Harris still going strong after almost 40 years

Published 1:25 am Wednesday, May 27, 2009

NATCHEZ — When Henry Harris first picked up a tennis racket back in 1971, he had no idea he’s still be playing competitively almost 40 years later.

But that’s exactly what Harris, who is the director of tennis at Duncan Park, is doing.

He recently won tournaments in Houston, Texas and Jackson in the 55 and older age group and also qualified for the Senior Olympic national finals in Las Vegas this year, although he was unable to participate because of an injury.

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But it’s one simple thing that keeps him playing.

“It’s a love of the game,” Harris said. “When I first started playing I didn’t think I’d play this long. But when I go to tournaments, I see people as old as 85 out there. Tennis is a sport you can play for life.”

Harris started playing tennis when he was a student at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

He played linebacker for the football team, but quickly realized there wasn’t much of a future in the sport for someone his size and stature.

“I was just a little bitty guy,” Harris said. “I was too small to play football so I took up tennis.”

And it turned out to be a good decision, seeing that Harris, who turns 59 next month, is still going strong on the courts 38 years later.

But although he enjoys competing in tournaments, he also enjoys teaching the area youth about the game he loves.

He has hosted summer camps the past three years, and says he wants to teach as many kids as he can about the sport.

“I want to get as many kids as I can into tennis,” Harris said. “Everybody can’t play football for the rest of their lives. Tennis is a sport you can enjoy as long as you want.”

And Harris is pleased that his goal is being realized each summer.

“Tennis has picked up tremendously in the area,” Harris said. “When I came back in 2006 there were only a few kids playing. Now there are 10 to 12 per week who want to come out (to Duncan Park) and play tennis.”