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Smith works on game, helps children play

NATCHEZ — Tennis came to Natchez High School’s Rashaad Smith at an early age.

Smith’s parents, Stephanie and Joseph, played the game, and Rashaad said he learned how to play by watching them.

“(I’ve been playing) since I was able to hold a racket,” he said. “I watched them play, and my dad was just teaching me how to play.”

By the time Smith made it to Robert Lewis Middle School and started playing competitively, he had become a solid player, he said.

“I did pretty good,” he said. “Most of the people I played were (older) than me, but they would always say I was good for my age.”

Smith capped off his middle-school career by earning MVP of the team in eighth grade, and he has steadily progressed into a key player at Natchez.

Smith and his partner, Darrell Brown, advanced to the district final this past season in doubles, and Smith said he would move to singles this season.

Now Smith has become one of the older players, and he is working hard this summer to help lead the Bulldogs to a big season in his senior year.

“In singles, I want to try to win as many as I can and win more than I lose,” Smith said about his goals for next season. “And as far as the team goes, I want to provide leadership for them to keep going when I’m gone.”

Smith said he is practicing hard this summer to reach those goals.

“We practice (as a group) two days a week, but I come out four to get extra practice,” he said.

Smith said he has confidence in his serve, forehand and backhand volley, but he really wants to improve his backhand over the summer. He said he models his game after professionals like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, because they both play hard all the time and are good role models off the court.

Smith said he hopes to provide senior leadership for the Bulldogs this season, but he will have some help as Natchez returns five seniors. The team had just one senior last season.

Smith said he also hopes to help out some of the Miss-Lou’s younger tennis players by becoming an instructor for the Youth Summer Program this year.

“I have to take a class to get certified,” he said. “I just like helping out around the community and want to encourage the younger kids to keep playing and not stop.”

Smith is also a tuba player for the Natchez band, and he said his summer would be split between practicing tennis and practicing for the Southwest Mississippi All-Star Band.