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Dee Dee equals determination and discipline

The Atlanta Athletics Hall of Fame (HOF) Class of 2020 female selection is an outstanding role model for future Lady Rabbs. Dee Dee Henderson is a study in just how far you can take an athletic career if you mix talent with determination and discipline.

As a coach who spent the Spring of 2004 working with Dee Dee, I know firsthand. A Lady Rabb senior, she was set to be the leader of the softball team. Turns out she decided to run track also and led both teams to success.

Competition in sports began for Dee Dee as a fourth grader. Living in Marietta, she joined a girls’ softball team in Atlanta. Starting without a bat, ball or glove, her Dad began to teach her some basics of the sport.

So began a love for softball that would take her all the way through a superb college career on the diamond. I might add that her parents Kentry and Kimberly were always supportive of each activity she undertook.

Once in Atlanta Middle School, she took up volleyball and track. Then came a chance to add softball as she entered Atlanta High School. Just to keep busy, Dee Dee also became a cheerleader. Her high school exploits as a Lady Rabb are numerous, and I’ll just list some highlights here. She lettered four years in softball and track, adding three in volleyball.

Her softball honors included an Academic All-State selection in 2004 and All-State pick in 2003. Dee Dee batted .450 as a senior while scoring 36 runs with 32 stolen bases. Her summer league team won the 2002 State championship.

While squeezing in some time for track, she represented Atlanta on the 4 x 400 relay three times at the state meet earning two bronze medals on that quartet. While busy with three sports and cheer leading, she was a member of the National Honor Society.

At this point I want to mention a personal story between Dee Dee and me. In the winter of 2004, Athletic Director Ben Scharnberg asked if I would help the girls track team.

Having coached girls in the sport for a number of years before, I took his offer. I was aware of two freshmen girls and a junior who all were good runners at 400 meters. They needed a leader and fourth team member. Knowing of Dee Dee’s previous state experience, she would be perfect.

However, I was told that she would be concentrating on softball to finish out her senior year. That must not be. I confronted Dee Dee and explained the need and the role she could play to make that foursome awesome. She relented and made me a happy coach.

That season the relay won all of their races and again we were at state in Austin, May 2004. The race was on and the two freshmen ran the first two legs with Dee Dee on the third. She and two girls from Keenedale and Canyon were bunched passing the 200 mark.

Suddenly Dee Dee tripped and fell to the track. Seemingly disaster had struck. Somehow, she held on to the baton, got up and gave chase.

She got back close and in a very close finish the Lady Rabbs were third.

Their time was a school record which stills stands. It was even faster than the 2019 3A girls’ winner at state. I often wonder had she not fallen they may well have been champs. By the way, Tiffany Lockett anchored that team and would be the state 400-meter champ in 2005.

Having enjoyed working with Dee Dee and witnessing her determination, I knew she was a special young lady and athlete. Now for the rest of the story.

Dee Dee had always wanted to go to a big university out of state and play softball. She became interested in the Louisiana State (LSU) Tigers softball program. They showed some interest also, and she gained a partial scholarship.

A country girl from Marietta, Texas and Atlanta High she was now in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Recognizing her speed, the LSU coaches used her as a pinch runner her freshman season.

Dee Dee used her speed to go 21 of 25 stolen bases which was third best in the SEC. Still used primarily as a pinch runner as a sophomore she played in 60 games and was 28 for 32 stolen bases.

The junior year saw Dee Dee as a starter. She produced a 15-game hitting streak while also streaking on the base paths to 29 stolen bases.

That spring she stole four bases in one game to break an LSU record. Best of all she found time for her studies and was honored with a third team Academic All-America selection.

There was no slowing down her senior season in 2008 for the Lady Tigers. Her teammates honored her with a Tri-Captain selection. Dee Dee was frustrating to opposing catchers as she ran for 35 steals.

Her .90 stolen base percentage was an LSU record and her career 113 stolen base total ranked second in LSU history. She has many softball memories involving base running against top teams such as UCLA and Florida.

One really stands out. Tagging on third after a fly to left she streaked for home but saw the ball fly past her. She would be out but executed a perfect slide slightly jarring the ball loose from the Gator catcher while getting her foot to the plate – “Safe” cried the ump.

Studies and softball were a grind but in four years she earned a degree in Kinesiology and landed a job in Health Care Management in Baton Rouge. She later added a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix in Health Administration. She currently is Regional Director at Leading Health Care of Louisiana.

Dee Dee describes herself in a resume as very passionate, self-confident, energetic and a tenacious young lady. I could have written that for her back in the Spring of 2004 when the relay team needed a leader that is exactly the person we got.

Her attributes were just as evident then as now. Dee Dee Henderson as a member of the Atlanta HOF Class of 2020 will always be a strong role model for any Lady Rabb who aspires to use discipline and determination to make dreams come true.

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