Henderson ready for a new challenge

June 8, 2011

PLAINVIEW – Butch Henderson sits in his new office on the second floor of the Laney Student Activities Center. It’s a simple office with a desk, computer, two chairs, and a closet at the end of the room. The walls are still bare and the only decorative item in the room is a blue and gold football helmet sitting on the edge of his desk.

Henderson is decked out in khaki pants and a comfortable red and gold shirt. Although he has been on the job for a few weeks, Henderson has yet to stockpile a number of Wayland athletics shirts. He said the red and gold was just what he pulled out of the closet on that particular morning, not unlike so many mornings before. After all, for the previous 23 years, he has donned the red and gold on a daily basis as the leader of the Lubbock Coronado High School Mustangs.

“This is just what I picked out of the closet this morning,” he grins.

After a lifetime of experiences, one can only imagine that there is a closet full of memories in the red and gold. But as the 2011 football season approaches things have changed for Henderson. He is now making room in the closet for a new set of school colors and a new set of memories, this time in Blue and Gold.

The Lord works in mysterious ways

In November 2010, after 23 years on the sidelines at Coronado, Henderson was asked to resign by the school. When he refused, the coach was reassigned by the school district.

“It all boils down to winning,” Henderson told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in a Nov. 11, 2010, article. “In some ways it’s disappointing but in other parts, like I said, Karen (his wife) and I are looking at it from a standpoint of this is a new chapter in our lives. I don’t know what God has in store for us but it’s in His hands and the direction He takes us has got to be good.”

Karen has been at Henderson’s side throughout his coaching career. The couple celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary earlier this summer, and Henderson will begin his 37th season as a football coach this fall. Throughout his years on the sideline, Karen has been an important part of his life not only off the field, but on it as well.

“She is not a stand-off, outside watcher,” Henderson said. “She was involved with the athletes and wrote them notes and things. She is involved in their lives.”

Yet as the coaching couple prepared to face a new, unknown chapter in their lives, events were also unfolding at Wayland. On Dec. 8, 2010, Wayland hired its first football coach since the program was discontinued in the late 1940s. Jeff Lynn was to oversee recruiting through the winter and spring with a target to begin practice in the fall of 2011. Wayland’s first class will be a leadership class that will work throughout 2011 to begin competition in 2012.

Lynn worked tirelessly for four months, piling up recruits. In April, however, he was suddenly called away from his commitment to WBU to take care of family issues, opening the door for a new coach.

When Henderson was reassigned at Coronado, he knew his coaching career wasn’t over, but he wasn’t sure where his next stop would be. Coaching the college ranks in Plainview wasn’t really on his radar. But when the opportunity presented itself, Butch and Karen decided to take the plunge.

Football is in the blood

Henderson grew up in Artesia, N.M., the son of a football coach.

“I grew up watching him work,” he said. “My father had to make a decision real early, even before I was born, whether he was going to be a football coach or become a pastor.”

Henderson said his father provided an example of how one can incorporate his Christian faith into the coaching professions, teaching life lessons to young men as they work through the program. Henderson credits much of his own approach to his father, but much of his understanding to his mother.

“Moms play a big role in being able to say that what dad is doing is important. My mom really pointed all three of us children to the good things, and to what dad was doing with his coaching,” Henderson said. “From the time I was in elementary school, I knew I was going to be a coach.”

Henderson grew up around his father’s programs, where he learned what it took to work tirelessly in season and out to be a coach. And while pressured to one day take over for his father, he also felt a calling to take his game to Texas.

“I grew up in Artesia and people would ask, ‘Are you going to come back to Artesia to coach?’ I said, no. I’m going to go to Texas,” Henderson explained. “Somehow God had planted that in my thoughts and that is where I headed.”

Henderson left coaching in Artesia to his younger brother, Cooper, who has spent nearly 25 years building a state powerhouse in southeast New Mexico. Their sister, Linda, also entered the coaching profession, working with basketball and track teams in Sonora. She later left the coaching game to focus on the classroom and raise her family. She has since retired from teaching in Georgetown.

Yet in all his years of coaching, separated by only a few miles of desert highway, Butch and Cooper Henderson have never faced off on the gridiron. … and Butch said they never will.

“It will not happen,” he said. “It’s one of those things as a family we just are not going to do.”

Henderson, 58, said the lack of competition among siblings on the field also translates to their off-the-field relationships.

“There has never been a lot of competition among us,” he said. “When we get together with the family it is just fun. You talk. You laugh. You find out what is going on in each other’s life.”

Family is important to Henderson. He and Karen have four children. Their oldest son, Rex, works as an assistant coach for his uncle in Artesia. Their daughter, Jodi, is well-known by many of the faculty and staff at Wayland. Jodi ran track and played soccer at Wayland, competing in five national track meets for the Pioneers. Janna Henderson is also heavily involved in athletics, playing on a traveling flag football team that has competed in tournaments from Vancouver to Florida. And, Rick, the Henderson’s youngest son, is a student at Howard Payne University.

Henderson said raising four children with a coach’s schedule was difficult, but it was made possible with the work and dedication of his wife.

“She is really the one who holds everything together,” he said. “When you are coaching you are in and out, and she has to take care of the kids. She has done a great job with the kids in our family. She is a big part of what I do.”

Teaching the athletes

Not that Henderson hasn’t does his best to raise the kids – his own four as well as the hundreds of young men he has worked with throughout the years. A strong Christian, Henderson has brought his Christian witness and faith to the football field. That’s not always easy working in a public state school where any expression of religion is generally forbidden. Henderson said this doesn’t mean one has to set aside his Christianity to work in public schools, however.

“When you are a Christian it comes out in who you are and what you do. That is who you are,” Henderson said.

Actually sharing his faith and speaking openly about God was difficult at times, but Henderson said it wasn’t impossible.

“You have to pray a lot for God’s wisdom in when and how you say those things so that you don’t overstep your bounds,” he said.

Although the coach will now have to freedom to express his Christianity openly at a faith-based school, Henderson said his approach to teaching on the field won’t change much. While demonstrating a Christian faith he wants to teach the young men under his watch that football can be a learning tool for situations they will face later in life.

“What we learn on the football field has to integrate into life later on for it to be important,” Henderson said. “In West Texas there is so much pressure on the kids to play and perform well, and I think that takes a lot of motivation. We have to take that and show this is how it is going to be later in life. This is how it works.”

Teaching those life lessons just feeds into the joy that Henderson feels on the field. He loves the sport. He loves the game. And he even loves practice.

“I enjoy practice. I enjoy the teaching part of it,” he said. “I enjoy the week and the preparation as you get ready for a game. You start seeing a game plan being implemented and growing.”

As recruits start hitting campus this fall, all they will have to look forward to is practice in preparation for an upcoming season. It’s doubtful, however, that practice will ever get boring. Henderson said he likes to keep practice fast-paced and up-tempo.

“They are going to be running and going, and I’m going to be running and going,” he said. “I’m not a coach that is going to walk around and watch other people coach. I want to coach.”

Henderson said he will hire other coaches and let them take care of their responsibilities, but he will be in the trenches as well, teaching the basics and fundamentals for quarterbacks and the offense. Henderson will implement a spread offense and throw the ball about 60 percent of the time.

“We will get the ball in space and have athletes and receivers who can run with the football,” Henderson said. “It will be a fast-tempo offense. We will never huddle. We will keep moving. Sometimes we will be moving fast; sometimes we will be moving slow. But we will control the tempo of the game and not let the defense dictate tempo.”

Defensively, Henderson said the scheme will depend on the defensive coordinator. The coach wants someone who has some understanding of the collegiate level, and someone he is comfortable giving control of the defense. The plan is to have a defensive coordinator in place this summer. The coaches can then look at bringing in up to four graduate assistants to help with coaching, with the possibility of hiring two more assistants in 2012.

It is projected that nearly 100 recruits will be on campus this fall to begin work toward the 2012 season. This will give the coaching staff time to evaluate players and determine what additional needs the team might have. The coaches will then begin recruiting to bring in additional talent for the fall of 2012. Coming from a high school background, Henderson said recruiting will be something new to which he will have to adapt.

“My learning curve is in recruiting and being able to get the athletes here,” Henderson said.

Henderson said he knows all the high school coaches in the area, but getting them to send their kids to Wayland will be beneficial. He also said he will need to hire a staff that knows some of the tricks of the trade in tracking down junior college and transfer students who would be a good fit for the Pioneer program.

A winning attitude

Henderson said just facing a practice schedule for the fall of 2012 may send him into football withdrawal, but he will get used to it.

“The brain just starts thinking season,” he said. “We will think football and think practice, but we will not have those games to think about.”

However, the Pioneers will have plenty of time to focus on their first game – a Sept. 1, 2012, match against Monterrey Tech to be played in San Antonio. Other games that season will include road games at Howard Payne, Texas College, Austin College, and Bacone College. Home games will be played at the Plainview High School field and the 2012 opponents will be McMurry University, Langston University, Southwest Assemblies of God University, Southern Nazarene and Oklahoma Panhandle State University.

While the first game may be more than a year away, Henderson wants his recruits to know that they face high expectations.

“The biggest thing is that I want our kids to come in with the attitude that we are going to win,” he said. “If you are not careful, people will put a ceiling on you; you are just starting a program; this is all you can do. I don’t want our kids to come in with that picture. I want our kids coming in thinking we are from West Texas and West Texas people like to win. That is the expectation for us.

“We need to come in and begin this program as a winning program.”