ELFRIDA — A group of parents and players from the Valley Union varsity volleyball team met with coaches and administrators Monday evening to address concerns they have over the treatment by head coach Jenn Casady toward her team.
Many of the parents expressed their displeasure with the profanity Casady sometimes uses in practice and during a match as well as the lack of playing time some of the players get when it comes to the matches.
Some parents have taken their concerns to Jeff Baker, the athletic director at Valley Union and superintendent Kyle Hart, both of whom were at the Monday’s meeting.
Lorena Sonke, whose daughter Lizet is a senior on the squad, described what is happening with the volleyball team as “emotional distress.”
“They need to find a common ground and address it,” she said. “I’ve known all these girls a long time. They are all good girls. They have played multiple sports together. They’re hurting right now. We need to find some common ground that will fix what’s happening.”
Several parents went as far as saying the coach had called players a specific profanity name.
Casady admits she sometimes swears in practice and in matches but denies ever calling any of them the name that’s being alleged.
Lizet Sonke said after the meeting that she has never heard her coach call any of the players the name that is being alleged and that the coach has occasionally cursed in practice but will then turn around and apologize for using profanity.
“I, personally, have not experienced the kind of treatment that was discussed here tonight,” she said. “I was surprised by some of the things I heard.”
Valley Union is currently 2-3 on the season and coming off back to back loses to San Simon and St. David. They are in action this week with a road match Tuesday at Desert Christian and a home match Thursday against Patagonia.
Following the loss to St. David several parents stated they were informed several members of the team wanted to quit because they didn’t like how they were being treated by the coach.
Casady informed the parents that prior to the match with St. David she made some rotation adjustments and didn’t tell her players or her two assistant coaches until right before the match wanting to see what effect it would have. The new rotation meant some players would possibly see less playing time than they had in previous matches.
The change seemed to work as Valley Union won game one, something few teams have been able to do against the defending state champions. St. David made the necessary adjustments however to win games two, three and four coming away with a 3-1 win.
Casady admits she’s very competitive, extremely passionate and runs stringent, hard practices. Her practices are always open to the parents, however, There are also cameras in the Valley Union gymnasium that are always on.
“If there is ever any question about what I do my door is always open,” Casady said. “I have nothing to hide. You all are free to come into my practices so you can see what goes on here and what I am doing with my varsity players.”
Jesse Mitchell, whose step daughter plays on the team, said he has spoken with Casady several times before Monday’s meeting about her foul language.
“The cussing has got to stop,” Mitchell said. “We’re concerned about these girls and how they are being treated by you on and off the court. We don’t want them to quit.”
Some of the parents stated their child did not want them to speak up in fear of repercussions from the coach.
“I know for a fact you and I have had some discussions before today about what is going on here and they didn’t go well,” Mariah Vasquez added.”My daughter did not want me to speak up here tonight. She feels intimidated by you. And I don’t blame her. For many of these girls you are very intimidating. She is not going to be here this week. She needs a break menatlly and physically and I’m okay with that.”
Casady assured attendees at Monday’s meeting that there would not be repercussions and vowed to change her coaching tactics at practice as well as in matches.
“We want these girls to come out here, play hard and have fun, and right now that’s not happening,” Jackie De La Cruz said.
Vasquez stated that she is frustrated by the fact her daughter never misses practice, works her butt off and cheers the other girls on but then sits on the bench the whole match.
“She was the only player who did not play against Willcox,” Vasquez said.
After the meeting Casady admitted she has some changes to make in how she coaches her team.
“It sounds like I have work to do, I need to do better,” she said. “I was surprised by some of the things that were said tonight but I’m not going to argue. I will just try to do better.”
Baker said he felt the meeting was good and productive.
“It’s obvious by what we saw here tonight these parents really care about their kids and want to make sure the kids feel they’re protected,” he said. “They weren’t trying to beat up Jenn or the program. They just wanted to be heard. Coaching in this generation is tough and coaching in 2020 is a lot harder to do.”
Hart said he appreciates the parents showing up and expressing their concerns.
“Coaching today is tough,” he said. “Being a parent is also tough. I feel we can always get better with positivity in school as well as on the court. We need to strive to do better with that. We can always get better and we can’t get better unless we see both sides’ perspectives. I hope we can move forward and improve individually and as a school.I think this is the first step.”