A Coach's Life: Les Hipple and the Marion Indians

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9781450221474: A Coach's Life: Les Hipple and the Marion Indians

"I never cared what a boy thought of me while I was coaching him. But I cared a lot what he would think of me later."-Les Hipple. He was one of the greatest high school coaches the state had ever known. Les Hipple imposed strict rules on his players and enforced them unsparingly. He turned out championship teams year after year in not just one sport, but four. Although his rules were extreme, the boys in the small Iowa town longed to become "Hipplemen." Townspeople praised the coach and admired his teams for their gritty, disciplined play and their modest behavior. He made the town famous during the 1940s and 1950s. Then, when everything around him began to change, the coach did not. This is the story of an extraordinary man who unflinchingly lived according to the principles he taught, even when it meant losing a game or a championship-or the job he loved. Author Dan Kellams, a former Hipple athlete, recalls a vanished time in small-town mid-America. He gives readers an admiring but tough-minded look at what happened to a man who imposed stern disciplines on hundreds of boys-and made them into champions.

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About the Author:

Dan Kellams is a freelance writer and editorial consultant who has written about a variety of sports during his fifty-year career. He played four sports under Les Hipple before graduating from Marion High School in 1954. He and his wife, Elaine, live in New York City and Litchfield County, Connecticut.

Review:

"You see the rules, meet the athletes and coaches, read the stories of championship seasons, learn of the coach's demise in the midst of school politics and parental outcries." -- Dave Rasdal, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette, Aug. 25, 2010. --Dave Rasdal, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette, Aug. 25, 2010.

Do you love Iowa sports? I mean REALLY love Iowa sports? Do you have a long memory? How about the legendary all-sports coach for the Marion Indians, Les Hipple, who took over at Marion in 1945 and led them to extraordinary success in football, basketball, and track, before his toughness as a disciplinarean no longer fit in with the non-spanking generation's notions of how teenagers should be treated. Journalist, Dan Kellams, played football for Hipple in their glory years in the early '50s, and never forgot Coach Hipple's toughness, honesty, and enormous success. This book contains his memories of Hipple and all of Marion's athletic records during the Hipple years. It's not just a book about one man and his accomplishments as coach and leader; it's a thoughtful piece of American small-town history between the end of WW II and the early sixties. He talks about the meaning of high school sports in a small community and, more interestingly to me, the changes that took place in the way it was acceptable for adults to treat teenagers, as the 40's became the 50's and the 50's the 60's. Kellams is an interesting man who knows what's interesting about the life he's lived. He's done a good bit of research to pull together Les Hipple's early life as a poor kid in the country who survived on the same kind of discipline he would later feed his student/athletes. I doubt if Hipple could have found a more appropriate writer to have told his story than his old lineman, Dan Kellams. Kellams speaks with truth and sympathy about his coach. Hipple, who passed away in 1998, is a member of the Iowa Football Coach's Hall of Fame. This is a great gift for a long-time Iowa sports fan or anyone from Marion. --Paul Ingram, buyer, Prairie Lights bookstore, Iowa City, Iowa

Metro Sports Report (Eastern Iowa sports web site) Dec. 28, 2010

Fascinating portrait of Les Hipple and Marion

By Jim Ecker

Marion native Dan Kellams gives readers a rare treat with his new book on former Marion High School coach Les Hipple, well worth the time for anyone interested in the school or the city itself.

Kellams, a Marion High School graduate who played for the legendary coach, provides a poignant biography of the stern taskmaster whose teams dominated the Wamac Conference in the 1940s and 1950s, while also providing a keen historical look at the city of Marion itself.

Hipple compiled a 105-42-10 record in 18 years as Marion's head football coach from 1945-62 and won seven conference titles; collected a 310-120 record in 20 years as the boys basketball coach from 1945-65 and captured 12 Wamac crowns; coached the boys track team from 1945-62 with five league titles, and also won eight state cross country titles in a row.

Hipple is a member of the Iowa Halls of Fame in both football and basketball, one of the few coaches to hold both honors, and his basketball teams were among some of the best in the state, regardless of classification. Marion High School named the school's athletic fields after him in 1978, a fitting tribute to his career, but numbers and honors don't do justice to the man or the book ("A Coach's Life: Les Hipple and the Marion Indians").

Hipple, who died in 1999 at age 86, was a strict disciplinarian who placed heavy demands on his players. He received strong support in the community during the glory years from parents and administrators, but times changed and support waned. He became a controversial figure and ultimately was fired, leaving behind a legacy of success, outstanding athletes, love, respect and some bruised feelings.

Hipple treated all his players alike -- stars and deep reserves -- and often said he didn't care what his players thought of him at the time, but cared deeply about what they'd think of him in the future when they were grown men. There are several moving tributes to Hipple by former players, who indeed grew to respect the values he instilled in them as boys.

His rules were among the strictest in the state:

1) No smoking or drinking.
2) In bed by 10 every night, except Friday and Saturday, when a midnight curfew was allowed.
3) Dates with girls must be kept to a minimum. No going steady.
4) Cannot miss practice without permission.
5) May not drive cars except on Sundays (remember, this was the 1940s and '50s.)
6) Use only proper language at all times.
7) Take best possible care of equipment.
8) Keep dressing rooms clean, home and away.

Players who violated rules were ordered to run endless laps, while serious or repeat offenders were kicked off the team.

"You, as a Marion Indian, cannot do some of the things other students do," Hipple wrote in 1952. "If you think more of smoking, drinking, dating or going steady, staying out late at night, or riding around in automobiles, then you are not willing to `pay the price' and it is best for you not to take out a uniform ... To be on a championship team you have to be a champion yourself."

There are still numerous "Hipplemen" in Marion, successful businessmen and fathers who learned valuable lessons from their coach. But no mistake, they feared the man and knew they risked dismissal, with no chance for appeal.

Kellams does an excellent job of describing some of the big games and championship seasons, but it's the historical backdrop of the town and its rapid growth during this period that grips the reader. There are fascinating behind-the-scenes stories about Marion principals, superintendents, school board members and the athletes themselves, along with the role disgruntled parents played in Hipple's demise.

There's a telling segment about racial discrimination at the municipal pool, along with detailed accounts about growing up in Iowa in the early and middle parts of the 20th century.

Kellams gives a balanced account of Hipple's life, stressing his triumphs while not ignoring the shortcomings, but the author's deep respect for the man comes shining through.

How to obtain a copy

The book is available at Marion High School, BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon.com and other online outlets.

-- Metro Sports Report (Eastern Iowa sports web site) Dec. 28, 2010

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