Smith takes over at RHS
RUSSELLVILLE — The Russellville Lady Golden Tigers have been struggling with softball over the past few seasons.
The team has talent available, but things have not gone Russellville’s way, especially with such a tough schedule as 5A schools around here play.
Different school officials felt it was time to make a change, and they were able to persuade a well-established coach to leave a great situation in the hopes that he can turn things around for the Lady Golden Tigers.
His name is John Smith, and he has been the head coach for the Hatton Lady Hornets for the past four years.
In case you aren’t familiar with his record at Hatton, it should be known that his team has won the last four consecutive 2A state softball titles.
Now that Coach Smith has accepted the position, it is time for people around the program to get to know a little more about him.
Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
A: “I’m originally from Florence. I played ball at Coffee High School. I played football there, then I went on to play at Auburn for Shug Jordan and Doug Barfield.
“I graduated from Auburn in ’77, and I went to work in Florida. I stayed down there four years. I started out coaching baseball before I switched to softball. I left there and went to Auburn High School. I was a defensive coordinator and head baseball coach there.
“I stayed there for five years. Then I went to a private school in Auburn call Lee-Scott Academy. I stayed there for six years, and we won a football state title in 1990. I was a baseball coach there but halfway through I switched to softball. I was thinking about retirement, and I wasn’t building any at the private school, so I went back to Auburn High.
“I started a fast-pitch program there. Then I went back home to Coffee in ’94. I stayed there six years. I was defensive coordinator and softball coach.
“I went to East Lawrence in 2000 to be head football coach and softball coach. I got fired from the football job, and that knocked me out of the softball job, so I went to Town Creek.
“I went to Hazelwood then as a defensive coordinator and revived the softball program. I stayed there for one year because Mount Hope, a little 1A school five miles from my farm, called me.
“I was the head football coach, girl’s basketball coach and head softball coach. I was doing it all there and enjoying it. I stayed there until we consolidated at Hatton.
“I have been at Hatton the last four years, and we were fortunate enough to have a good bunch of kids and a great bunch of parents and an outstanding staff, so we were able to win four-straight 2A softball championships.”
Q: Tell me about winning four consecutive titles at Hatton.
A: “The first year we won it was 2010. We went 37-12-2. In 2011 we went 42-10. In 2012 we were 45-15. This past season we went 46-10.
“You are very fortunate to get to the state tournament because so many teams out there are so good.
“You have to keep injury free, be hitting at the right time, playing good defense at the right time, you have to get hits with two outs when you need them.
“There are so many factors that have to fall into place, and we were blessed for four years to be playing for state titles.”
Q: How will you take your success at Hatton and make it translate to the Russellville Lady Golden Tigers?
A: “Everyone I talked to said Russellville was a time bomb waiting to explode.
“They said Russellville had some young talent coming that has been playing travel ball, and there is a group of parents coming that is excited about softball. That’s what it takes.
“It takes commitment and people being excited about the sport.
“The players, parents and coaches have to be working towards it to be successful.
“It’s a team thing, and it has to be. It has to be everyone doing his or her part for the team. I only have a small role in it. Players and parents will have a role in it.
“The players and parents must understand only nine girls can play, and the best nine will play.
“Every girl will have a role, and they have to accept that. Anything can happen, so a back up has to be ready to be a starter at any time.
“You have to have a good mental attitude about it. If you are sitting on the bench, you are cheering your team on.
“It took awhile for that to happen at Hatton, but once it did it snowballed.”
Q: After having so much success at Hatton, what made you ultimately decide to come to Russellville?
A: “Coach Jackson was really enthusiastic about wanting to get the girls’ programs going.
“I have been hearing a lot of things about these young girls at Russellville playing travel ball.
“I’ve been hearing that they are pretty good, because all the girls in Hatton play travel ball, so they were running into this team from Russellville.
“His excitement, and the superintendent’s (Rex Mayfield), got me and my wife excited about the program. Coaches like opportunities for a challenge. I’m excited about the opportunity.
“Russellville is a 5A school, it has a great reputation for academics and athletics and it has a reputation for being a class school with class programs.
“It was a good opportunity for me. It just felt right.
“At first I turned them down, but my wife and I prayed about it, and it just felt like this is what we needed to do.”