Fencing coach retires after 37 years at Brandeis

April 13, 2018

The Brandeis men and women’s head fencing coach, Bill Shipman, will retire after 37 years at Brandeis University. Shipman has been the head fencing coach at Brandeis since 1981, dedicating a total of 37 years to the program. In his time with the Judges, Shipman lead the team to five University Athletic Association (UAA) titles and 13 Northeast Fencing Conference titles between men’s, women’s and combined.

Fencing has always been a big part of Shipman’s life.. Shipman fenced competitively for 18 years in all three events before turning to coaching. He earned his BA in education from University of North Carolina and began to coach fencing in his final year of undergraduate school. Over the next 40 years, Shipman would only take one year off from coaching. In this time, he also received a Master’s degree from Clemson University in recreation and parks administration. Shipman went on to serve as the assistant fencing coach at the University of Pennsylvania for three years before joining the Judges.

Looking back on the program that Shipman has helped build here at Brandeis, he reminisced about challenges and successes he has faced over the past 37 years of coaching. His greatest challenge as a coach has been pushing his fencers to reach their full potential as both athletes and as members of a team. Shipman said he took pride in more than just titles and awards and stated, “[I am proud] to have brought an enjoyable and meaningful experience to so many students, both in fencing and team social experiences. I think we have done that better than most similar programs.”

Shipman also talked about bonding with his athletes over his career. When asked what piece of advice he always gives his athletes, he responded,“never give up, stay calm, and fight hard. You never know what can happen.” He admits that he had never set long term goals for the program when he started in 1981; instead choosing to watch his fencers grow as athletes and people. He stated, “my favorite part of coaching is interacting with the fencers, seeing them develop and getting to know them. My favorite memories are snapshots of various moments. Some deal with exciting bouts or matches, many with incidents off-strip while traveling, both comical and serious.”

Shipman hopes to see the program continue on an upward trajectory and stay near the top of Division I and Division III teams. In addition to maintaining these top spots, Shipman commented, “I would like to see a few more NCAA qualifiers. I hope our tradition of success and team orientation will continue for many years.”

He added that one or both of the current assistant coaches would be applying for the head coach position, but that the spot was open to anyone who wanted to apply. Shipman hopes whoever takes over his job will appreciate all that the athletes have to offer.

“Enjoy the students, and use their enthusiasm and desire for the benefit of the team,” Shipman advised.

As for his future, Shipman is excited to explore other aspects of his life. Some of these include coaching at a local fencing club, playing golf, traveling and enjoying fencing without worrying about recruiting or coaching.

Shipman hasn’t just coached for the last 37 years; he also oversaw Brandeis’ hosting of the NCAA National Collegiate Fencing Championships in 1994, 1999, 2004 and 2016. His athletes have earned at least one New England Intercollegiate Fencing Association or Northeast Fencing Conference crown every year since since 2013. Shipman’s other accolades include the U.S. Fencing Coaches Association National Coach of the Year award in 1994, the NFC Coach of the Year award four times, and UAA Coach of the Year six times. Four of his fencers have been inducted into the Brandeis Athletics Hall of Fame, and he has been a member of the NCAA Fencing committee three times. In addition to serving as fencing coach for Brandeis Athletics, he was also the athletic department’s intramural coordinator from 1984 to 1993 and the golf coach from 2001 to 2010.

Shipman would like to thank all fencing alumni and parents who have supported the program in any way, saying, “This has been a good ride.”

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