeping this program together has been possible all because of my staff and the players. They are bought in to the end goal with no excuses. Between virtual workouts and Zoom hangouts, the players stayed the course. At the end of the day I needed the in-person workouts as much as them. These young adults are a part of my family and for three months, we were all missing a huge part of our lives. I am proud of the commitment they made to this community by staying safe and staying healthy. This is just one more opportunity they have to learn something from a situation. They will be better young adult and older adults because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We always talk about taking a step back and spending time with our loved ones and this time, they didn’t have a choice. Family always comes first and whether wanted or not, it has given them the chance to spend time, undistracted, with their families. We will keep grinding and we will be ready for game one with no excuses.