ATHLETIC DIRECTORS TIPPS, FIMPLE ARE FOCUSED ON STRIVING TO BE THE BEST SERVANT LEADERS
By Don Lowe | Photos by Mark Strickland Photos
As a new school year (2022-23) begins, there’s been a changing of the guard, so to speak, right here in Northwest Arkansas within athletic departments at two of this state’s largest programs.
In Bentonville, new District Athletics Director Billy Tipps succeeds Scott Passmore, who resigned to take a similar position at Thaden School. Tipps most recently served as AD at Enid (Okla.) Public Schools since 2019.
After being employed the past five years as Football Head Coach of the Conway Wampus Cats, Keith Fimple returns to an area of this state he previously worked, while now serving as Springdale Schools’ new Executive Director of Athletics.
Fimple takes over for Wayne Stehlik, who moves into a new position for the district as Director of Development for Athletics. It’s a homecoming of sorts for AD Fimple, who spent time with the Har-Ber Wildcats and Fayetteville Bulldogs gridiron programs, while serving as defensive coordinator at both schools.
As for what has both these leaders most elated in their new roles, it’s not complicated at all and AD Tipps says his excitement with being in Bentonville is “The opportunity to serve such a special school district and work to add value to the already great programs that are offered here.”
AD Fimple’s mindset is that “The opportunity to make a positive impact on various sports programs in Springdale can be exhilarating. As athletic director, one can help shape the direction of sports and physical activities for students, while promoting teamwork, skill development and sportsmanship.”
While coaching and teaching is where it all began for these gentlemen, they both seemed to have goals of advancing to broader leadership posts as their careers have moved forward.
AD Tipps’ rationale for transitioning from coach to administrator was straightforward and he says, “I wanted to be able to provide support to athletes and coaches, as well as impact the overall school environment.”
While just now beginning his shift out of coaching, AD Fimple shares that, “I reached a point in my career where I felt ready to take on an administrative leadership role, and becoming an athletic director aligns with my long-term career aspirations.”
Of course, just like with virtually any job, both AD Tipps and AD Fimple understand that there are ever-changing and evolving challenges.
In considering more important issues over the past five to 10 years or so, AD Fimple suggested that amongst topics of significant relevance include “Rising costs of athletics, student-athlete mental welfare, hiring and retention of coaches, and fundraising revenue generation.”
Regardless of all that they will be tasked with overseeing and coordinating across their entire districts, AD Tipps and AD Fimple sure seem to have the right formula in mind.
Simply put, AD Tipps stresses that his style is all about “Servant leadership. Support, guide, and serve students, coaches, and the community.”
Expanding on his approach, AD Fimple maintains that “Servant leadership prioritizes the well-being and growth of others. A servant leader places the needs of their team members, employees, or followers above their own, and their primary goal is to support and serve those they lead.”
AD Tipps and AD Fimple will be working a broad range of coaches, from those just getting started to veterans who’ve been in the business a long time, as well as men and women across numerous sports, including football, basketball, baseball, softball and much, much more.
When thinking specifically about what advice they might have for anyone just finishing college with a degree and ready to find a job in athletics, AD Tipps says, “Show up and work, put in the time and never stop learning. Develop meaningful relationships, work hard in your classroom, and remember, you are coaching more than a sport, you are coaching life lessons.”
The way AD Fimple sees it, “Coaching is a lifelong learning process. Stay up to date with the latest coaching techniques, strategies, and sports science. Attend coaching clinics, workshops, and seminars to expand your knowledge and expertise. Be a coach of character and lead by example.”
Leading by example is obviously something that both AD Tipps and AD Fimple know how to do quite well. And both hope they’ll be successfully guiding Bentonville and Springdale to even greater heights in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.
New Bentonville District Athletic Director Billy Tipps
Spouse: LeAnn (Married for 27 years)
Children: Grace, 22 years old and graduate of the University of Oklahoma
Hometown: Born & Raised in Noble, Okla.
High School Alma Mater & Year Graduated: Noble High School/1990
College Alma Mater & Year Graduated: Southwestern College in Winfield, KS (Bachelor of Science in 1995) & Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS (Master of Science in 1997)
Career: Teacher/Coach/Administrator-Public School Education (Garland Independent School District & Rockwell Independent School District in Texas; Enid Public Schools in Oklahoma)
New Springdale District Athletic Director Keith Fimple
Spouse: D’ann (Married for 27 years)
Children: Leah Grace Fimple, 19 years old, and a sophomore Theatre Art Major at the University of Central Arkansas (UCA); Brock Fimple, 13 years old, eighth grade
Hometown: Born & Raised in Alma, AR
High School Alma Mater & Year Graduated: Alma High School/1990
College Alma Mater & Year Graduated: Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, AR (B.S.E. in 1995), Henderson State University (Master’s Degree in Education in 1997) & Arkansas State University in Jonesboro (Specialist in Educational Leadership in 2017)
Career: Football Head Coach (Conway Wampus Cats); Defensive Coordinator (Springdale Har-Ber Wildcats, Fayetteville Bulldogs & Fort Smith Southside Mavericks); Co-Defensive Coordinator (El Dorado Wildcats; and Linebacker Coach (Henderson State University)