Two former staff of Coastal Carolina University’s women’s lacrosse program under the direction of recently-fired coach Kristen Selvage have defended the head coach’s treatment of his players in interviews with The Sun News.
Neither of them wanted to be named for fear it would hurt their future careers, they said.
The lacrosse team collectively filed a 54-page complaint to university officials after the 2020-21 season, which included letters from 26 players alleging abuse and rude behavior on the part of Selvage, who was the program’s head coach for six seasons. She was fired on July 20.
Selvage submitted a written statement to The Sun News defending his actions as a coach.
The two former lacrosse team members interviewed by The Sun News deny having witnessed any treatment of players they deem abusive.
“If I had seen any kind of abusive behavior, I would have tackled this problem, or I wouldn’t even be a part of this environment,” said staff member # 1. “I wouldn’t say that I have ever been the victim of abusive behavior on his part. She is not that person these letters say she is. She has always cared about her team more than anything, lacrosse more than anything. She’s always ready to talk through things.
The two former staff also said they believed the players had exaggerated their allegations of abuse because they felt the team was underperforming, and many of them didn’t like Selvage or personally. nor as a coach and wanted her to be fired.
“I don’t think she was abusive of an athlete,” said staff member # 2. “I know her team wanted to be very successful and felt we had the resources to be successful, but they weren’t getting as much from their experience as they would have liked, so they wanted a change, and I think for them they had to be almost as extreme in their words just to take stock.
“… I know there have been a lot of letters written, but I think their severity was an effort to get their point of view heard because I don’t think it would necessarily have been heard if they just said, “We don’t like him and he’s not a good coach. “
Staff member # 2 backed Selvage’s claim in her statement that she cares about the well-being of her players.
“She always preached that her door was always open and that she was there for them,” said staff member # 2. “If people really felt this, I’m not sure. I think at the end of the day, as a person, she cared about them as much as she cared about her own children.
The No.2 staff member said she was proud of the players for standing up for something they believed in, but was disappointed that they had done so at someone’s expense.
“As a woman in athletics, I think we work every day to empower them and tell them to speak out, and I’m proud of the fact that they have spoken out for something close to their hearts. “Said staff member # 2.” I wish it was a little more truthful. They wanted a change and they spoke up and they got what they wanted.
Staff member # 1 believes there is a different standard of behavior that is accepted for male coaches and for male teams compared to female teams coached by female coaches, and Selvage has fallen victim to this double standard.
“If it was a men’s team it would never happen,” said the No.1 staff member. “I think the male coaches are probably doing even worse things than these players have said that Kristen had done, but I think that’s the nature or the culture of men’s teams. They take more and they don’t [complain]. “
National gender bias in the training phenomenon?
Selvage has another ally in Thomas Newkirk, civil rights lawyer in Des Moines, Iowa, who has become an expert on the gender bias implicit in college coaching.
Newkirk said his company identified 150 female coaches who received gender-biased complaints about their behavior, which were then investigated, suspended or fired, and he has represented several of them in settled legal proceedings.
After reading the complaints from CCU players, Newkirk believes Selvage may have fallen victim to the bias in college girls’ athletics which he says has become a national phenomenon.
Newkirk agrees with the sentiment of the former staff member and believes that the disparity between the behavior accepted for a male coach versus a female coach is largely due to the process of socializing men and women combined with an unconscious implicit gender bias.
“We judge women differently for the same or for less than what men do,” Newkirk said. “.. These young women interpreted the actions of their coach from a biased angle.”
Newkirk has been a civil rights lawyer for 20 years and founded Implicit Bias Campus LLC. “My passion is that I see this so often that it gets tiring to see it over and over again,” Newkirk said.
Newkirk said there are three things that contribute to the fact that female college coaches are held to a different standard.
First, he said that young women and young men are used to complaining differently about things that bother them. “[A woman] is more likely to present things that bother them than a man on the same team, ”Newkirk said.
Second, unconscious gender bias is a factor. “Women still have implicit biases that affect their assessment as leaders. That’s why we don’t have a female president, ”Newkirk said. “When women take on a leadership role, we tend to rate them more negatively than men doing the same. And a coach is a leader.
Gender bias is also a factor in how female athletes subconsciously expect female coaches to react in the face of adversity, Newkirk said. “She is expected to become caring, caring, putting her arm around the athlete much more than a male coach ever would,” he said. “So due to both the implicit bias and the socialization process, the woman will complain about the female coach, even if she coaches exactly like the male coach. [coaches]. . . . She will complain about being mean, intimidating, abusive.
Third, Newkirk said implicit bias can also affect the administration’s response to athletes’ concerns based on their gender, and complaints from women can be taken more seriously than complaints from men.
Newkirk has represented many female coaches who he says have been unfairly dismissed.
Newkirk recently helped former Stony Brook women’s swimming coach Janelle Atkinson achieve a settlement with the school for $ 385,000 in a lawsuit for discrimination based on sex and race. She was fired in January 2018 following allegations of emotional abuse by members of the women’s team.
In 2017, Newkirk negotiated a $ 6.5 million settlement from the University of Iowa a gender and sexual orientation lawsuit stemming from the dismissal of a field hockey coach over what the athletic director called complaints about her abusive behavior towards athletes. A university investigation of the coach found no violation of the policy.
In 2018, Newkirk set up a lawsuit against Rutgers for $ 725,000 following the dismissal of a female head coach in swimming and diving over allegations of abuse and a toxic culture within her program.