Inspired to teach

Shiprock Northwest’s coach finds inspiration, direction from her parents

Special to the Times | Ray Landry
Northwest coach Kelen Henderson watches the game from the sideline against Tsé Yi’ Gai in Shiprock on Feb. 2.


Almost every memory Kalen Henderson has takes place in a gym.

Half of the 23 years of her life unfolded on wooden floors in front of thousands of basketball fans.

“I got into the sport when I was about four, actually, when my dad used to coach at Shiprock around 20 years old, as the assistant coach,” Henderson said. “He coached the boys, and that place was like my home. I grew up there, in my diapers.

“It was pretty much always in my life,” she said. “It started when I was, like, two years old, probably.”

Basketball became a part of her life thanks to her mother, Shanon Henderson, a high school state champion, and her father and current Shiprock girls head coach, Larenson Henderson.

Kalen, 23, grew up playing and watching basketball. She has appeared at numerous state championships with Shiprock and Kirtland Central. She earned two state titles with the Broncos in 2011 and 2012.

It made sense for Kalen to return to basketball six years later but this time as the head girls’ basketball coach for Shiprock Northwest High School.

Henderson is in her first year and the Falcons are 7-14 and 0-5 in District 1-2A.

Henderson said she was inspired to return to the game as a coach.

“My mother was the reason why I wanted to play basketball and win a state title,” she said. “She’s a state champ herself … She was the one that made me want to win a state title myself because I wanted to have my own story to tell just like she would share with me.

“My father was the same way,” she said. “He was a great shooter as well, and he inspired me a lot to be the best 3-point shooter.

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Categories: Basketball

About Author

Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi

Sunnie Clahchischiligi has been the sports writer for the Navajo Times since 2008. She has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the University of New Mexico. Before joining the Times, she worked at the St. Cloud Times (Minn.), the Albuquerque Journal, the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sports Illustrated Magazine in New York City and the Salt Lake Tribune. She can be reached at or via cell at (505) 686-0769.