Catherine Neely retires as East Ridge High School volleyball coach after 50 years

Catherine Neely retires as East Ridge High School volleyball coach after 50 years

January 14th, 2014 by Stephen Hargis in Local - Breaking News

Catherine Neely

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

One of Chattanooga's coaching icons has decided to hang up her whistle.

Catherine Neely, who has coached at East Ridge High School for 50 years, announced she is stepping down as the school's volleyball coach. Neely will continue working as the school's athletic director.

"It's the hardest decision I've ever had to make," Neely said. "But it's just time.

"Not many people get to do something they love, and at the same place, for 50 years, so I feel blessed."

Neely ends her career with 1,395 volleyball victories, third most nationally and she is a member of eight Halls of Fame, including the National High School Hall of Fame.

The gym at East Ridge High School is named in her honor and she also compiled a 625-364 overall record in 43 years as the school's girls' basketball coach. She stepped down as basketball coach six years ago but remained on as volleyball coach and in her storied career, guided the Lady Pioneers' volleyball teams to 16 state tournament appearances, winning state titles in 1997 and 2005 and finishing second twice. She was the national volleyball coach of the year in 2006 and received the USA Volleyball Lifetime Achievement and Service Award in 2008.

"Catherine Neely is East Ridge High School," said former TSSAA executive director Ronnie Carter, who worked with Neely for 30 years. "She epitomizes that school and that community. She is a role model not just for the girls that play for her but for every coach in every sport at every school in the state on how to lead a program."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293