Henderson blends faith in with his love of coaching
By DAVID MITCHELL
Glenwood football coach Tripp Henderson has a passion for football. He always has, he said, and knew from the moment his playing days came to an end that he wanted to be a coach.
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"The Lord gave me that passion," said Henderson, who took over the position vacated by former coach Jason Allen. "I'm one of the fortunate people who get to do what they love to do."
Henderson took over Allen's head coaching job for the Gators after a year out of coaching at Phenix City Intermediate School. It is Henderson's second foray into coaching at the school. He led the team to a 9-12 record over two seasons in 2008-09 before taking Russell County's head coaching job, going 5-15 in two seasons with the Warriors.
His passion alone isn't what he thinks will make him successful this time at Glenwood. That's not why he's in the business, he said.
As he sits in his office following a summer workout, he answers questions about his team and his expectations. He's still in the process of learning all their names right now, getting to know them as individuals so he knows how best to approach helping them.
That's why he's there, he said. That's why he's hot and tired on a warm afternoon in June instead of relaxing at home for the handful of weeks he has before school begins in August.
"That's what it's all about," he said. "If you're doing it for any other reason than to help (the kids), you're in the wrong business. I tell anyone who is going into coaching, don't do it because you love football. Don't do it for football. Do it because you want to help kids grow."
Henderson, who grew up the son of a Baptist preacher, said he believes his first job as a coach is to pass along the gospel. Picking up a Bible from his desk, Henderson explained how his dad ingrained it into his life and how he's trying to do the same for the boys he coaches.
"Every day, even if they get tired of hearing it, I whip (the Bible) out and we go and have a devotion," Henderson said. "That goes back to what I was talking about getting into coaching. That's what I'm here for."
It's not an easy job, of course.
The actions of football coaches and Christian leaders are often at odds with each other. They don't have to be that way, though, Henderson said.
"I've always tried to make that my first job," he said. "But there were times I didn't walk it out the way I should. I don't think preaching to somebody is going to help if you don't have your walk in order. I don't think I can share a devotion and then go out and cuss them on the football field."
Smiths Station football coach Mark Rose, who was Henderson's defensive coordinator when he played for the Panthers from 1992-95, noted those same qualities as reasons why Henderson was the right man for the job at Glenwood.
"He's dependable," Rose said. "He's got a great family, and he's just a great person. He's always really supportive in his program, and I'm really happy about the opportunity he got at Glenwood."
He was very similar as a player, Rose said.
"He was extremely hardworking and dependable," he said. "He was respectful. He was one of our leaders we could count on all the time."
Glenwood senior Dylan Denny, who Henderson said he expected to be a main force for the Gators offensively, said the team's adjustment to the coach has been smooth in part because of Henderson's personality.
"He's a really nice guy," Denny said. "He'll let you have fun, but when it's time to be serious, he'll let you know. He lets you know what he expects."
Henderson was clear in how he's approaching his job in molding the players at Glenwood.
"It's not going to be easy," he said. "I'm not going to be easy on them. I'm going to yell at them and work them hard, but I'm not going to cuss them. I hope they can grow as young men, and the football side of things will take care of itself."
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.