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The City Journals

Coach Flip Nielson’s impact extends beyond the playing fields

Apr 15, 2020 11:39AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Flip Nielson, far right, poses with other members Murray High’s coaching staff. (Photo courtesy of Flip Nielson)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

Last December, the Murray Journal asked residents to nominate someone as “Murrayite of the Year.” Interestingly, Murrayites responded by naming someone who has spent a lot more than just one year serving the community, making a difference in many youths’ lives. Flip Nielson, probably better known as “coach,” has been coaching youth in football and baseball for nearly 30 years.

“Flip Nielson is one of the most generous men that I have ever met. His commitment to the Murray community is unparalleled,” Riverview Junior High Vice Principal and fellow coach Buck Corser said. “Flip has spent years developing youth and high school sports in Murray. For the past 30 years he has been heavily involved in Babe Ruth Baseball, making sure that players and teams have the best possible playing conditions and the best equipment. Flip has taken on a similar role with Murray High football and wrestling.”

Coaching is not Nielson’s first line of work; he works full-time with the Murray City Parks and Recreation Department. Taking care of Murray’s many parks not only lets him feel at home on the baseball diamond but also lets him work with youth beyond sports.

Aaron Metcalfe, a former player of Nielson’s, remembers a time when he wanted to quit football, a game he started playing later than other kids.

“I remember one time in particular where he helped build me up. During practice, I was playing on the offensive line and just could not get my assignment right. The defensive lineman kept on blowing right past me, and the play wasn't working as it should. My teammates were upset with me, the other linemen were really getting after me, and I just couldn't take it anymore.

“I broke down in self-defeat. Flip took me aside and helped me through it. I don't remember what he said, but he made me feel more confident. He showed me proper technique, helped me believe in myself, and helped me manage my emotions on the field. Flip was always like that as a coach. He could be tough, but he was also fun to be around.”

Nielson grew up in Murray, the son of Joe and ReNee Nielson, who involved him in sports. Like many Murrayites, he kept close to the community. His wife, Shelley, teaches at Hillcrest Junior High. He credits his own high school coach, Wade Meier, as one of his greatest influences.

“Wade Meier never got mad at you; he had a way of getting his point across without getting upset,” Nielson said. “I believe that any volunteer or father that takes on a role to become a coach is great. For a person to give up their time away from their own family and to sacrifice time away from work to coach someone else’s child. It takes a special person to do that, in my opinion.”

While legendary coaches like hockey’s Herb Brooks and basketball’s Bobby Knight were known for their intensity, many Murray players and coaches will name Nielson’s empathy as his strong suit.

“Flip is approachable and kind. He listens to his players and the parents that he comes into contact with. He takes extra time and considers their concerns and always has a positive solution for the person that he is engaged with,” Corser said. “Flip will go the extra mile and encourage, thank, and lift up the individual who does not fit in or wants to be accepted.”

Nielson coached and later was president of the Murray Liberty League youth football conference. He has since coached at Murray High for the last 16 years as an assistant football coach. He began his coaching side job when neighbors mentioned that their son’s little league football team needed a coach.

“When I first started, we didn’t have internet, cell phones, and every video game known to man. Keeping their attention, in my opinion, is one of the hardest things to do. There is so much going on in today’s world that I think it makes it difficult,” Nielson said.

Nielson still checks up on his former players and makes sure they are applying the lessons that they learned on the playing fields in their grown-up lives.

“I just want the kids I’m around to grow up and be good individuals. Graduate school, move on to be good husbands and fathers and work with their own kids to do the same. Take pride in their community and also set good examples,” Nielson explained.

Former player Metcalfe recalls, “I still enjoy running into Flip. I think it's a mark of the quality person he is that he still remembers me nearly 25 years later.”

Nielson does find time for himself and indulges in following professional wrestling—he makes watching “Monday Night Raw” a weekly ritual.

Corser surmises that Nielson’s impact goes beyond just being a coach. “During his involvement in youth and high school sports, Flip not only improves playing and coaching conditions for the players but also improves the lives of those people that he comes into contact with. When one spends 30 minutes with Flip in the Murray community, it is not uncommon to witness a mother, a former student, or an old friend embrace Flip with gratitude and happiness.”