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Monday, March 25, 2019

NKU Basketball Player Writes Scathing Editorial on Coach's Behaviors

Photo: NKU Athletics, Chloe Smith. 

A Northern Kentucky University basketball player published an editorial on the behavior and antics of Head Coach Camryn Whitaker, in which she characterized the coach of bullying and abusive behavior.

Taryn Taugher, a redshirt junior from Freeland High School in Michigan, published an article today in The Odyssey Online in which she describes the tarnished relationship she and other players have had with Whitaker. 

The Odyssey is a crowdsourced media model, allowing authors to submit content to be placed on their site. 

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Taugher took to social media to release her editorial. 

"I am finally speaking out about the abuse my teammates and I have endured for 3 years now at Northern Kentucky University. This needs to stop now," she wrote. 

The article, entitled, "Behind Closed Doors: Abuse In Northern Kentucky University Women's Basketball Program" details Taugher's conversations and alleged abuse that she and other athletes have been exposed to under Whitaker. 

She writes: "The emotional abuse by current head coach has lasting effects on its players. But, it ends here.

There is a deep, dark, hidden secret that lies within the women's basketball program at Northern Kentucky University which has been swept under the rug by the athletic department for three years." 

Taugher, has appeared in 84 games for the Norse since 2016, starting in 21 of those games.

Update: A fellow NKU basketball player, Shar'Rae Davis, posted video corroborating Taugher's story:

Taugher and Whitaker. NKU Athletics. 
Northern Kentucky University released a statement on the allegations:

"The well-being of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance and when concerns are raised about our programs, they are appropriately reviewed, evaluated, and addressed.

The university is aware of complaints surrounding the women’s basketball program.  We recognize the courage it takes to share personal stories. We have taken these complaints seriously and they have been thoroughly reviewed separately by the Title IX and Athletics offices, and addressed in accordance with university policy. There are ongoing efforts to improve communications and relationships between the program’s leadership and student-athletes.

We are committed to fostering a safe, healthy and inclusive learning environment for anyone who is a part of our campus community. Our students’ voices will be heard and the Athletics office will continue to monitor and assess our programs, taking appropriate corrective actions as needed.”

Whitaker was named the fifth head coach of the Northern Kentucky University women’s basketball program by Director of Athletics Ken Bothof on May 6, 2016. 

Whitaker had coaching stints at Kentucky, Dayton, Missouri State and Austin Peay. A native of Cynthiana, Kentucky and Harrison County High School, she played five seasons at Western Kentucky University, leading the Hilltoppers to 97 wins and postseason berths in each of her seasons. 

The editorial, in part, is here:

By Taryn Taugher 

There is a deep, dark, hidden secret that lies within the women's basketball program at Northern Kentucky University which has been swept under the rug by the athletic department for three years. "The mission of NKU Athletics is to advance the University's vision while focusing on the well-being of our student-athletes as we prepare and empower each of them for academic and competitive success at NKU and beyond." This is quoted right from the NKU Athletic Department's Mission Statement, but apparently this doesn't apply to the student athlete's mental well-being.

Emotional Abuse is defined as any abusive behavior that isn't physical, which may include verbal aggression, intimidation, manipulation, humiliation, which most often unfolds as a pattern of behavior over time that aims to diminish another person's identity, dignity, and self-worth, and which often results in anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors ( Northern Kentucky University's athletic department seems to be willing to do anything to silence the multiple emotional abuse allegations against current women's basketball coach, Camryn Whitaker.

Now let me be clear: There is a difference between yelling and degrading. Every student athlete has been yelled at; that is not the issue here. The issue is that this coach is making it personal by bullying and emotionally abusing some of her players behind closed doors. This does not apply to all of the players on the team. She certainly has her favorites, but a few of the others seem to be "chosen" to be her emotional "punching bags" each year, and I have been one of them from the first day Camryn Whitaker stepped onto the court for our first practice in June 2016.

Intimidation. A lot of coaches at the college level are intimidating. There is a level of power that coaches possess that makes them intimidating to players on some scale, but this coach is different. For three years, a few of my teammates and I were so afraid of her to the point where practice was dreaded. We didn't know what mood she was going to be in. We didn't want to be in the same room alone with her for fear that she would degrade us, as she normally would:

"You're sucking the life out of me!"

"You're selfish!"

"You're a poor captain!"

"Do you even have a brain?"

"I don't have a place for you on this team!"

"You're lazy!"

"You have no idea what mean looks like! I can show you mean!"

"You think you're smarter than me!"

"The only reason your parents are yelling in the stands is because you are telling them something."

"I am the boss and there is nothing you can do about it!"

"I can take your scholarship away!"

And the list goes on. These verbal attacks were mostly behind closed doors, in her office, on what she liked to call the "crying couch" where it was your word against hers. Where she could get you alone and tear you apart. These meetings were mostly done weekly and before games, so you were so messed up from your beat-up-session that you couldn't possibly play well by game time. Personal attacks on your family, personality, work-ethic, and body physique were also not uncommon. Questioning my own self-worth became a huge struggle for me. This woman is telling me that I am basically nothing: that I am lazy, not a good leader, that I suck the life out of people; maybe I was?

It became hard to sleep. I would cry a lot, sometimes for no reason. I was anxious all the time and it increased significantly if I was in the same building as Coach Whitaker. What used to be joy and passion quickly became fear and numbness as I stepped into practice. Basketball became something that I no longer loved but associated with being emotionally abused.

Coach Whitaker wanted it to be known that she was in charge. She required that players AND the assistant coaches called her "ma'am." Responses like "yes ma'am" or "no ma'am" were required. This included over text messages as well.

The rest of the article is available here. 

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