Last Saturday evening Robert Hensel, a founder and chair of the board of Beyond Walls, was presented with the 2016 United States Olympic Committee Volunteer Coach of the Year Award.
Hensel received the award during the closing ceremonies of the Beyond Walls Squash Week. Formerly Indian Summer, the Beyond Walls Squash Week featured amateur, pro-am and professional singles and doubles tournaments in Minneapolis & St. Paul’s, Minnesota. Dan Heinrich, the director of analytics and web services at US Squash, presented the award.
Six years ago Rob Hensel helped start Beyond Walls, the urban squash program based at the University of Minnesota Recreation and Wellness Center. Hensel is friends with Greg Zaff, the founder of the urban squash movement, and Zaff advised Hensel how to start one in the Twin Cities.
Since the program formally launched in September 2011, Hensel has been involved at every level of the program. He has been chair of the board. He coaches team members on court at least four times a week, both on weekdays and on weekends. “Rob has a unique way of noticing effort and attitude, ” said Jazmin Danielson, the executive director of Beyond Walls, “and uses those aspects as ways to encourage students to be better squash players.” Hensel mentors staff members, travels to local tournaments, attends student’s basketball games and grandparent days and has gone to several team events around the country. On Saturdays he often picks up team members and takes them to practice. At each Beyond Walls family event he bring his famous homemade macaroni-and-cheese dish.
“Our students look at Rob as a father figure, ” Danielson said, “because of the high expectations he holds for each of them, the behavior he models and the love he displays for each student that walks through our door.”
The USOC Volunteer Coach of the Year is given out annually to a coach who exhibits the core squash values of service, support and fellowship without thought of recompense. The previous honoree was Paul Cussen of the MetroSquash program in Chicago.