Athletes on the Catonsville High tennis team got more than a tennis coach when Rodney Henry was hired this season.
They have a rock-n-roller, who sings and plays guitar, and the founder of Dangerously Delicious Pies, headquartered in Hamden.
Henry’s rock ‘n’ roll is what brought him to the courts to coach high school tennis for the first time.
He was playing a gig at the Music City Maryland Festival in Catonsville in late August 2021 and Catonsville athletic director Rich Hambor was in attendance.
“Rich was on my show and after it was done he said ‘Hey man, great show’ and we started chatting,” Henry recalled. “He introduced me to new wrestling coach George Dunn and we were just hanging out. I was like, ‘You’re looking for a tennis coach’ and he was like, ‘Actually we are,’ and I told him I was your man.
Former coach Mary Ann Llorin left the post after last season.
“I had a few people interested and did a few interviews and he was the best candidate,” Hambor said. “He also teaches cooking in the summer, so he’s already surrounded by high school students in an educational setting, so it’s good to transfer those skills here, so it’s a good choice. He learns from them and they learn from him.
“I really wanted to do it and I’ve wanted to do it for a while,” Henry said. “Whenever an opportunity presented itself, I always wanted to go for it.”
Henry, who started playing tennis around the age of 6 at Silver Spring, eagerly accepted the position and, in his third week of training before the start of the season on March 21 at Eastern Tech, he talked about the challenges of the job.
“I dug it,” he said. “It’s a lot harder than expected because it’s just you and 14 kids, but I like it.”
With only four girls on the team, it will be difficult to win games, but Henry is focused on improving everyone.
“Seeing them improve is more important because honestly who knows how the season is going to go,” Henry said. “I don’t know the talent of the other teams. Hopefully we’ll break .500, but we can’t fill the women’s team, so we’ve already lost two games there.
Among the four girls, two sisters, senior Christie Lin and junior Katie Lin have already made a strong impression at first.
“They’re really good mentally,” Henry said. “They’re still together and they’re best friends. They’re really close to being sisters and it’s really cool, it’s a good support system.
Christie will play number 1 in singles and Katie will play number 2.
“They made their decision, they didn’t challenge each other, but they’re both very good players,” Henry said.
The No. 1 singles player for the boys will be Lucas Petti.
“He’s got consistent groundstrokes and he plays pretty well at net,” Henry said. “There are some things I want to develop in their game, we’re just trying to tighten up his service game a bit, but he’s consistent. You have to have a solid serve and you have to be able to place it.
The other two girls on the team are Steff Fendlay and Sofia Parr.
“Sophia and Steff are really great players,” Henry said.
The boys vying for the remaining positions are: Jesse Hanna, James Pugh, KP Mana Naing, Solomon Gelete, Jack Stein, Evan Wasser, Harris Barshick, Johann Mission, Dal Khai and Thang Tung.
“The challenge will be for the No. 2 boys,” Henry said. “Someone is going to want to get that spot to play singles.”
Henry, who played prep tennis at Northwood High and a college year at Montgomery College, is no stranger to teaching tennis.
When he was in his twenties, he taught four-star academy kids from across the country at a summer camp at the University of Virginia.
“I needed a gig and tennis was a cool thing to do and it was somewhere I could go and live,” Henry said.
As a coach, he tries to avoid the obstacles he encountered in his childhood.
“I didn’t have the head for the game,” he confessed. “That was my problem. I was pretty good at all my shots and tried to play satellite tournaments, but never got very far.
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Making sure her kids don’t dwell on mistakes is one of her main goals.
“For kids, they hit really well, but their biggest problem is their heads, they get confused really quickly,” he said. “When you catch kids when they’re younger it’s easier to get them out of there, but when they’re 16 or 17 your head is already where it’s going to be, you can’t just forget the last point. .”
His job as the owner of Dangerously Delicious Pies allows him to coach, but on St. Patrick’s Day eve he knew he had extra work to do after practicing baking specialty pies, Shepherd’s Pie and Guinness Steak Pie, for the holidays. .
Henry, who was a 2014 “Food Network Star” finalist for his savory pies, also teaches culinary school at Good Counsel during the summer.
“It’s a way to avoid burning out baking pies,” Henry said, noting that his players are starting to pester him for pies. “Apparently a bunch of kids went to my store and that’s cool.”
Maybe he could use them as motivation to play well.
Catonsville will host its first game Friday, March 25 against Perry Hall.