By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The “Getting to Know” series is designed to help the community learn more about the coaches and administrators that are guiding today’s Portage County student-athletes to be tomorrow’s leaders.
Today, we get to know Crestwood High School girls basketball head coach TJ Henderson, who recently completed his second season leading the Red Devils’ program.
A: Kirtland, Ohio.
Q: High school?
A: Kirtland High School (Class of 2007). Played football and basketball.
A: Cleveland State University (Class of 2012); University of Missouri Columbia (Master’s Degree, Class of 2022). Bachelor’s Degree in K-12 Intervention Specialist Mild/Moderate; Master’s Degree in Positive Psychology in School Counseling, Leadership and Coaching.
Q: Current occupation?
A: Intervention Specialist at Crestwood High School.
Q: What inspired you to become a coach?
A: Growing up with my father being a coach and seeing the connection he had with his athletes. Being around my dad and something I am passionate about allowed me to see how he used the lessons in athletics to help his athletes grow. After years of coaching and reunions, I got to see how my live and passion for a sport could help athletes build confidence in themselves and see them succeed.
Q: What makes being a coach at Crestwood special to you?
A: Coaching at Crestwood has been a great blessing. The young ladies I have been blessed to coach have changed me as a person and coach. The amount of determination and effort they give day in and day out has really allowed me to enjoy every moment of it.
Q: Who has been your biggest influence?
A: My biggest influence has been my dad, but as a coaching mentor outside of family, Matt Ridgeway from Kirtland and Roy Infalvi from Perry (I coached with him at Willoughby South).
My dad has always been there for me and has been my biggest fan and critic. He has shown me how to be a better person and coach, while always having focus on family and positivity. I grew up knowing I wanted to coach and have been blessed to have my dad alongside me. He does not miss many games and is even coaching from the stands when he sees something. His passion for athletes and helping them compete and grow is just simply amazing to see. He has always been the No. 1 person I strive to be.
Matt and Roy had major impacts on me as a young coach and helped me to understand not only the X’s and O’s, but the ins and outs of coaching. They have been people I have leaned on for major decisions in my coaching life that have guided me to where I am today.
Q: Favorite TV show?
A: Ted Lasso.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: The Boondocks Saints.
Q: Favorite musical artist?
A: Chris Stapelton and Garth Brooks.
Q: Favorite food or meal?
A: Steak and asparagus.
Q: Best vacation?
A: Dublin, Ireland.
Q: Shoutout to former teammates?
A: Gary Steigerwald, Mark Krysiak, Tony Pletikosic.
Q: Favorite motto?
A: H.A.V.E.F.U.N. (Heart, Attitude, Vision, Excitement, Focus, United, No Regrets).
Q: Describe your coaching philosophy?
A: Positive coaching. My goal is to build positive relationships through sport and help my athletes grow as athletes, but more importantly, as human beings.
Q: Favorite restaurant?
A: El Taco Macho.
Q: Favorite teacher from high school?
A: John Valentic.
Q: Advice you would give the younger version of yourself?
A: Stay positive and keep grinding. All the speed bumps are just learning opportunities, so learn from them and stay true to yourself. Always focus on the athlete as a person first and the athlete second. They will work harder, believe in the message and always H.A.V.E.F.U.N.
Q: Favorite coach from your playing days?
A: Matt Ridgeway and Dan Kukura.
Q: Coaching resume?
A: Kirtland seventh grade boys basketball coach, boys basketball varsity assistant, middle school football coach (2008-2012), Kirtland middle school track and field coach (2012), Willoughby South JV boys basketball coach (2012-15), high school football varsity assistant (2012); Maple Heights High School boys basketball varsity assistant and track and field assistant (2015-17); Aurora High School boys basketball head coach (2017-20); Kenston High School JV boys basketball coach (2020-21); Crestwood High School girls basketball head coach (2021-present).
Q: Favorite sports team?
A: Cleveland Browns.
Q: Favorite athlete then?
A: Michael Jordan.
Q: Favorite athlete now?
A: Michael Jordan.
Q: First job as a teenager?
Q: Family member that always gave you the best advice?
A: Mom and dad.
Q: Halloween costume last year?
Q: Favorite video game?
A: Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2.
Q: First car?
A: Ford Explorer Sport Trek.