After almost a year and a half at Petersburg Racquet Club, Gary Henderson decided it was time to make a change.
In December of 2013, Henderson, PRC’s former general manager and tennis instructor, decided to make a switch and landed at West Lake Country Club. The move eventually proved to be the impetus for many of his players, including some who compete at Lakeside High School, to make the move across town to train with him.
One of the plusses for Henderson was an on-site training center at West Lake, and while that is beneficial to those who have made the move, Henderson himself is the biggest selling point.
Lakeside rising junior Drew Harris moved over to West Lake shortly after Henderson did. While he likes the environment, especially getting to train at the gym, it was Henderson that was the main attraction.
“He was my coach at the old place and he’s my coach here now,” said Harris, who was part of the Panthers’ squad that reached the state semifinals in 2014.
Henderson, who has the title of tennis assistant, is the high-performance coach in a program they call, simply, West Lake Elite Players. Sam Dromsky, who will be a junior at Lakeside after a year in which he didn’t lose a match, is a charter member.
“I thought Gary was a high-performance coach and I thought coming over here would help me get better,” said Dromsky, who started training with Henderson about a year and a half ago.
While Henderson wants to get as many top players as possible, he wants the area tennis scene to grow.
“We want the other clubs to have success and have good players, but obviously we want to be competitive and beat them,” Henderson said. “Too often I think there’s just one club in the town that has produced all the players, but there’s no competition and therefore that’s not healthy for the sport,
In July, the club will have a program called The Next Generation, which will deal with players in the 8 to 13 age range, hoping to eventually get them into the elite group.
West Lake now has a development group open to virtually to all children who want to learn to play.
After playing for Miss-issippi State University and competing in singles and doubles at Wimbledon, Henderson managed a large junior development program in England before making the move stateside.
He is confident in what he can provide those who train with him.
“If people want to be in a high-performance program whether it’s here or PRC or Augusta Country Club or Newman or any club in the CSRA, that’s great,” Henderson said. “We know what we do here, we know what we offer, I know what my credentials are as a coach and an ex-player and I think proof will be down the road when you see the players we train and what they do outside of West Lake.”
He had already proven himself to Lakeside’s Taylor Richards, who went to West Lake at the beginning of the year after working with him for almost two years.
“I came over the start of January,” Richards said. “Gary’s my main coach and I wanted to follow him.”