At this year's Spring All Sports Banquet, former members of Coach Paul Smith's tennis teams paid tribute to their former coach. Those students, and their tributes, follow. They are: Traci Jordan, Coby Velez, Claudia Canfield, Carley Chew, Leret Hemphill and Price Ruffin. Nick Dyer made the plaque presentation.
Traci: Coach Smith been coaching for 39 years, and 30 of them have been right here in Mason. He has taken 104 players to the state meet, winning 28 silver medals and 62 championships. But more important to Coach Smith than all of those individual medals are the 22 State Team Tennis Championships his players have won. And we’re on a winning streak! This year, we won our 12th consecutive championship. And true to form, Coach Smith is already losing sleep over meeting Brock in the finals in 2015. That is if we make it to the finals…
Coby: I remember the first time I met Coach Smith when I was in the seventh grade. I went to the high school courts to watch my cousin, Michael Vargas, play a doubles match. As the match began I was quickly accompanied by the legend himself as he opted to sit right next to me instead of the plenty of free space that was OBVIOUSLY available in the stands. I thought nothing of it as I knew eventually I would have to suck up to this man just enough to get a spot on his famed tennis team.
However, nothing in the world could have prepared me for what was next. They were one of the hardest hitting doubles teams in the state, so it was only a matter of time until the mason duo slammed a ball into the back fence without even coming close to landing inside the court. Just as the ball crashed into the back fence so did the back of Coach Smith’s hand land square into the middle of my chest. “Sorry, I have a weird hand twitch every time we do something stupid”, he said to me with a sly smile on his face. I knew I was in for a long match, but I also seemed to have stumbled upon the secret behind Mason Tennis’ unsurmountable success. Coach Smith physically beats his athletes until they are perfect tennis players!
Looking past that, Coach Smith has taught us many valuable lessons. He has taught us to serve and volley, never apologize for pegging your opponents, and to always move our feet. These lessons have brought us many championships but they are nowhere near as important as the unforgettable life lessons he has taught us along the way such as: never give up, always give it your all, stand up strong during adversity, and strive for what you want no matter the odds. These are all life lessons that Coach Smith has pounded into our heads, and in my case, - chest, day in and day out. Thanks Coach Smith, for everything you have done for us!
Claudia: I have known Coach Smith my entire life. It seems like that would make it easy to think up a few sentences describing what he has meant to me and to the team, but it probably has made it a lot harder. I could talk about his many years of service to Mason ISD as a teacher, coach, bus driver, the dean of students, or his devotion to detention hall. I could talk about the coaching awards and recognition he has received. I could talk about the dozens of State Championships his players have won under his coaching tutelage. I could even talk about what a positive role model he is to all the students at MHS. But I think what I love most about Coach Smith is how much he loves his players. He will loan us the key to the hut at any hour of the day or night no matter how inconvenient it is for him; he is just glad to see us getting on the court. He stays late stringing rackets for everybody from the elementary kids to old timers and charges us next to nothing to do it. He’ll spend hours talking to us about match strategy or our personal problems. He stays cool and positive, even after watching us step backwards on a volley for the thousandth time. He studies the previous year’s draws, and when he goes to the draw meetings, we know he has our back.
For me personally, practice has never been a chore. It was always the very best part of my day when I could run out of the locker room and head out to the tennis courts. We spent hours drilling our strokes and practicing serves. I always tried to remember everything Coach Smith said during practice. I know that he’s forgotten more about the game of tennis than I’ll ever know. The classroom is where high schoolers are supposed to learn the most, but I learned the most important and valuable lessons about winning and losing on the tennis courts with Coach Smith and for that I’ll always be grateful.
Carley: On tournament days, he’s up early to blow the leaves off the court and he stays late to pick up the trash under the bleachers. He doesn’t complain, even when he has to unclog the toilet in the restrooms ten times in one tournament. A soft Rice Krispie treat from the concession stand is pretty much all he needs to be content. It’s because of all of these things and plenty more that we know how much he loves us. The extra miles Coach Smith goes to help us all succeed on the court and in life are countless, and we are all grateful for what he has done to make MHS Tennis the winningest team in Texas and to make us into the people God wants us to become.
Leret: Coach Smith received the Coach of the Year award from the Texas Tennis Association in 1985 and in 1986. He served the organization as an officer from 1985 to 1992, as the president from 1992 to 94, and has been a member of the Board of Directors since 1994. And in 2006 Coach Smith was inducted into the Texas Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Price: This year, at the State UIL Tennis Tournament in College Station, Coach Smith was presented with the 2013 State Coach of the Year for Boys Tennis by the National Federation of State High School Associations. This is a national award given to only one boys tennis coach in the country. To honor Coach Smith for his years of service to Mason ISD and to the sport of tennis, we would like to present him with this framed award. In addition, a brick which lists the accolades he has received will be placed at the new pavilion at the Tennis Center. Please join me in congratulating Coach Smith.