After decades with SMSD, Sue Chipman’s final year leading SM East tennis drawing to a close

Chipman was the coach of teams that won 14 state tennis titles.
Chipman was the coach of teams that won 14 state tennis titles.

For more than 45-years, Sue Chipman has been a well-loved presence in the Shawnee Mission School District — perhaps most noticeably in her role as the coach of the SM East boys and girls tennis teams for decades. When this springs boys tennis season comes to an end, though, so will Chipman’s time leading the program.

“I loved representing the school,” Chipman said Tuesday as players and friends gathered to recognize her service to the school after the team’s matches against St. James Academy on the SM East courts. “It’s just a great place to be and a great place to play tennis. We have a long tradition, and we just tried to keep building on that year after year after year.”

Though she retired from full-time teaching at the school in 2013, Chipman has continued on as the coach of both teams. She counts a total of 14 state titles among the boys and girls during her tenure. With SM East drawing some of the top tennis talent in the county, the school’s competitiveness at the state level isn’t surprising. But colleagues and parents of former players credit Chipman with creating a program that balanced inclusiveness and competition.

Jed Bair is a retired tennis coach from the Olathe School District whose daughter now attends SM East. He said Chipman’s ability to get playing time for players of a variety of skill levels was remarkable.

“There are so many players — 60, 80 a year. The organization is just amazing,” he said. “You have this huge program and you have some of the best players that come through.”

Ted Barnickel, whose daugther Elizabeth won last year’s 6A singles title and is now playing at the Air Force Academy, said Elizabeth had cherished her time playing under Chipman.

“She’s very accommodating to all the players, but she’s also very competitive with the top players because she wants to win state every year,” Barnickel said.

Next year, current assistant coach Andy Gibbs will take over as head coach. Chipman says she’s confident the program “won’t miss a beat,” and that she’s excited to have more time to spend time with her grandchildren and attend their activities. But she’s not stepping back from the district entirely.

“Well, this will be two-thirds retirement,” she said. “I’m still going to sub a little bit. And that’s good. It keeps me in contact with younger people.”

Here’s Chipman posing next to the banner thanking her for her service: