By Jane Hines, special to USTA.com
Henry Cox was born without a left arm. From day one, he learned to adapt to his world, making certain that he would not be left out of anything he really wanted to do.
From the beginning, Cox really wanted to play tennis. After all, both of his parents and his sister were avid players. He began his experience at the age of three, tagging along with his family to the tennis courts toting a badminton racquet.
Henry Cox played varsity tennis for Lincoln Southeast High School in Lincoln, Neb. He and his partner, Kile Johnson (former Nebraska District President), paired up to win numerous doubles championships. Johnson reflects, "We played a bit of power/touch, although Henry could hit with power when the situation called for it. He loved spins and lobs and talk, talk, talk!
"Teams that didn't know him would hit at Henry at the net, but soon learned that was not a good strategy. Henry was a master strategist and could immediately spot an opponent's weakness and capitalize on it!"
Cox went on to play tennis at Nebraska Wesleyan University, where he later coached. He has also coached basketball and swimming at his alma mater.
He mastered other sports as well. Johnson described Cox’s athleticism: "I was amazed at this one-armed kid who was constantly talking, psyching out the competition and throwing basketball passes that were both behind his back AND behind his neck, rather than behind his lower back. He more than held his own and was a very good shot, both inside and outside. He was the Southeast High ping-pong champion, and I realized then that he could play any sport. He played golf, and shot under 90 swinging either forehand or backhand."
In his life on the golf course, Cox has made four holes-in-one… so far.
Cox continued his coaching career in New York City as an instructor for the USTA. He has been teaching and coaching tennis for more than 50 years. He is a Nebraska Tennis Association and Wesleyan University Hall of Famer. He has served numerous terms on the USTA National Adaptive Tennis Committee and is the current chair of the USTA Texas Section Adaptive Tennis Committee.
Cox is a role model to his students, encouraging them to continue trying, even when circumstances are difficult. He is famous for his one-handed shoe-tying exercise. "How many of you can tie your shoes with one hand?" he asks. At that point, his students come to realize that this is a challenge that Henry overcomes every day. After a fun demonstration and little bit of practice, they enter Henry’s world and master the task.
Johnson credits Cox for encouraging him to give back to the game of tennis as a volunteer. Johnson adds, "Henry has always been an enthusiastic winner in both sports and life. While he may have only one arm, his determination and vision make him ‘able’ to do it all. Far from being ‘disabled’, he is an energetic doer and mentor and inspiration to all of us!"
Think of Henry Cox the next time you tie your shoes. Like Henry, look for the next opportunity to inspire a kid in need.