We all often hear the cliché that tennis the sport of a lifetime, because you have the ability to play and remain involved with the sport throughout your entire life. Few people embody that concept as much as Brooklyn’s Hector Henry, who is set to turn 87-years-old in early September, but has not missed a beat on the tennis court.
“I played soccer for much of my life, and at the end of my soccer career, tennis was really starting to become popular with the US Open here and the emergence of players like Arthur Ashe,” said Henry, who was a talented soccer player, competing for the Jamaican national team and later semi-professionally in the United States. “I had played cricket early in my life back home in Jamaica, and the two sports seemed to have some similarities in their strokes and things like that. I thought I could play because I had to do something after I was done playing soccer, and that’s really how I became involved with tennis.”
After his soccer career, Henry became a student at Brooklyn College and played for its tennis team, and would go on to become the program’s coach after graduation.
His coaching career would continue at New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL), where he has been for the last 30 years.
“I love working with the kids and being able to see them develop; I’ve had some really good players over the years,” said Henry. “My relationship with the kids … they’re like a family. I start playing with the kids and get involved with their families, so it’s just been great.”
For the last 15 years, he has also worked with the Highland Park Tennis Association (HPTA) in Brooklyn, and he has become a favorite amongst both the kids and parents of both programs.
“Coach Hector has been one of the cornerstones of the Highland Park Tennis Association’s Junior Tennis Program. He has been by my side since day one, 15 years ago,” said Dion Lachmanen, HPTA’s president. “With more than 40 years of coaching experience at every level of the game, he brings an enormous amount of credibility to our program.”
Because of all he has given to the sport, Lachmanen led the way to get a USTA-sanctioned tournament named and played in Henry’s honor, and was able to do so. The “Hector Henry Championships,” were introduced in early September.
With Henry’s birthday being Sept. 7, he got to celebrate his 87th birthday around the folks he calls family, right in the midst of the first annual Hector Henry Championships.
“I was really surprised when I heard, and I’m delighted that people thought that much of me,” said Henry. “Over the years, I’ve met a lot of great parents and kids, and it’s just been a wonderful pleasure in my life.”
The tournament was held at the Linden Park Tennis Courts in Brooklyn, and featured multiple divisions for both boys and girls, and singles and doubles.
“Hector has quietly given so much over the years to the children he has taught and to the sport of tennis, that having a tournament named in his honor is just a small token of appreciation compared to his contribution to the sport,” added Lachmanen. “He is a remarkable person to still be doing this at 86-years-old … in fact, it’s ‘saint-like.’”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org