The Nathan Stiles Inspiration Award

The Simone Award Committee is proud to establish an award to permanently honor the legacy left behind by Spring Hill football player Nathan Stiles, who died a few hours after collapsing on the sidelines of the Broncos final game last year. After considering the values Nathan stood for and the positive influence he had on numerous people in his life, it was decided to create the Nathan Stiles Inspiration Award.

The award will honor anyone involved in high school football that has inspired those around them. It will be selected annually by the Simone Award Committee.

The recipient of the inaugural Nathan Stiles Inspiration Award is Shawnee Mission East head coach Chip Sherman.

Sherman’s on-field success puts him among the elite coaches in the history of high school football in Kansas City. He spent 20 years as the head coach at Platte County, winning nearly 84-percent of the time. His teams won three straight unbeaten state championships from 2000-2002 and compiled an overall 52-game winning streak. Sherman was a 2008 inductee of the Missouri Football Coaches Hall of Fame.

He moved to Salina South for the 2008 season where he helped the Cougars improve from 2-7 the year before he arrived to an 8-3 record. Sherman then returned to the metro area to Shawnee Mission East. The Lancers went 8-2 and shared the Sunflower League title in his second season. This year, East battled through significant injuries to finish 6-5 and get a postseason victory.

“By the end of the year we were asking ourselves what else could go wrong,” Sherman said. “But I think our players grew from it and learned about not giving up and not giving in. We rallied from a lot of adversity and won a playoff game. It was a great year and taught a lot of life lessons.” Injuries were certainly a challenge, but the greatest adversity faced by Shawnee Mission East this year was literally a matter of life and death. Last April, Sherman was feeling unusually tired and weak. A mass larger than a grapefruit was discovered in his chest and he was diagnosed with B-Cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Sherman had to undergo a rigorous chemotherapy treatment that took a major toll on him physically.

“The fatigue, not feeling good, and just weak all the time,” he said, describing the worst parts of chemotherapy. “It was an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”

But Sherman refused to give in to the disease. He rarely missed a team activity and was on the sidelines for every East game this season. “You wanna make sure you’re able to give the kids everything they deserve to help them be successful,” said Sherman. “Many mornings you got up and thought ‘holy mackrel, what am I doing?’ But you just put one foot in front of the other, and then before you know it the day is over and you’ve made it through.”

Sherman decided to go public with his cancer fight in an effort to provide hope to others battling the disease.

“I really wanted to be very private about it,” he said. “But then people got wind of it and they told me it might help other people if you share what you’re going through. What do you say to that? I realized I’ve got to take something bad and make something good of it.”

The mentality Sherman adopted in aggressively fighting cancer was in part influenced by seeing others struggling with the disease. “I would sit in that chemo room with 30 other people and watch what would happen to them, not only physically but emotionally,” Sherman said. “It’s hard and you’d see people just break down. I told myself I wasn’t going to let it break me. I was going to keep a positive attitude and fight.” Sherman and his doctors remain positive about his ultimate prognosis as well.

“The cancer I have is notorious for coming back within two years,” Sherman said. “But if you can make it past those two years there’s a good chance you can be cancer free for a long time.”

The courage Sherman has shown in battling cancer made him an easy choice for the first-ever Nathan Stiles Inspiration Award. The way he has dealt with such significant adversity in his life has certainly been an inspiration to his family, team, coaches and a tight-knit high school football community in Kansas City.

Congratulations, Coach Sherman, on a well-deserved honor. Get well soon! We look forward to seeing you on the sidelines for many seasons to come.