64-year-old Susan Hendricks wins Collegiate All-American honor for ASU racquetball

She became possibly the oldest athlete ever to capture the honor

When Susan Hendricks became possibly the oldest athlete to win any collegiate All-American honor, she said it was hard to believe she made it so far.

"I shouldn't be playing racquetball. I shouldn't be in school," the 64-year-old Hendricks said.

Yet, she never let age prevent her from chasing her passions, which led her back to playing the game she'd played since the 1970s.

Hendricks, competing with ASU's club racquetball team, won the silver medal in the women's singles category in the Intercollegiate Racquetball Championships on April 6 in Tempe. She defeated two players who are in their 20s to advance and capture the honor.

The journey has taken winding turns, starting when Hendricks began playing after she graduated from ASU in 1976 with a degree in concert piano.

"My boyfriend, I was finding out I wasn't seeing him as much," she said. "And I find out he was playing racquetball. I was becoming a racquetball widow."

Hendricks said that to spend more time with her boyfriend, she decided to get into the sport.

She said since then, she played racquetball off and on. Her longest hiatus from the sport lasted until she went to a regional tournament in Phoenix to see if there was anyone she knew playing in it.

That is where Hendricks found a friend she met in college playing in the tournament. 

Along with seeing an old friend, Hendricks met a man named Barry, who she would later marry.

"Barry had asked me, 'Hey, do you want to play sometime?' And that's how I got started back into it when I was 40," she said.

But getting back into the sport wasn't easy.

She took another break from racquetball to work full-time and care for her mother who had suffered a stroke. During this period, she began experiencing back pain and came to find out that she had broken her back.

In the midst of recovery from a back fusion, Hendricks helped coach ASU students along with Darrin Schenck, the current racquetball coach for ASU's club team.

"And after nine months of recovery, I was able to play again," Hendricks said. "And during that time is when I sort of had an epiphany to come back to school."

Since she graduated from ASU in the 1970s, Hendricks has been working in finance. Now she is taking online classes through the University. 

The long road, stirred by education, ended with her joining ASU's racquetball club team.

"We had talked about it in advance," Schenck said. "And I said, 'I would love to have you on the team.' I know how hard she works."

He said the expectations for Hendricks when she joined the team were initially low. However, his outlook quickly changed.

"At first, the collegiate All-American wasn't necessarily on the radar," Schenck said. "But the further in the process we got, the more I became aware of that as a possibility for her. We gave it a shot last year and came up a little short, but this year, we managed to do it."

When she won the silver earlier in the month, Hendricks said she couldn't believe what she had accomplished.

"It feels unreal. It's shocking that it would even happen," she said. "And to be the oldest, I just never imagined it."

The fear of coming back to school and racquetball at her age never deterred Hendricks. Rather, she embraced it, and encouraged others to do the same when presented with similar circumstances.

"There's something in me that says, 'Okay, forget the logic, let's follow the heart,'" she said. "Get out of your comfort zone, and try something different."

Reach the reporter at jhorst2@asu.edu and follow @HorseySeven on Twitter.

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