The Chandler Basha volleyball program parted ways with head coach Justine Spann on Wednesday night. The decision – technically due to Basha asking Spann to step down – was announced during a meeting between the parents and sporting director Eric Magaña. Spann will be replaced by the program’s junior varsity coach, Bryan Meyer.
Spann had been placed on administrative leave earlier in the week following a series of allegations including verbal abuse, body shaming and inappropriate social media posts, according to four parents who spoke to The Republic . The parents were granted anonymity in order to protect their daughters.
Due to the culture Spann fosters, an unprecedented 23 girls have chosen not to return to the program this year, not including senior graduates. These girls were members of the varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams last season.
Spann returned to the head coaching role last season after his mother, Terri Cox-Spann, left just a year after leading Basha to the 2019 6A State Championship. Justine Spann graduated from Basha in 2016 before joining playing four years in Colorado and one year of beach volleyball at the Grand Canyon.
At the time of his hire, Magaña described Spann as “focused, driven and good for young adults”. Soon, however, a different picture began to emerge.
“There was no coaching,” said a parent. “The majority of what was said to the girls was to put them down and put them down. I think they thought it would make them more successful.
Another parent added: “Demeaning, demeaning, demoralizing comments to girls, about girls, often in front of their teammates, about their volleyball skills, their looks, their character. All for the purpose of embarrassing and harassing – intimidation plain and simple.
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On several occasions, Spann put players down because of their weight, according to the parents interviewed.
At tournaments, she told players that they “were not going to consume any more food because they had had enough of it”. And in games, she told players who were late to prom that they “could have had it if they weren’t so heavy.”
There were also slurs, which included insults and profanity, the parents said.
And, according to a parent, when Spann didn’t believe a group of players were taking post-game ice baths at home, she demanded they send photos of themselves in the baths – meaning that high school girls were sending pictures of themselves in sports bras to their coach’s personal phone number.
The larger theme, however, was a culture of belittling players. A relative went so far as to compile a list of insulting remarks made by Spann as she predicted the situation would escalate throughout the season – as it did.
These quotes included the following:
“You are completely irrelevant on the pitch.”
“Leave her. Let her have her moment of mental weakness.
“You serve like a 5 year old.”
“If we were in practice, I would have broken you mentally by now. You’re lucky it’s senior night.
The Arizona Republic contacted Spann early Thursday for comment.
Due to complaints from parents, the administration held meetings with Spann and put her on an improvement plan for her second year.
For many parents, however, that was not enough.
“To our surprise and disappointment, the same coaching staff has returned this season,” said a parent.
Another described Spann’s decision to return as “unfathomable”.
A third saw it as favoritism because of her connections in the neighborhood, through her mother and others.
During the first training sessions this season, Spann’s behavior continued. Rather than acknowledging her missteps when 23 girls left the program, she “was very angry about it,” according to a parent.
The final straw for the administration came earlier this week when Spann posted a video to his public Instagram and TikTok accounts. In the video, Spann – who is black – sang a sexually explicit song using the N-word.
“I have (a) daughter (in the program),” said a parent. “I don’t want her to have that type of role model.”
Still, there’s a sense of frustration that Basha didn’t ask Spann to step down before this latest incident.
“It’s sad that it took this for the district to remove someone who was not good for the school and good for the kids,” a parent said.
That same parent expressed doubts that Meyer will change the culture established by Spann. Both Arizona Storm Elite Volleyball Club coaches and signed players for their club, while shaming those who play for other clubs.
“There’s a culture in this gym that comes from their club,” the parent said. “…I see it as a global culture. A global culture where children are not coached and supervised, they are abused and manipulated. »
However, the parent added that demeaning behavior was much more prevalent with Spann than with Meyer.
“Maybe it will be good for Coach Meyer,” the parent said. “Maybe he’ll take the chance and realize he can’t behave this way if he wants to stay. So I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Another parent expressed less optimism about the future.
“(Spann),” the parent said, “burned Basha’s volleyball program for at least three seasons.”
Theo Mackie covers Arizona high school sports and Phoenix Rising FC. He can be reached by email at [email protected] and on Twitter @theo_mackie.