St. Joseph's Academy
Head Tennis Coach
Shrarre Smith | September 19, 2019
It is no secret within the St. Louis tennis community that St. Joseph’s Academy (SJA) has been one of the powerhouse tennis teams in the area for quite some time. With 15 State Championships and many district and sectional wins under their belt, it is clear that superior coaching is a consistent ingredient for the recipe to their success.
Head coach Doug Smith has been the SJA Angels' varsity tennis coach for the last 20 years. He took over the program in 1998, and has since led SJA teams to nine State Team Championships along with guiding his players to 14 individual state titles in singles and doubles.
Smith’s strong coaching resume and contributions to local tennis has given him a strong reputation in the St. Louis tennis community. His accomplishments have led to his induction into three different tennis Hall of Fames: South Dakota, USTA St. ADVERTISEMENT Louis and USTA Missouri Valley.
We caught up with Coach Smith as the girls high school tennis season was just kicking off for the year. In this interview, he gives a preview and outlook for his upcoming SJA team.
USTA.com: How long have you been coaching at SJA?
Smith: It has been 20 years since I’ve been coaching at St. Joseph’s Academy. I started coaching here in 1998 with a pretty good team that went all the way and won the state championship that year. A very special freshman, Kiki Stastny, was the leader on the team who later proceeded to win the State Individual Singles title four years in a row. She is the only girl in the history of Missouri high school girls tennis to accomplish such an achievement, so this was a very nice way to kickstart my coaching career at SJA.
USTA.com: Who are the top returning players this year?
Smith: My top three returning players are Ellie Choate (sophomore), Lexie Woodman (senior) and Shannon Sims (senior).
USTA.com: Are there any standout freshman this year?
Smith: I have a new freshman, Abby Gaines, who is new to SJA this year and turning out to be a real standout. She has beaten everybody she has played so far and will definitely be in the starting lineup this year. Sophomore Morgan McKinnis is a transfer from Kirkwood High School and she will definitely appear in the top five of the SJA lineup.
USTA.com: Who are the SJA captains this year?
Smith: The SJA captains for the 2019-2020 school year are two seniors on the team, Lexie Woodman and Shannon Sims, both returning SJA tennis players.
USTA.com: What are you looking for your team to accomplish most this season?
Smith: It is our goal every year to make it to the Missouri State Championships and appear in the final four in Springfield, MO. It’s been a few years since we won our last one, but with this year’s lineup we have a very good chance.
USTA.com: Who are the teams to beat this year?
Smith: There are a couple local teams that are pretty tough, which includes John Burroughs and Lafayette. John Burroughs is the strongest team right now. They are loaded this year with very good players, so we will play them twice this season to get some good competitive matches in.
On a Class 2 state level, Columbia Rockbridge is the team to beat. They are a very tough school with a solid tennis team who we usually battle it out with in the Class 2 state championship. So in our district and locally, we would like to beat John Borroughs and Lafayette high schools, and then look forward to overcoming Columbia Rockbridge at state.
USTA.com: What do you think it’s going to take for St. Joseph to get back to state this year?
Smith: I would say having a really good group of top-notch players is one of the things it’s going to take to get back to state. We have several young players returning from last year that now have some experience under their belt. They also played competitive tournaments in the off season which would definitely help us on the road to getting back to state.
Maintaining a healthy team all season is also very necessary. When the girls suffer injuries, it can ruin any season quickly. We’ve dealt with injuries in the past, so we would like to avoid them and hope the girls stay healthy in order to have our best shot at getting back to state.
USTA.com: Do many of your players compete in USTA tournaments?
Smith: It is usually my top six players who are very dedicated and compete in USTA tournaments. They understand the importance of the high level of competition they will experience in USTA tournaments.
USTA.com: How would you say USTA tournaments help your players develop?
Smith: There are absolutely no substitutes for better competition than USTA tournaments. These tournaments are the best way to get competitive tennis experience. USTA sanctioned tournaments are where the girls feel the most pressure. These tournaments are necessary for the girls to learn how to deal with stiffer competition. They won’t feel the same pressure in practice matches. All the practice matches in the world won’t help the players develop mentally, but USTA tournaments will.
I always tell my players that there are three components to becoming a good tennis player: take private lessons, clinics/group lessons and actual USTA tournaments. These are all additional opportunities for our players to hit with other girls on various skill levels.
USTA.com: What’s a quote you find yourself saying over and over to your tennis players every year?
Smith: I have two quotes that I find myself repeating often:
“Pre-hydrate and rehydrate so you won’t dehydrate!” The message behind this quote is to remind players about the importance of being able to perform in extreme heat.
“Fortune favors the bold!”
[The purpose of this quote, according to Smith, is to encourage the girls to be courageous and confident. Smith wants his team to take chances and fight with heart while out there on the courts, and don’t be afraid to hit the ball. He wants each player to play to win versus playing not to lose.]
USTA.com: How many more years do you plan on coaching?
Smith: When asked this question, Coach Doug had a more serious answer and a comical answer. His more serious answer was, “As long as I’m still having fun!”
His more comical answer to this question was, “When I can’t remember my own players’ names!” He dreads the day where he’s introducing his lineup to the other team and can’t remember the name of one of his own players who he knows perfectly well.
Coach Doug and the SJA girls tennis team will officially kick off their season by traveling to Chicago, Ill. this weekend to compete in the New Trier Tournament. USTA Missouri Valley would like to thank Coach Doug Smith for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us in this interview, and we wish him and his team the very best season this year.