During the school day, you can typically find Chip Henderson in a classroom at Calhoun Middle School, teaching eighth grade Georgia history. After school, Henderson’s role transforms from teaching in the classroom to instructing on the baseball diamond, a change that’s been taking place for the last quarter century. This past season marked the 25th anniversary for the longtime Yellow Jacket skipper.
“Being able to go out and be around the game that I love, … that gives me a lot of pride,” Henderson said. “To be able to coach that long at one place, that’s kind of special to me.”
Before being tapped for skipper, Henderson’s familiarity with the varsity program was already in place.
Henderson attended Calhoun High School, graduating in 1986. While in high school, he played shortstop for the Jackets.
Upon graduating from Shorter University in 1991 and earning his teaching certificate, Henderson was hired by Principal Brenda Erwin and, soon after, Athletic Director Johnny Gulledge called on Henderson to take the reins of the school’s baseball team.
“Those two people will always have a special place in my heart,” Henderson said.
When Henderson first took over in 1995, Calhoun baseball had not won a region title since 1974.
“I had two goals,” Henderson said. “I wanted to make Calhoun baseball competitive again and I’d like to get it to a championship caliber program. I’ve been able to check both of those off. We just want to continue to try and build on the program and keep moving forward.”
The program quickly found success. The Yellow Jackets would go on to win back-to-back region titles in 1996-97 and captured the state championship in 2000, the second in school history.
Henderson said the passion for the game and the position is what has kept him at Calhoun since the mid 1990s.
“Being a graduate of (Calhoun High School) and being able to come back and coach on the field you played on … that’s what keeps me going,” Henderson said. “Good times are good, but if that passion is genuine and it’s sincere, it will get you through those tough times. We’ve had some bumps in the road, but what coach (and) what team hasn’t? It’s those that stay the course that usually wind up seeing the silver lining in the end.”
Henderson said he has many personal highlights from the past 25 years, both on and off the field. They range from his first career victory to win No. 500 to playing for the state championship five times, winning three.
“Those are pretty special, but that’s on the field,” Henderson said. “You look off (the field), and you see some of the relationships that you’ve created with some of the players. To see them come back to the games, wish you well … those are some of the things that stick out in my mind.”
Henderson said he could not have coached for a quarter century without the support of his family.
“They’re my biggest fans, maybe my only fans,” Henderson said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s north, south, east or west, they’re there. Having those people in your corner to support speaks volumes. It’s become part of them.”
Perhaps the biggest question now is how many more years can Calhoun expect to see Henderson in the dugout or down the third base line.
“Who knows what the next chapter holds,” Henderson said. “I’ve been blessed … to have good health to allow me to go out there and throw batting practice every day and to hit ground balls and be a part of it. I know I want to stay active doing something.”
Henderson said, though, he was on the “back nine” when it came to coaching baseball.
“I’m closer to the end than I am the beginning,” Henderson said. “I’ve always heard people say, ‘you’ll know when it’s time,’ and I think the closer you get to that, you understand what they’re saying. You think about something you’ve done for over 25 years, it’s kind of hard to walk away from. I imagine when that day comes, it won’t be just another day.”
Though the sun may be approaching the horizon on what has already been a historic career, expect to see Henderson on the field or in the dugout when Calhoun baseball returns in the spring of 2020.