Tennessee's Karen Weekly Embraces Solo Head Coaching Role
After an illustrious 35-year coaching career and 20 years of co-coaching Tennessee with his wife, Karen, Ralph Weekly announced his retirement from college coaching in June.
Alongside Karen, Ralph helped lead the Vols to two national runner-up finishes and seven Women's College World Series appearances. Ralph concluded his career as the No. 4 all-time winningest NCAA softball coach.
After decades of co-head coaching, it's now Karen's time to assume the role of solo head coach of the Lady Vols at least until the end of her contract extension through 2025.
Now that the team is solely in her hands, Weekly is ready for the next era of Tennessee softball. Learn more about her next steps below.
Softball America: Why did you decide to continue your coaching career while Ralph chose to retire?
Karen Weekly: You know that was an interesting one because obviously being married, we went back and forth on, 'Do we retire together? Do we keep coaching? Do I stay after he retires?' There is a little bit of an age difference, and I am really just not ready to stop yet. There was a part of me that always wanted to see what it would be like and what I would feel like, doing it on my own. I am still super stoked about it every day that I wake up. As long as I am, I am going to keep doing it.
SA: What will it be like without having Ralph in the coaching role alongside you?
KW: It will be very different because we are so used to doing this together, and we really balance each other. Where I am a little bit more of (the type) to sit back and analyze, evaluate and gather all of the information and take my time. He is more full steam ahead. I want to have that to play off of, but at the same time, he is my husband. It's not like he is going away. He will still be watching every game at home, traveling with us on the road and still be there to bounce things off of.
SA: What goals do you have for the next era of Tennessee softball?
KW: Our goal remains the same every year, and that is to compete for championships. (We want to) get to the World Series, and once you are there, you are in the position to win the national championship. It takes a lot of things for that to happen—talent, your team has to peak at the right time, you have to be injury-free and you have to have some luck. So, a lot of things have to fall into place, but you have to do a lot of things right every year and be consistent in your approach.
SA: Since stepping up to the new role, you have added Chris and Kate Malveaux to the coaching staff. How important do you think your offseason additions will be for Tennessee softball next season?
KW: I think our offseason moves are huge in defining who we are going to be moving forward. I had two positions to fill, and the most important one was the hitting coach. In the process of talking to Chris, I found out a little bit about his family and that his wife had a coaching background. I made a couple of phone calls to coaches that Kate had coached under prior to her and Chris being married, and I was blown away by what those coaches had to say about her as a coach and as a human being.
So now Chris is our hitting coach, and Kate is our volunteer assistant coach. It is important to me that people know that Kate isn't coming on our staff because she is Chris's wife. I am sensitive to that, but also that would not have helped our staff to just hire someone who couldn't bring something to the table. Kate Malveaux is a rock star as a coach, and I couldn't be more thrilled.
SA: What are you most excited about for the future of Tennessee softball?
KW: I think I am just excited to start this season. The changes that we have made in the program, it is a new Tennessee. Our theme so far is any W, and it is also to be ‘no excuse warriors.’ That is the mentality that I want our team to have. We are warriors, no excuses, just full steam ahead. We make our own breaks, so I am most excited to put that stamp on our team and really get our young ladies to rally around that mentality that we are strong, independent women. We can do anything, and we are not going to make any excuses.