Chris Hames tried to step away from high school volleyball, but five months later it sucked her back in.
Fans in Maryville could not be happier.
Maryville High School on Monday confirmed it has hired Hames, a seven-time state champion with Knoxville Webb, as its volleyball coach. She takes over for Angel Babelay, who stepped down so she could spend more time watching her children play sports.
A resident of Maryville, Hames coached Webb for 10 seasons before resigning in December so she, too, could spend more time watching her children play. Her son Elijah, is a sophomore at Maryville who plays baseball and football.
Even when Hames resigned from Webb she told the athletic director it likely was a temporary situation. When the Maryville job became available, she said it seemed like a perfect situation to speed up the process.
“That was the only job I would take if it came open, or even just helping in some way,” Hames said. “It just happened that it opened up. It felt like the right thing to do. For me, helping volleyball in the community and helping the sport get better is part of who I am.”
Hames is perhaps the most powerful volleyball name in the Knoxville area. Two of her daughters (Nicklin at Nebraska and Kayleigh at Pepperdine) play for college powerhouses, and she and her husband, James, are the founders of Blount County-based K2 Volleyball.
Maryville athletic director Larry Headrick said he was well aware of who Chris Hames was when Maryville parents and friends of the program suggested her as Babelay’s successor. After meeting with her to gauge her interest and her approach, he said it was an easy choice.
“My job as the athletic director is to put the best coaches who are available and have a passion to coach high school sports,” Headrick said. “She’s probably qualified to coach the college level or international teams if she chose to. I think she probably sees the importance of working at the entry level of the sport in order to build it.”
Though Webb plays in a lower classification within the TSSAA, the Spartans’ teams often were among the best in the state. Webb routinely played at a higher level than public school teams in the Knoxville area and even beat Brentwood during its current run of seven consecutive AAA state titles.
Having directed K2 since 2009, Hames is an expert on local volleyball talent, and she said she believes Maryville can contend for the District 3-AAA title in the fall. That’s significant, she said, because once again that district should be strong at the top.
Maryville’s only trip to the state volleyball tournament came in 1984, but Hames said that is something the Lady Rebels could strive for in the near future.
The biggest goal, though, will be molding the program into one the players are excited about — much like the 17-time state champion football team, which her son is part of.
“The way they run their program I want to emulate with the volleyball program,” Hames said. “People want to come there because of what it is and what it represents. That’s my goal to have that same thing with volleyball at Maryville.”