By KEVIN HARRIS
When children are trying to figure out what sports they are interested in playing, usually they choose baseball, basketball or soccer.
But Sean Henry had a different sport in mind when he was a youngster.
When the 13-year-old Georgetown resident was 4-years-old, he was instantly attracted to a sport most kids don’t know even exists.
That sport was racquetball.
“My dad played it and it looked good to me,” said Henry, who is an eighth grader at Highland Hills Middle School. “It was much faster-paced than baseball, basketball or tennis.”
Not only has Henry played racquetball for nine years, he is quite good at it.
In fact, he is one of the best racquetball players in the nation for his age.
Henry was a member of the 2012 USA Racquetball U.S. National Espirit Team as one of two 12-and-under singles players on the squad. He earned a spot on the team last June by finishing second among U.S. players in the 12-and-under singles age division in the U.S. National Junior Olympics in Fullerton, Calif. The top two American players qualified for the National Espirit Team.
Henry said the competition at the Junior Olympics was incredible. He faced top players from Costa Rica, Mexico and Chile.
“It was kind of ridiculous actually. The kids from South and Central America were really good,” Henry said.
Making the U.S. National Espirit Team earned Henry a trip to Los Angeles to play at the International Racquetball Federation World Junior Championships, which took place Nov. 11-17.
Henry’s goal entering the world championships was to finish in the top three spots in his age group and earn a medal.
Unfortunately, that did not happen.
Henry lost his opening-round match, but bounced back to finish second in the consolation bracket. Henry was 2-2 during the world championships.
Henry played despite being sick at the start of the tournament. Plus he and his family experienced travel problems while trying to get to the West Coast.
Henry jokingly said he learned one thing at the world championships.
“Don’t be sick,” he quipped. “I did OK.”
U.S. National Espirit Team coach Jen Meyer thought Henry persevered during the tournament.
“Sean played very well in L.A., especially considering they had problems getting to L.A. and getting their bags, and then Sean was sick at the beginning of the tournament,” Meyer said. “He faced very tough competition and did extremely well.”
It was the second time Henry played in the world championships for the U.S. national team. His first trip to the world championships happened when he was 8 years old.
Henry said his first world championships was a nerve-racking experience.
“Absolutely — I was really nervous the first time,” Henry said.
Henry says he practices about four times a week, while he lifts weights and goes through cardiovascular workouts three times a week. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, he practices with the University of Louisville club team.
Henry says his strengths are his serving and his quickness. But Meyer says he has another strength, which is his competitiveness.
“He never gives up in a game or during a rally and always tries to do his best every match,” Meyer said.
Henry says his main weakness is his backhand strokes. But Meyer thinks Henry must get mentally tougher if he is to succeed in world competitions.
“He is already a great all-around player, but the mental part of the game is so important especially at the world level,” Meyer said. “This is an area that many kids need to work on, and it gives them an advantage when faced with matches and the crowds at the world level.
“Sean is a great player and has the potential to be a top-level player. He strives to do his best and is a fantastic kid. I look forward to the many years of racquetball he has ahead of him.”
Henry hopes to one day play racquetball at the collegiate level.
“I think I want to play for a long time,” he said. “I want to get on a college team and play in the college nationals.”
Racquetball is currently not an Olympic sport. But if the sport was added to the Summer Games, Henry said he would like the chance to play in the Olympics.
“If it was an Olympic sport, I would be in to that,” he said.