Softball the latest addition at The King's Academy
Kristi Mathews was resigned to the fact that her daughter wouldn’t get to play high school softball.
But the county’s newest program, at The King’s Academy, changed all that for Mathews and her daughter, Haven Taylor.
“She went out there and saw the new field. She said, ‘It’s so nice to go somewhere where it doesn’t feel like female athletics are on the back burner,’” Mathews said. “I think this offers one more thing for local kids and kids at The King’s Academy to be involved in.”
Just weeks after breaking ground, a field is taking shape at the Seymour campus. Bringing softball to TKA has been the brainchild of athletic director Marc Weekly, who also serves as an assistant coach for NCAA power Tennessee under his dad Ralph. The Lions will start as a junior varsity team in the spring before going varsity in two years.
“There’s a bunch of girls that are wanting to go and play softball and come to a great school,” Marc Weekly said. “It just seems to be a natural fit. Plus we have some kids here right now that can play but there’s never been a sport.”
The new program is part of Weekly’s plan to enhance athletics at a school already known for academics and faith-based values. Weekly is developing the Lions brand with a new logo and a stable of standout coaches, like former Powell football coach Matt Lowe. A short walk from the new softball field, an 18,000-square foot indoor facility is under construction. When finished the building will combine locker rooms, multi-purpose courts, offices and classrooms.
“Look, if you talk to a lot of people about The King’s Academy, they’d say, ‘Great academics, great family, social, Christian atmosphere but we’re not going there in high school for sports,’” Marc Weekly said. “One of the goals with all of this stuff is retention. We feel like we have really good athletes but in eighth grade they’re leaving to go to other high schools. Now that’s trending to not be the case.”
Softball serves as the centerpiece of these renovations. The sport continues to grow in popularity, something Ralph Weekly has witnessed coaching the Lady Vols. Now, the coach even sees ticket scalpers during Tennessee’s postseason games.
That makes the sport critical for TKA to have as part of its portfolio. The younger Weekly, having coached a high level and with contacts across the country, is uniquely positioned to start a winning program with the Lions his father said.
“He’s been a coach on this program, very much a contributing coach,” Ralph Weekly said. “He’s met a lot of people. I think that helps him in developing athletes, helps him with his contacts.”
Weekly said those people skills have already helped Marc with the biggest obstacle: funding. His passion for the sport makes him perfect for selling it. He’s already received eager help in the mechanics of constructing the field, which has been privately financed, from Albert Biggs and Craig Connatser.
Mathews has seen Marc Weekly’s love for the game in person, helping him out at coaching clinics in the past. She said the former pro football player’s determination is evident in every project he takes on. It’s an enthusiasm, Mathews said, that goes beyond the average coach.
The parent expects the new softball program to be no different. She had no idea what Weekly was planning when she took Taylor out of the Maryville school system to homeschool her, using TKA as the umbrella school.
It wasn’t until the summer, long after Mathews figured her daughter would never suit up for a high school game, that the family learned about the new softball program.
“We applied to go through the homeschool program not even knowing,” Mathews said. “When it was all said and done, we said, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ My daughter is so excited. I’ve seen a renewed fire in her.”