The Tennessee Lady Vols co-head coach to her husband, Ralph, who handles media and manages softball games like the former Air Force commander he is, Karen has a tendency to be overshadowed.
Indeed, Ralph's Team USA Olympic coaching background and dynamic personality can lead many to view Karen's role as somewhat token at first glance.
But that couldn't be further from the truth.
The pony-tailed blonde coaching first base has more to offer than candy, and Ralph's the first to say the Lady Vols wouldn't be one victory from advancing to the championship series if not for her contributions.
After a thrilling 1-0 victory against Arizona that ended at 2:28 EDT Saturday, the Lady Vols (61-6) go back to work today around 3:30 p.m. and will play Northwestern (52-12) on ESPN.
Northwestern, the Big Ten runners-up and No. 2 seed, beat the Lady Vols 2-0 in last year's World Series.
Should the Lady Vols lose to the Wildcats, they'll have another chance to win in a 7 or 9 p.m. game against Northwestern on ESPN. The game time depends on what happens on the other side of the bracket. Washington plays Arizona in the other half of the bracket.
"Karen has been essential to every success we have had during our coaching careers,'' Ralph said. "She has a brilliant coaching mind and has conceived many of the ideas that have made our teams successful.''
It was Karen who did the bulk of the recruiting on California prep stars Monica Abbott and Lindsay Schutzler. Abbott, a four-time All-American and USA Softball Player of the Year, holds the NCAA record for career strikeouts, career wins and career shutouts. Schutzler a three-time All-American, is UT's all-time hits, runs and stolen bases leader.
"We felt like the two things we needed to get the program in the right direction were a dominant pitcher and great leadoff hitter,'' said Karen, who made many midnight recruiting calls to Abbott and sent numerous e-mails in wrestling her away from UCLA.
Abbott said she couldn't get over it.
"I actually threw away the first letter I got from Tennessee, but that was from the previous head coach,'' Abbott said. "Then Ralph and Karen got there, and they kept coming to my games. I was like, 'they must really want me.' ''
As for coaching, it's Karen who calls Abbott's pitches, spending as much as 40 hours a week breaking down film.
"The things I like to do are the roles typical of an assistant coach; the scouting, the film, the one-on-one teaching,'' Karen said. "It meshes because Ralph is really good at the big picture.''
Karen is also the Lady Vols slap-hitting instructor. Ralph decided to turn former Maryville High School star Sara Fekete around and make her a slapper, but Karen's instruction led Fekete to win the NCAA batting championship and earn All-American honors.
India Chiles has learned slapping from Karen, too, becoming UT's all-time batting average leader, the SEC Player of the Year and the league batting champion.
"Karen's able to pick out and exploit opposing team's weaknesses, especially developing pitching plans,'' Ralph said. "She's the architect of our speed game and is recognized nationally as one of the top coaches in that area.''
Karen was an NAIA softball All-American at Pacific Lutheran University and a three-year starter on the basketball team. Then known as Karen Kvale, she was the school's Female Athlete of the Year and led NAIA hitters with a .440 average her senior year in 1987.
After graduating from Pacific Lutheran magna cum laude, Karen earned a law degree from the University of Washington and got a job practicing law, all the while assisting Ralph on the Pacific Lutheran softball staff for seven years. In 1994, the couple married and moved to Chattanooga.
Karen again took a job practicing law, but one year into Ralph's stint as Chattanooga's coach, she took a position as an assistant professor in Chattanooga's College of Business Administration from August 1995 through May 2001, teaching a course called Legal Environment of Business.
In 1999 and 2000, with Ralph off coaching Team USA, Karen took over as Chattanooga's coach, leading the Lady Mocs to 48-18 and 47-27 records, earning conference coach of the year honors in 1999 and landing the school's first NCAA tournament regional berth in 2000.
"Karen and I bring out the best in each other as coaches and life partners,'' Ralph Weekly said. "I know she always has my back, and I have hers. There's no one else I would want to work with, and no one else I would want to share my life with.''