'That's why you coach': Battle's Joe Henderson retires from coaching softball after 4 decades – Columbia Daily Tribune

Among the decades of experience within the game of softball, nothing prepared Battle coach Joe Henderson for an encounter in a gas station in the first days of this season.
Busing back from the Lead Off Classic in Troy, the Spartans stopped to grab a snack. Their rivals on the Hickman team had the same idea and were already inside.
Battle beat Hickman in a tight 4-3 game earlier that day.
As the Spartans and Kewpies mingled, Hickman third baseman Brianna Basye approached Henderson to thank him. Henderson had worked with Basye to try and get her into college softball.
Henderson didn’t remember Basye at the moment, but that’s because of the sheer number of players he assists. In the second week of October alone, Henderson helped five players: three from Blair Oaks, one from Southern Boone and another from Fayette.
“There’s a lot of kids that I work with,” Henderson said. “Anyone that wants help getting to college, I helped them. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what school.”
More:District softball: Battle, Hickman fall in quarterfinals, but revel in competitive seasons
However, Basye wanted to fill Henderson in on one other detail: Basye’s mom, Amanda, played for Henderson, too. Amanda played for Henderson at Rock Bridge. 
Henderson and Brianna caught up, hugged and went their separate ways. It was a memory that was years in the making, and one that has resonated with Henderson as he retires from softball after over 40 years of coaching.
Henderson said it’s time to do something different. Although he doesn’t know how far he’ll step away from the sport, the memories of success in its many forms are what Henderson remembers the most vividly.
“I’d like to give you some sexy memory of this home run that ended the game. We have those memories,” Henderson said. “But that memory, that’s why you coach. That’s the No. 1 reason you coach.”
Henderson has coached across multiple levels of competition, spending time at Westminster College, Stephens College, Columbia College and Lincoln University at the collegiate level, as well as at Battle and Rock Bridge at the prep level.
His most recent Battle team, a short-handed group of talented players, tied the school record for wins in a single season with 18. Ironically, the Spartans’ season ended at the hands of Rock Bridge, Henderson’s former team.
Henderson has been a part of a game that’s twisted and changed over the last four decades. Females have more of an opportunity to play the sport in different iterations now, from prep teams to travel ball.
The biggest change he’s seen in the sport is how coaches need an understanding of human behavior. Coaching a sport isn’t simply about the schemes and strategy.
It also includes building up athletes and getting them to understand the difference between failure and a learning experience. Those lessons sometimes are undone by a parent who will try and insert themselves into the coaching lesson. 
They’re doing what they believe is best, but it’s become a factor Henderson has had to adjust to.
“It’s my job as a coach to try to get you to understand failure and success, and how you measure it,” Henderson said. “If everybody’s a coach, then they might undo what I just did.”
The most difficult part is how much of a struggle it is to create a relationship with those parents at times.
“Coaching is about building relationships at the end of the day,” Henderson said. “Whether it’s with kids, whether it’s with other coaches, umpires. I mean, life’s about relationships.”
Henderson built those relationships at Battle and built a program that’s become its own power in Columbia and mid-Missouri.
The thing that Henderson has become most proud of is how he’s been able to have his players buy into the program he wanted to create. He’s centered his time on intangible aspects of a player, as opposed to the physical ones.
“We’re working more on character and discipline,” Henderson said. “Every girl that’s left the program has been a great example of character and discipline, and has gone on and just done some great things in life in general.”
Those relationships have also helped him push players on to the next level. That doesn’t just mean from high school softball to college softball, either.
Henderson mentioned two recent Spartan alums, Morgan Ramsey and Autumn McCoy, who graduated from Battle in 2016 and 2015, respectively. The two former Spartans got a job on the same day, in the same hospital, on the same ward, in the same shift.
“You gotta admit,” Henderson said, “that’s pretty cool.”
Those success stories have balanced out the failure that comes with sports like baseball and softball.
The sport itself is difficult in the sense of how you need to overlook the consistent failure and know that it’s a constant of the sport.
“It’s a game of failure,” Henderson said. “We’re looking at a 30% success rate. It’s a .300 average. If everyone’s got a .300 average, we’re in business. If you got 30% on your biology tests, you’re going to be in trouble.”
It’s also what makes sports like softball and baseball special. 
The failure never fazed Henderson as a coach. He doesn’t care that he never littered a trophy case with awards, titles and championships.
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Those kinds of championships are the yearly goals, and Henderson said he always told his teams before a district tournament they were going to win the title. 
But those accolades never carry on like the relationships he’s formed. That’s the sport he came to love over four decades.
“Character, discipline, good structure and a good life will trump anything that softball will do for you as a game,” Henderson said.
Chris Kwiecinski is the sports editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune, overseeing University of Missouri and Boone County sports coverage. Follow him on Twitter @OchoK_ and contact him at [email protected] or 435-414-3261.

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