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Soccer, coaching become passions for Henry
by Sami Edge - Special to the Tribune
Aug 23, 2013 | 1865 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Sparks resident Joe Henry has seen his passion for soccer evolve over time. He started playing the game while in the military and has coached it at various levels while watching his daughters enjoy and excel in the game. He is currently a varsity assistant for the Spanish Springs girls team.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Sparks resident Joe Henry has seen his passion for soccer evolve over time. He started playing the game while in the military and has coached it at various levels while watching his daughters enjoy and excel in the game. He is currently a varsity assistant for the Spanish Springs girls team.
Whether he’s at his day job as a city employee, or pursuing his passion for coaching, Joe Henry treats every day like a learning experience.

Professionally, Henry works as the City of Reno Senior Code Enforcement Officer, investigating, documenting and resolving non-criminal code violations. With a constantly evolving technological dynamic, and a job that brings daily challenges and involvement in the field, Henry is required to stay on his toes — and he loves it.

“I love my job. It’s different every day. It’s a challenge every day. It’s exciting. It’s not the 9-to-5 grind,” he said. “It forces you to learn.”

On a recreational level, Henry keeps himself engaged in the community by coaching girls soccer at the high school and club levels. It’s the daily excitement of conquering obstacles and working with dedicated athletes that keeps his passion for the sport alive.

“I love coaching soccer. It gives you a chance to teach and give back. Plus, you meet great kids and coaches,” Henry said. “One of the things I love about it is that you’re learning every day.”

An area native, the 50-year-old Sparks resident originally hails from Stead, where he spent the first 17 years of his life before enlisting in the Marines. In fact, the first time Henry can clearly remember playing soccer was in Okinawa, Japan, where he was stationed temporarily during his three-year venture as an infantry radio operator. In 1983, Henry returned from the Marines to the Reno area, settled down and started a family. It was roughly 10 years later, after relocating to Sparks and trading in a career in concrete for a job with the City of Reno, that his then 5-year-old daughter truly introduced Henry to his current passion: the game of soccer.

Henry followed his eldest daughter, Maggie, through the echelons of the soccer world, learning the game and coaching her team from its starting point in the Sparks AYSO league up through the club and high school levels. Twenty years, and four soccer playing children later, Henry has adopted the sport as his own.

“My daughters will tell you that there’s soccer on my television set 24 hours a day. I record every game there is,” he said. “Once you start (coaching) there’s so much passion. It gives you a chance to teach and give back; and you meet great people … You do it for the love of the game.”

In the early 2000’s, Henry was recruited by Spanish Springs varsity soccer Coach Mike Faker to coach the newly opened high school’s JV team, where he stayed for three years, before coaching the Reno High school girls JV team for two years. Around 2006, Henry returned to SSHS where he continues to work closely with Faker as the assistant coach for Spanish Springs’ girls varsity team, as well as coaching in the Spanish Springs Soccer Club’s youth “Advantage Program.”

For Henry, the coaching gig that started out as a parental pastime has translated into a way to give back to the local soccer community that helped raise his own kids.

“(Sparks) has such a small-town atmosphere. The whole dynamic of Sparks is great for families,” he said. “We coach because we love to coach. We love to give back to the community. We meet great kids and help to build a soccer community.”

Faker, who first met Henry while acting as the trainer for one of Maggie’s teams, has worked with Henry within the Sparks soccer community for longer than he can remember. Unlike the many coaches who use their athletes to enhance their reputation and careers, Faker says, Henry has a genuine interest in helping every one of his athletes succeed, and it’s clear that his ambitions lie in bettering the Sparks soccer community instead of his own reputation.

“There are coaches out there … who are trying to make a career out of it and who use the kids as a stepping stone,” Faker said. “What makes Joe unique is that he’s not looking to move on. He is invested in northern Nevada Soccer and he wants to see it improve … His focus is the progression of the kids and that’s something that’s hard to put a price tag on.”

After working with Henry as an assistant coach, Faker considers him an invaluable second pair of eyes. Not only does he genuinely care about the enjoyment and success of the kids, Faker says, but he also lends the team the perspective of an experienced soccer-dad.

“You’re always looking for good people to help you coach at the high school level … Joe is one of those guys who is in it for the right reasons,” Faker said. “He cares about the kids. He has two daughters who are playing right now and one who’s already gone through it, and that’s good because he’s seen it through the parent’s perspective.”

After 20 or so years of coaching in the Sparks area, Henry has begun to see the fruits of his community building labor in the form of athletes that he has coached returning to the area, and expressing an interest in helping foster the programs that trained them. For him, seeing kids who have been through the local soccer programs turn around and return the effort is a priceless reward.

“(As coaches) that’s what we’re looking for, to get them involved in that community and giving back,” he said. “Seeing how it’s grown and changed has really been phenomenal. We’ve had the opportunity to work with some really great people.”

With two daughters playing in high school and club divisions, and with soccer-destined grandchildren rapidly approaching the age of cleats and shin guards, Henry doesn’t see himself leaving the sport anytime soon. In fact, after retirement, he envisions a time where he can focus his efforts on coaching, continuing to learn every day from the girls on the field long after his working days are over.

“Their energy brings it out of you,” Henry said about the girls he coaches. “When you find something that you can give back to the community with and that you have a passion for, then it’s easy. Then it’s not work.”
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