Ian Hensley: A coach’s dream

Ian Hensley rallies the Crawfordsville cross country team together in 2020.
Ian Hensley rallies the Crawfordsville cross country team together in 2020.
Jacinda Smith | For the Journal Review

Ian Hensley is one of a kind.

There’s not much the Crawfordsville senior doesn’t bring to the table.

Book smart? That’s him.

Athletic ability? He’s got it covered.

Leadership qualities? Better follow along.

A hard worker? Nobody out does him.

He’s currently fifth in the class of 2022 rankings, the leader of the cross country team, and will be the Athenians’ go-to-guy in basketball this winter.

But it’s not just a senior attribute. Hensley’s academics, drive to succeed and willingness to lead have been there since he stepped foot on campus as a freshman in the fall of 2018.

“Coming into freshman year, I was lucky to have good seniors all the way around me,” Hensley said. “Guys already at the varsity level that showed me what it took. Cross country and basketball and track. I saw the work they put in and I knew I was capable of that work and that if I put my mind to it academically and athletically, that I could do good things.”

There is no doubt he has paid his dues, but Hensley’s work ethic has fast-tracked him to a seat at the table with the brightest and best athletes in the area ­— not just at Crawfordsville.

Sure, he’s athletically gifted, but he’s taken it upon himself to work hard and step into a leadership role even as a underclassman. And that’s no common thing.

“I remember distinctively, he was a sophomore and we were having a sectional practice at Greencastle and two kids were having a bad day and goofing off and Ian of all people got upset with them and stood up as a leader and was like ‘hey we’ve got a game to play, quit messing around.’ And it was a senior he was telling it to,” Crawfordsville boys’ basketball coach David Pierce said. “I’ve only coached two kids like him. And the only other one was Trent Johnson. Usually somebody has a weakness in a spot, but he’s pretty darn good at all of them.”

On the court last winter, Hensley averaged over six points a game, and hauled in nearly six rebounds and four assists as a junior — helping lead the Athenians to a 12-7 mark. In cross country, he spent time on the junior-varsity as a freshman and sophomore, before cracking into the top-7 last year. And his times have plummeted from the 24-minute mark to under 19 minutes. He was an academic all-american as a junior.

“Hard work in running doesn’t always equate to fast times,” Crawfordsville cross country coach Megan Craig said. “You’re going to push yourself and get to a point where you’re working to the best of your ability. I think the difference with him (Ian) is his leadership has helped us be successful. He always gives his best effort. There’s never a day where he comes to practice and half-heartedly does anything. When Ian signs up for something, it’s to be invested and be a part of it and make it better.”

Hensley’s physical growth has allowed him to bud into a varsity athlete for Crawfordsville — but it’s been his mental growth that has set him apart.

“I’ve seen myself mature a lot, physically, emotionally and mentally,” Hensley said. “Cross country is a lot more mental than people think, because there’s a point in every race where you just want to stop running, but I’ve seen myself grow enough that I can push that back and keep going. And same thing for basketball. There’s a lot of stressful situations. Not only have I grown physically and gotten stronger, but I’ve been able to break that mental barrier that I saw myself struggling to get through toward the beginning of my high school career. That’s helped lead me to success and allow me to be a leader too.”

Many athletes can put on a show when the lights come on and everyone is watching — but very few have the discipline to do it all the time.

Hensley is one.

“He just has incredible discipline,” Pierce said. “I remember when he got quarantined multiple times last year, he would wait until night time and he’d run when nobody was out to keep in shape. Kids just don’t do that.

“He’s developed a skill that regardless of ‘who is around me, I will behave a certain way, conduct myself in a certain way.’”

Take away the leadership and the skill and it’s likely Hensley would still be successful with a strong work ethic. But take away the work ethic — and it’s unlikely he has any chance at succeeding at the same level.

“I think the fact that he understands that hard work in the classroom, on the course, on the court, has to be there,” Craig said. “Because he is such a strong academic student, he understands the process. He holds his peers to a higher level, which is great. And a way that is very humble.

“I think it is rare and it’s something that defines who you want your Athenian to be. It’s not just important with accolades. It’s just as important to be a whole well-rounded student-athlete. He embodies the notion of a student athlete.”

Hensley, who hopes to study physical therapy and nutrition in college, is a coach’s dream.

He puts his academics first, works hard and is a great leader.

And as his senior year starts to tick away, he’s just hanging on for the ride. Something well deserved.

“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed every second of it and it’s the last ride this year, so I’m just trying to soak it all in.”


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