MHS promotes Shipley to head football coach

Marshalltown High School was looking for a football coach who understood the history of the Bobcat program. Someone whose plan best suited the Bobcats moving forward. And someone who had a vision to make the program even stronger than it already is.

That man is Aaron Shipley.

Shipley, who served as the Bobcat defensive line coach the past three seasons under former coach Dave Holdiman, was offered the position over the weekend and accepted the responsibility of leading the MHS gridders a few days later.

“It is hard to put into words what this means to my family and I,” said Shipley, who graduated from West Marshall High School in 2005. “It’s an honor, and I am really excited.”

Shipley’s acceptance of the position ends a long coaching search that drew interest from other internal candidates as well as some in-state and out-of-state coaches.

MHS Principal Aiddy Phomvisay said the three finalists included Shipley, an out-of-state candidate from Texas and an in-state candidate who eventually removed himself from consideration after taking a job elsewhere.

“Coach Shipley is the perfect balance between experience as well as youth and energy,” Phomvisay said. “He has a tremendous plan and his vision is to make the program even stronger than it already is.”

Shipley replaces Holdiman, who guided the Bobcats to a 57-44 record in 10 seasons at the helm. Holdiman’s now former defensive line coach said that the Bobcats won’t look much different under his direction.

“We won’t change much at all offensively,” said Shipley, who played collegiately at William Penn and also served as an assistant coach at Oskaloosa. “I would like to have an even quicker tempo and push the envelope even more. Defensively, we will stay with the 4-3 and just work on shoring things up on that side of the ball.”

Formal approval of Shipley’s appointment to head football coach will be on the May 20 Board of Education agenda. Phomvisay though said Shipley has already hit the ground running.

“He will have a strong ability to recruit players to the program and has worked so hard already,” Phomvisay said. “We are in a lot of transition and numbers are down, but we know his vision will help turn that trend around.

“There is no magic bullet to doing that, otherwise, someone would have already done it,” Shipley said. “There has to be a systematic approach to the process. And we can actively recruit kids to play for the Bobcats.”

Besides improving on the declining numbers in the sport itself, Shipley’s other big challenge will be with strength and conditioning. With the Roundhouse renovations taking place this summer, access to the weight room could be difficult.

“They have told me that the equipment in the Roundhouse is not going anywhere throughout the renovation, but it will still be tough to get in there,” Shipley said. “We need to build a formal schedule for the athletes and then hold them accountable.”

Besides his vision, plan and overall enthusiasm for the game of football, Shipley also provided the search committee – which included Phomvisay, current Activities Director Tim Bell and future Activities Director Craig Huegel – with a sense of comfort.

“I think what Mr. Phomvisay meant by ‘hit the ground running’ was that since I was on the staff before there really won’t be a learning curve,” Shipley said. “I know the athletes and I know the staff. The only thing left to do now is to get to work.”

Besides Phomvisay, Bell and Huegel, the search committee formed to find Marshalltown’s latest athletic coach also included three student-athletes, several MHS football assistant coaches and a few members of the community.

“Both finalists were extremely organized and both had a good plan as to what they were going to do,” said Huegel, who will begin service as MHS activities director officially on July 1. “I kept going back to what the students said when thinking about who to hire. They said coach Shipley was one of the best coaches they had ever had and they said he was extremely passionate about the job.”

When assistant coaches want to be head coaches in the business, they often have to move halfway across the state to find that opportunity. Shipley found the opportunity in his backyard and is extremely grateful he was given the chance to lead the Bobcats into a new era.

“Being that I am from the area makes this even more special to me,” Shipley said. “There has been tremendous support already. My family is excited and my phone has been ringing off the hook the last couple of days.

“And it was nice that I didn’t have to move my family to the other side of the state to do this. The opportunity was in my backyard.”

Phomvisay said the search committee was impressed with both final candidates. He also said that there were a few other coaches on the staff who were interested in the head coaching vacancy.

Because Shipley also serves as the sophomore baseball coach at MHS, he has not had a chance to meet with the coaches currently on the football staff.

“I can’t answer the question of who will be back on staff next year because I have not talked to anyone on staff yet,” Shipley admitted. “Having said that, I want guys on the staff who want to be a part of what we’re doing here. I want knowledgeable, passionate coaches who want to be around the program.”

One of the things Shipley talked about in the interview process that may have ultimately landed him the position was his four guiding principles: Leadership, tradition, community and pride.

Bell also said Shipley’s ability to teach the game and relate to the players was a factor.

“Coach Shipley is a good teacher of the game and has the right emphasis on teaching students to be well rounded athletes,” said Bell.

Shipley teaches special education in the Marshalltown School District. He and his wife Amber, a surgery nurse in Pella, reside in Kellogg with their twin daughters, Addisyon and Aubrey.