ARLINGTON, Texas — In William Henderson’s estimation, it isn’t necessary to always attach a negative panorama to the term, “swag.”
“People tend to want to put a negative connotation to it,” Henderson told MemphiSport during a recent interview from Arlington’s Seguin High School. “In order to wear this, you’ve got to have swag.”
Henderson is referring to the newly-designed uniforms his Texas S.W.A.G. Track and Field Club will wear when it arrives to Texas State University in San Marcos next week for the USATF Region 12 Junior Olympic Track And Field Championships.
The regional competition will take place July 9-12 and will consist of athletes in various age divisions between eight and 18.
Two years ago, Henderson founded Texas S.W.A.G. Track And Field, a non-profit organization that serves specifically as a charitable, religious, and educational entity in Dallas’ Metroplex.
S.W.A.G., which stands for Success, Wisdom, Athleticism, and Grace, is currently comprised of about 90 athletes, many of whom compete for their respective middle and high school.
Come Wednesday, the first day of regional competition, Henderson’s troop will sport their customary pink and charcoal gray threads as they aim to advance to the national Junior Olympics trials later this month.
Since starting his track and field club, Henderson said he’s often been criticized for choosing pink as one of his club’s colors. Unfortunately, he points out, many aren’t aware of his logic by the colors.
A Tyler, Texas native, Henderson selected pink as Texas SWAG’s signature color in honor of his mother, Joyce, who has been a breast cancer survivor for the past 12 years.
“I think the NFL and (Major League) Baseball have really done a lot with pink, especially for the male gender,” Henderson explains. “Last year, in my first year, there were some negative comments from people. I remember one a lady saying, ‘I’d never let my son wear pink.’ It made me feel the mentality of some people. It also brought to light that we all have our own prejudices. It kind of made me feel sad, especially when you’re dealing with kids because they are at that age where they’re being developed mentally.”
Long before establishing Texas S.W.A.G., Henderson enjoyed a track and field career that afforded him to run at the collegiate level. A 1987 John Tyler High graduate, Henderson was a standout distance runner during his three-year varsity stint, having advanced to the Texas state regionals in the 800-meter event as a senior.
In addition, he also participated in the 4×400 meter relay at Tyler. Consequently, he joined the track and field program at nearby Jarvis Christian College, where he was a member of the 4×200 and 4×400 meter relay teams.
After nearly a 10-year hiatus from track and field, Henderson ultimately regained his passion for the sport in 2007 during which he was asked as a substitute teacher to work as a volunteer assistant at Kennemer Middle School in Duncanville, Texas.
“The head football coach who didn’t know much about track allowed me to come out and work with the kids,” Henderson explained. “One of the things I realized when I was subbing and coaching is that a lot of our kids aren’t bad. They just need someone to talk to. They way things are nowadays, there’s something in the word, ‘coach,’ that the kids love, respect, and lean on.”
Because of a coaching staff that includes individuals who have competed at the collegiate level, Texas S.W.A.G. currently is comprised of about 90 athletes, a figure that has more than doubled since Henderson officially launched the club in January 2013.
“I surround myself with good people, with coaches who are U. S. Track And Field certified,” said Henderson, who also coaches the Mansfield Texans youth football team. “Most of my coaches are coaching at the high school level now, which adds legitimacy to our program because you’ve got people out here who know what they’re doing.”
Besides helping youths compete at a high level, among the skills Texas S.W.A.G. coaches emphasize to athletes is how to identify various forms and breathing or, as Henderson acknowledges, “how to run properly.”
“We have certain types of equipment for their arms like bird bands,” Henderson said. “We also train them for the quarter mile (or 400 meters). I was taught at John Tyler that if you can run the 400, you can run anything. That’s what I build my program on.”
An organization that ranges between the ages of seven and 18, among Texas S.W.A.G.’s key objectives is to promote good academic standing, particularly with regards to enlightening youth athletes on what it takes to earn scholarships upon graduating high school.
“We stay in contact with kids year round,” said Henderson, whose organization boasts indoor and outdoor seasons. “That in itself is how we help high schoolers. We also stay with them on their grades. We give them NCAA Clearing House packages that tell them what colleges expect.”
Given its rapid growth in such a brief time as a non-profit organization, Henderson is appreciative of the fact that parents have bought into his staff’s unorthodox style of coaching, let alone his club’s unique colors.
“There’s a fine line between being swag and being cocky,” Henderson said. “I like running. All of my buddies in high school knew that track was going to be my deal.”
So far, so good for a flourishing program that is starting to have a viable presence in Dallas’ Metroplex.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.