Student takes on role of assistant coach for women’s tennis team

Junior Ethan Hinni is the assistant coach for the women’s tennis team at Truman State University as his scholarship job. Truman does not currently have a men’s tennis program. 

Hinni said he decided to take on a role that requires more effort than the majority of scholarship jobs on campus because tennis is something he loves to do. 

“I wanted to continue to play tennis,” Hinni said. “COVID stripped me of that [during] my senior year [of high school], and coaching was a great opportunity to help people and continue my tennis career.”

Men’s tennis is a spring sport at the high school level in Missouri, so Hinni’s senior season was canceled when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March.   

Ethan has a large, valuable role on the women’s tennis team, said head coach Steve Smith. 

“He’s a very good tennis player,” Smith said. “His technique and his form are very good. It’s natural for players to observe other’s technique and model their own after it. Ethan provides a very good model for the players on the team.”

“He puts in lots of extra hours above and beyond the requirements for a regular scholarship job,” said senior Julia Fangman. “He’s there every single day consistently. It means a lot to the team.”

Hinni practices with the women’s team every day, both leading and participating in drills that Smith sets up. This allows him to both coach and compete with the team during practices.

Smith also highlighted Hinni’s positivity, saying that the team as a whole is very positive, and Hinni and the players feed off each other in that respect. 

Hinni also brings a competitiveness to practice every day that helps to push the players to become better. Smith said he often runs drills that involve playing against Hinni directly and the players become extra motivated and more competitive when trying to beat him. 

“They really want to win a point against him, so he provides a lot of motivation,” Smith said. “When they do win a point against him, they remind him of that, and they enjoy it.”

Hinni’s age and role create a unique dynamic between him and the players. 

Hinni and Fangman both said he feels more like a teammate than a coach in certain respects. 

“I definitely feel more like a teammate,” Hinni said. “I’m able to help them practice against competition that can mimic what they see in real games,” Hinni said. 

However, noting certain responsibilities such as passing NCAA educational modules, Smith believes Hinni to have a coaching relationship with the players. He said Hinni runs drills and does not participate as much in the team’s strength and conditioning activities because he is a coach.

An additional reason Hinni took on the role with the women’s team is Truman does not currently have a men’s tennis program. Men’s tennis, along with men’s wrestling, was eliminated in 2019 due to budget restrictions at the University. 

“The men were given an additional year, which happened in 2019,” Smith said.. “There is still an agreement that if a certain amount of money is raised in a certain period of time, the men’s team can be reinstated.” 

Smith said he believes that agreement lapses sometime next year.

The final season allowed players on the team to find other schools following the 2019 year, Smith said. 

One player, Chase Klosener, decided to continue as a student assistant to the women’s team. Klosener graduated last year. 

Since Truman did not have a men’s program, and Hinni’s senior season ended early in 2020, he took a similar role to that of Klosener last year. Hinni can already see the impact his role is having on himself.

“It has made me more outgoing for sure. It has also kept me busy and injected some more fun into my life,” Hinni said.