Behind every successful athlete there is usually a driving force. In Samantha Hennings’s case it’s her parents, Mark and Jacqueline.
From the time Samantha could hold a racket her dad began taking her to the South Sound squash courts because it’s is his sport of choice.
She attended weekend clinics and when she wasn’t playing she was watching her dad compete. He was a top player for Cayman for years and still plays in masters tournaments.
So it was hardly surprising when Samantha began competing at the earliest opportunity.
In fact, she garnered a second-place finish when she was only 11 at the Caribbean Squash Junior Championships in the U-13 division.
In 2004 and 2005 she secured second and third-places in the Under-15 division respectively. Hennings, now the reigning Under-17 Caribbean Squash Champion, explains why collecting that title is one of the highlights of her young life.
‘The moment after a five-game match, when I won the point, was an unforgettable experience. I realised then that dedication combined with a little tenacity pays off,’ she said.
She notes that she looks to her parents for guidance. ‘My parents were always encouraging me to get involved in sports.
‘I have them to thank for the support throughout my years of squash and my motivation to keep on playing. My dad used to take me down to the courts, as he has always been involved.’
Even though this 16-year-old is preparing for life beyond sports, she said she cannot imagine life without squash or sports.
‘Squash has become a part of who I am. My involvement in sports – I competed in gymnastics for three years in my childhood, and various school athletics – has given me a healthier lifestyle. It has helped me get involved with my community wherever I go.’
She said that sports helped make her transition to St Michael’s University School two years ago more palatable.
‘Moving to boarding school two years ago was a tough choice. However, as I went out to play sports at school and in my community, I met people I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise, making it easier to adapt.’
However, she stressed the importance of early involvement in sports. ‘As a woman, starting a sport, even at my age, can be intimidating. For this reason, I believe it is important that young women are exposed to sports, which gives them the confidence to grow in the sport and try new things.’
As one of the candidates selected for a profile during Honouring Women Month, Samantha likes the idea.
‘I was pleased when I found out that I was chosen to be profiled. I believe that Honouring Women Month is very important as it highlights many achievements and outstanding accomplishments of women in our society.’
Squash is becoming very popular amongst girls and women in Cayman, witnessed by the big turnout a couple of weeks ago when world No.4 player Natalie Grainger visited for exhibition matches and clinics aimed specifically for women.
Sports Department Women’s Coordinator Merta Day said that Samantha is a shining example of how young people can achieve with parental support.
Day said: ‘No matter who we are, we all need help at some time in our lives.
‘Samantha’s parents have always supported her, pushing her squash career along, and she has blossomed with their help from a simple squash player to the current U-17 Caribbean Squash Champion. Who knows what’s in store for Samantha?’