Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Smith Hinton enjoying bounce-back year for Alabama tennis

Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics

Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.  

Smith Hinton, the lone senior on the women’s tennis team, knows this statement all too well.

Last year was Hinton’s first year at the capstone. Fresh off of transferring from Kansas and being named to the All-Big 12 second team as a sophomore, Hinton was hoping to continue her success in Tuscaloosa. However, in her eyes, she had one of the worst seasons of her career and seemed to have lost the love for the game.

“Last year, I couldn’t really find my game, and I don’t think I was really competing that hard,” Hinton said. “I was so down and out.”

Fast forward a year, and Hinton is back to her old self, dominating on and off the court, having put last year in the rear-view mirror. Motivated by this year being her last year, she looks like a completely different player.

Hinton’s bounce-back year is a testament to the type of person she is. 

Ever since she was a little girl, she has always been self-motivated and self-driven. For the people who know her, the successful season she’s had is not a surprise.

Growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, Hinton played multiple sports, but she loved soccer and tennis. Hinton almost had second thoughts of playing tennis when her youth coaches figured out she was left handed. 

Traditionally, tennis coaches teach kids to hit with their right hand, so they initially told Hinton she was right handed. When they saw that she was 10 times better swinging with her left hand, the coaches changed their mind and told her to swing with her left.

Once it was time to decide on which sport she wanted to continue playing, Hinton chose tennis. Not only did she enjoy playing tennis, but she displayed a high amount of self-motivation at such a young age that showed her parents she was fully committed to the game.

“None of us played tennis, she picked it up herself,” said her father, Chet Hinton. “Smith has always worked hard, we’ve never had to push her. When she was younger, she was the one who would sign herself up for tournaments.”

Since she won the majority of the tournaments she signed up for, word soon got around that there was a kid who was dominating in the youth tournaments. Oscar Blacutt, a professional tennis player, reached out to Margot Hinton, Smith Hinton’s mother, and asked if her daughter wanted to take lessons with him. 

“At first we thought that there was no way that this highly touted tennis coach wanted to coach our daughter,” Margot Hinton said. “Since there was a waiting list to be coached by Blacutt, I wanted to act fast so Smith and I went to the ATM to pay him in cash and I told her lets not tell dad.”

Once Smith Hinton started training with Blacutt, she started going to tournaments that meant more than a youth tournament. Her family believes Blacutt was really instrumental in helping groom her into the player she is today. Smith Hinton went from playing in local tournaments to being ranked as high as 15th in the nation.

When she hit high school, Smith Hinton was coached by Jake Lester who instilled in her the right approach to take when competing at a higher level. She already had the work ethic and self determination it took to be good at tennis, so Blacutt and Lester polished her into a complete player.

As a sophomore in high school, Smith Hinton knew that she was going to go to college for tennis. She just did not know where. She wanted to attend a big university that had a well respected tennis program. She ended up heading west for the University of Kansas. She soon found out that you can take the girl out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of the girl.

“My time at Kansas was really good, it was just far away for me,” Smith Hinton said. “I liked Alabama because it’s closer to home, and you know I was going to be back in the South.”

Smith Hinton started looking at colleges to transfer to, and her main priority was coming back to Dixie. It just so happened that Alabama came calling. Having already known about head coach Jenny Mainz while she was being recruited, Smith Hinton loved how Mainz cared for her players on a personal level. Similarly enough, Mainz was drawn to Smith Hinton’s character when deciding if Alabama wanted to bring her in as a transfer.

“One thing that stood out to us about Smith is that she was a good quality person, she displayed great character on and off the court,” Mainz said. “It’s not always about having the best players and the most talent, it’s about having the right people and Smith is a good kid.”

Nobody was more ecstatic of Smith Hinton’s decision to transfer to Alabama than her parents. When they found out the news, her mom couldn’t wait to take the KU sticker off of their car to replace it with the Alabama script A.  

Even though her first year for the Crimson Tide didn’t go as planned, Smith Hinton has played like a girl on a mission in her last year of collegiate tennis. She has played in every match this season and is in the No. 2 spot on the team when it comes to singles play.

Smith Hinton, and the Crimson Tide ended the season with a 15-14 record. This week they will play Tennessee in the first round of the SEC tournament. Being the only senior on the team, Smith Hinton has taken the younger players under her wing and has made sure the juniors are in good shape to lead the team next year.

“Smith is really good at communicating with everyone on the team, she won’t just talk to one part of the team she will make sure she establishes a relationship with everyone,” junior Andie Daniell said. “One thing I have learned from her is to always be consistent in what you do, I can’t remember a day where she had a horrible attitude.”

More to Discover