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After being involved with the softball program at Ooltewah High School for 25 years, Norma Nelson has been fired from the head coaching position she has held the last 20.
Nelson said she was called into a meeting with principal Mark Bean and assistant principal and athletic director Jim Jarvis on Monday. Given a day to make a decision, she chose not to resign.
"I will not quit on my kids," Nelson said. "I will never quit on them. It's not like I had a losing record, or something bad happened. I've never been so floored when I was called in the office in all my life.
"It's been very devastating, very hard. Every teacher I talked to was like, 'What? What happened?' A lack of enthusiasm was all he could tell me."
Nelson guided four Lady Owls teams to Class AAA state finals and won a championship in 2008. She was an assistant to Jim Lovell when Ooltewah won state titles in 1990 and '92.
The Lady Owls were seeded fourth among seven teams in this year's District 5-AAA tournament, and their season ended with a 1-0 loss to Rhea County in a losers-bracket semifinal. They were 21-16 overall.
"I just felt like it was time for a change," Bean said. "I appreciate her efforts and what she's done. I just think we need to go in a different direction. That's just my feelings on it. We're going to try and find somebody else that can take us to a new height. We're always trying to improve, and we're going to give somebody a chance to help us do that."
Nelson remains a faculty member at Ooltewah, although she said she will be looking at opportunities at other schools. She is qualified to teach physical education, wellness, health and personal finance.
"I'm not going to give up on the game," Nelson said. "It's something I've done my whole life. People say something better will come of it. I'll put some feelers out, talk to some people and see what's open. I'm definitely not ready to quit softball."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.