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WIU coach keeping busy
After an adventurous season that ended in the second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, Mark Hendrickson has enjoyed a few adventures of his own this summer.
In the past month, the Western Illinois football coach has spent a week in Cuba on a church mission trip and watched his son win a Big Ten championship on the baseball diamond and begin play in a summer wood-bat league.
“It’s been a busy month, but I have enjoyed the time and the experiences,” Hendrickson said Monday before teeing off in Western Illinois’ annual Quad-Cities golf outing at TPC Deere Run.
Following the conclusion of what he labels “productive” spring drills, Hendrickson and his wife, Ericka, had the chance to watch their son, Davis Hendrickson, help lead the Illinois baseball team to a conference title and an NCAA tourney appearance.
Hendrickson arrived at Monday’s outing after watching Davis, who just completed his sophomore season as a starting outfielder for the Fighting Illini, play weekend games for the Waterloo Bucks in the Northwoods League.
In between, he spent a week in Cuba on a mission trip with other members of the Wesleyan United Methodist Church in Macomb, Ill.
It was Hendrickson’s second trip to Cuba. He also participated in a mission trip to Havana seven years ago, and both have been eye-opening experiences.
“Nothing has changed there in the past seven years. The communist party still controls everything and makes certain that everyone lives at the same level of poverty,” Hendrickson said.
“The people we met, they are appreciative, but life there is very different to what we are accustomed to living. My trips there have been very educational.”
One of the things Hendrickson has learned is how government controls extend to the lives of Cuba’s top athletes.
“When their youngsters are about junior-high age, people can take their children to government officials who will test them and watch them compete. If they are deemed to be good enough, they are sent to special high schools with other athletes from their sport,” Hendrickson said.
“They receive advanced training in their sport as well as their education. It is that way in baseball, volleyball and soccer, the only sports that they put much of a focus on.”
Hendrickson said similar academies exist for individuals who are deemed to have exception musical talent or are gifted in the arts.
“The rest of the children don’t have those opportunities,” Hendrickson said. “Coming from the United States, where everyone has a chance, it is such a different situation. I’ve learned a great deal during my two trips, and I have returned home each time appreciative for what we have.”
Hendrickson also is appreciative of what has transpired on the field last fall for Western Illinois.
After going 1-10 in 2009, the Leathernecks finished 8-5 a year ago and returned to postseason play. He said around 45 players are spending the summer on campus, preparing for the start of practice Aug. 5.
“Returning to the playoffs has left our team hungry to get back there,” Hendrickson said. “We had a productive spring. We still have some questions to answer before our opener, but I like the direction things are headed.”
Among the questions Western Illinois will take into camp is finding a starting quarterback, where junior Will Lunt and junior-college transfer Josh Hudson are battling for the starting spot.
By Steve Batterson, The Quad-City Times