White Hall softball coach Terri Smith admits she didn’t have to do much to earn The Commercial’s Southeast Arkansas Coach of the Year honor.
“Terri Smith doesn’t do anything,” she said. “I am very fortunate to have a great team and coaches that help me get them ready. All I do is make sure the girls are prepared to play the next game.”
Smith accepts her role as head coach and takes great pride in her commitment to that title. It also helped the Lady Bulldogs claim a state title.
“I just try to help keep them together,” she said. “I have a different approach I guess because I am a woman. Guy coaches can yell at guy players and they move on. But yell at a girl and they may fall apart.”
And when White Hall had seemingly fallen apart late in the season and appeared to have lost all wind that aided its sail through the conference playoff race, Smith was there to offer the breezes of confidence and motivation her squad needed to get back on course.
“She has a real good relationship with her girls,” said White Hall assistant coach Keith Walters. “The kids love her. She has a way with them to keep them loose. You can tell she loves them and they return it.”
Walters is one of the reasons Smith and the Lady Bulldogs (26-8) found the ultimate success this year. Walters has been with Smith for the past eight seasons, hitting fungo during practice, pitching batting practice and running through situational drills.
“Keith does whatever is needed,” Smith said. “He does anything the girls want whenever they want. He will pitch to them until they are so tired they can’t swing any more.”
And while Walters administers his time in the cage, Smith offers hers in the sanctuary of her own home.
“They will go to her house at midnight and just walk in and say hello,” Walters said. “They don’t even think about it. They don’t even knock. They just walk in and make themselves at home.”
That feeling of home transfers to the dugout during game situations. And when family problems struck late in the season, it was Smith who helped turned things around.
“I talked to the girls and told them that I couldn’t do it for them,” she said. “I can only do so much. Any coach can only do so much. It’s up to them. They have to want it. That has to come from inside.”
After Smith’s plea, the team gathered in a closed-door meeting and found themselves. After dropping out of first place in the conference with a loss to Watson Chapel and falling to third in the standings entering the playoffs, the Lady Dogs rode that No. 3 seed to a state crown.
Smith will return all but four seniors for a run at a repeat title next year, along with Walters and assistants David Stroud and Mark Akins, who heads up the junior varsity program.
“Hopefully we will go back next year and do it again,” Smith said. “The future looks bright. Our entire infield is coming back and the pitching staff is coming back. I am excited about getting started again.”
Walters said the 17-year head coach would get that chance due to the way she runs her program.
“She allows people that help her to do what they need to do,” he said. “She doesn’t have that arrogance to not listen to anyone. She takes advice and listens to opinions. She is a great manager of the game and of her team.”
And she doesn’t break a promise, proving that with a cartwheel after the semifinal playoff win over Greenbrier and dyeing her hair blonde following the championship affair against Vilonia.