BELLINGHAM, WA— What are the chances that a kid from Dundee, Scotland who grew up with a love for and talent to play football would end up getting an “Offensive Player of the Week” award playing #FutbolRapido in the Western Indoor Soccer League out of Bellingham, Washington, USA? Turns out chances were extremely likely. It’s happened for Richard Henderson, who leads Bellingham United FC’s potent attack with 11 goals as the Hammers chase down top spot in the WISL.
Henderson is currently a Residential Director at Western Washington University, where his profile page reveals a lengthy soccer background in both Scotland and the US.
“When my wife and I decided to move to Bellingham one of the things I liked was the soccer opportunities,” Richard tells goalWA.net. “Not just BUFC but the popularity of the game. In Reno there were no opportunities to play at a good level. I don’t like to play soccer unless it’s at a high level otherwise you are just playing and waiting to get hurt. As soon as I moved here I was involved with the Western Washington Men’s team coaching, and a lot of the previous players had played for BUFC and the head coach knew about them also and said good things. I went to the open tryouts not sure what to expect but I am glad I did as they are a really good bunch of lads and it is a good standard.”
Richard’s path in soccer began like it has for many Scottish boys. “We do things a little differently than in the states,” he says. “We graduate high school at the age of 16 unless you plan on going to University, then you would stay on and do your highers. I already had a contract with Raith Rovers Football Club so once I was able to graduate I left and signed professionally with them. I was there two years then at Arbroath and Forfar football clubs in the Scottish 2nd and 3rd divisions.”
It all started well, but then Henderson wasn’t seeing the field as much as he wanted. “After my fourth year of playing professionally I was frustrated at not getting a chance to play regularly in the first team and knew that level was always going to be there for me. Some other younger players at the time were coming over to the United States to go to school and play so I started to look into it. After a few months of talking to agents and schools I agreed to play with McKendree University, IL who were in the NAIA at the time (now in NCAA II).”
America offers new chances, in an out of sports, but the money just isn’t there yet below MLS. Richard says, “I honestly came to purely play soccer but after I had been at a couple of training camps and combines the money at the USL level was just not good enough and I had spent four years chasing the big time back home and didn’t fancy doing it all over again so decided to stay at school and graduate.”
It was in college that Henderson first got to play some indoor soccer. “My indoor spell with Illinois Piasa was fun but it was short lived. I wouldn’t exactly call it a career. Most of the players were St Louis Steamers players and it was a good standard of league we were in with the majority of teams being full time. I was still in school without a vehicle so struggled to make it to all the practices but played a few games and actually learned a lot in a short space of time. Head Coach was Joe Reinger, who scored over 600 goals in his indoor career, was a really crafty forward. I wish I could have played more for them but school was more important at the time and they were short lived as they were replaced by the St Louis Ambush.”
Now he’s in a different country, state and phase of life and sport. He’s in Bellingham, and he’s a Hammer. “I approach the game with a purpose to enjoy myself. Some times it may not look like that as I get competitive but I used to play for a living and that was tough. Now however, yes I want to win but I want to enjoy it. Help other players whether that be with knowledge of the game or with assisting them with plays. I am just thoroughly enjoying practicing regularly and playing with a good team at a good standard.”
Henderson likes what he sees in the WISL. “I have been pleasantly surprised. It’s a high standard. It falls into that semi-professional box which is spot on. There are maybe a third of the players in the league with aspirations to go on and play professionally (whether that be overseas, USL or PDL) and the rest of the league is the best college players or former pro players. I like what it does for the area and as you can see from the attendances the fans are enjoying it also.”
Bellingham United supporters are really enjoying watching Henderson learn the indoor game and click with other longtime favorite players. It gives them hope that they might make a return to the WISL Final, and this go-round perhaps win it all. They also must be wondering if Richard will be hanging around this summer when the Evergreen Premier League takes BUFC outdoors.
“Hmm…” hesitates Henderson. “I want to play outdoor as that is what I’ve grew up playing but there are a couple of logistical things we need to sort out before I will know that for sure. I would like to get it sorted as the outdoor group did not do well last year and we are showing now it’s not from lack of talent so I’d like to help be a part of making us a force indoor and outdoor. Right now I am enjoying playing for BUFC and am hoping it will work out (for the EPLWA.)”