Catherine Smith, tennis standout for the Clinton Dark Horses, signed her letter of intent to play at Methodist University Thursday afternoon. Doing so with family and friends all around, she made her commitment to the Monarchs, something she never thought possible.
”I started playing tennis four years ago and when I started I was not good at all. Coach (Robert) Jones brought me here to where I am now,” said Smith. “He always hit with me as much as possible. I put in five-hour long days and put in the work as much as I could to improve and I exceeded my own expectations.”
“Then when I had my last game I thought that was it for me and tennis — I had no ideas about going to play in college,” continued Smith. “Then when I was talking to my counselor, she said she thought I had the talent to play at the D2 level and I jumped on that chance immediately. Then, before I knew it, I was getting calls from all over from people interested in me.”
Her head coach also shared a few words about her journey to being a college student-athlete.
“She has been a fantastic player to coach,”said Jones.”To watch her grow from her sophomore year when she was just an exhibition player to playing at number one has been amazing to watch. She took the role of playing at one head on and was simply fantastic all year.”
“I never thought she would’ve advanced this far to be able to play in college, but she is proof that through hard work you can do anything,” he continued. “She will only continue to rise in college and Methodist have a great addition with her as a player and student.”
The proud words and excitement for Smith on her signing day didn’t just stop with her and her coach. Perhaps the proudest words of all came from her mom and brother who were there with her.
“I’m just so proud. This is something we never thought was possible and I remember how sad she was when she thought tennis was over,” said mother Ingrid Smith. “Then, once she started applying, she got two calls from local colleges and emails from everywhere with interest.”
“We were a bit shocked when it happened, but she made a good choice,” her mother went on. “The school, coaches and team were like an instant family and we’re just excited for her.”
“I’m really proud of her,” said Catherine’s brother Curt. “This is truly a great opportunity, she picked a good school and this day is something to be proud about.”
Though Smith is just short of a full-ride scholarship, it didn’t hinder her from making the decision to become a Monarch. Her future plans played a role.
“It was a hard decision, but I wanted to stay close to home. Plus they have a really great professional tennis management program, which is something I really want to do,” she stated. “With this, I’ll be able to coach, referee, teach, fix rackets and other tennis related stuff. This is something I really want to also pursue with teaching.”
With everything coming to a close on the athlete’s big day, she had but a few final words to share.
“I have to thank my parents, though I’m sad my dad couldn’t be here because he was out of town; but without the 24/7 support from them and my brother, I wouldn’t be here,” a grateful Smith remarked. “I also have to thank my coaches, my teammates and friends for their continuous support. I wouldn’t have this opportunity without them either.”
“One quote that I always say and keep telling myself to help get me to this point is this: ‘Determination is the key to success.’ If you stay determined enough, you can make anything happen and make your dreams come true like mine.”
Reach Michael Hardison at [email protected] Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @SampsonInd.