Championship Coach: Henricks guides 4 MBJH teams to Metro titles
Mountain Brook Junior High teacher/coach Bruce Henricks guided four teams — eighth-grade volleyball, seventh-grade boys basketball, girls tennis, and boys tennis — to Birmingham Metro titles during the 2020-2021 school year.
April 20, 2021 — Over his 32 years at Mountain Brook Junior High, Bruce Henricks has become an expert at coaching his teams to peak at the right time.
Whether it’s volleyball, basketball, or tennis, his athletes arrive at the Birmingham Metro Tournament relaxed, confident, and ready to compete.
“One of my top priorities with every team I coach is to be playing our very best at the end of the season,” Henricks said. “I try to structure things where we are confident and having fun come Metro Tournament time.”
The results speak for themselves.
During Henricks’ tenure at MBJH, his teams have won around 40 Metro championships and more than a dozen others before the Metro League was started in the late 1990s. This includes 13 of the last 14 in girls tennis, nine of the last 14 in boys tennis, eight of the last 13 in volleyball, and five of the last 13 in boys basketball.
This year, all four squads that Henricks coaches captured their respective Metro titles: eighth-grade volleyball, seventh-grade boys basketball, girls tennis, and boys tennis.
Although it’s happened twice before, Henricks said this is the first time since the 2008-09 school year that all four of his teams won the Metro championship in the same year. He gives his athletes all the credit.
“My job is just to help those kids realize their potential,” Henricks said. “To me, the most important thing in coaching is proving to the athletes they can do some things they didn’t believe they could do.”
Henricks is a North Dakota native who played football, basketball, golf, and track and field in high school. He then attended Minot State University — where he had stints on the football, baseball, and tennis teams — and earned degrees in physical education and biology.
Henricks followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a high school teacher and coach after college graduation. He moved to Birmingham, his wife’s hometown, in 1987 and landed a position at MBJH two years later.
Since then, he has taught science and coached the same three sports.
“I think Bruce is special because, first and foremost, he wants the absolute best for every student he teaches or coaches,” MBJH Principal Donald Clayton said. “He has this unique way of helping a kid grow in any context, whether it’s in the athletic arena or in the classroom. I’m not sure I’ve known anyone as consistent with how he does things and as consistent with his success with students as Bruce is.”
Henricks certainly models the values he seeks to instill in his young athletes, such as discipline and perseverance. Many mornings he arrives at school before dawn to run and often doesn’t leave until the evening hours after the conclusion of a game or practice.
Henricks has run 20 marathons, both before and after hip replacement surgery, and has twice competed in the prestigious Boston Marathon.
“I don’t think I have any more talent or ability than anybody else, but I try hard to not get outworked,” he said. “That’s something I have a little control over.”
Henricks decided early in his career that he wanted to work with junior high-age athletes rather than chase opportunities at the high school level. The decision has allowed him to provide quality coaching and mentorship to hundreds of seventh- and eighth-graders while also sparing time for his own family.
Henricks and his wife, Margaret, raised two daughters, Laura and Katie, who both excelled as young athletes themselves.
“Bruce found his thing, how he can impact the world and impact the community, and he committed to it,” Clayton said. “There aren’t many people who invest in a school as much as he does. I mean, he hasn’t taken off a season. He’s special.”
Even with all of his success, Henricks maintains a growth mindset that informs his approach to teaching and coaching. He strives to learn from every experience and use it to improve.
“Every class I have ever taught or team I have coached has taught me something that helped me get better as a teacher or coach,” Henricks said.