published Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Norma Nelson takes over as East Hamilton coach

Former Ooltewah High School softball coach Norma Nelson has been hired as softball coach at East Hamilton.

Nelson was fired at Ooltewah at the end of last year's 21-16 season after being involved with the Lady Owls program for 25 years, the last 20 as head coach. Knowing the softball coaching job was available at East Hamilton, which also has an Ooltewah address, Nelson said that soon after her firing in mid-May she contacted athletic director Brad Jackson about the position.

About a week and a half ago she interviewed with principal Gail Chuy, who then sought approval of the hire from the Hamilton County Department of Education. Nelson met Monday with Jackson and Jenny Oliver, an assistant principal at East Hamilton, and was offered the job.

Nelson succeeds Cara Stiles, who announced her resignation before coaching the Lady Hurricanes in 2013. Stiles guided them to Class AA state-tournament berths in her two seasons heading the program.

"I'm looking forward to it," Nelson said. "I think it's a great opportunity. They have a great team and have done a lot of winning the last two years. Hopefully I can come in and help improve on that.

"It's exciting. I love the game and want to keep being a part of it. I'm glad they're giving me the opportunity over there."

Nelson was an assistant coach on two Class AAA state-championship teams at Ooltewah in the early 1990s. As head coach she led four teams to state finals, including a title in 2008.

"I think it's a good situation," Jackson said. "I think it's good for the girls. The parents are excited right now. I know Mrs. Chuy and I are. Norma seems as though she's happy about the opportunity. If our girls are that way, that's what matters. That's the number one thing we're looking out for."

East Hamilton, which won the District 6 and Region 3 championships each of the last two years, will be moving up a classification and will compete next season in 5-AAA -- the district where Nelson has been coaching.

"We were looking for the best coach available to come in, add stability to our program and help these young girls out," Jackson said. "For these seniors this will be their third coach. Our first priority is stability. The benefit or the bonus of hiring her is the insight she brings to this district and this region."

For now Nelson will remain on the faculty at Ooltewah, which could create a few interesting occasions with Lady Owls players in the hallways with the schools not only being neighborhood rivals but now district rivals, too.

"They'll always be my kids, and I'll always be a part of them," Nelson said of her former players. "I've told them 'Any time, anywhere you need me, just let me know.'

"But when we play Ooltewah, we're going to do whatever it takes to beat them."

Contact Kelley Smiddie at ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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