University of Idaho women’s volleyball players accused their head coach of physical and mental abuse, bullying and body shaming, allegedly wanting their bodies to “be a certain way” throughout a season that culminated in only one win.
Thirteen players at the university filed an 11-page complaint detailing head coach Chris Gonzalez’ alleged abuse in 2022 and 2023, according to Idaho News.
Gonzalez and his coaching staff face accusations of harassment, intimidation, and discrimination along with putting players in danger allegedly speeding over 30 mph over the limit and taking their eyes off the road.
Gonzalez, a California native and Iowa graduate, was brought in to coach the Vandals before the 2022 season, and has only won 5 games at the helm of the program.
The complaint alleges the coaching staff had created an environment filled with bullying that harmed their players’ well-being resulting in poor classroom results and one person being tagged as a “red flag for suicide.”
“Through many abusive behaviors, Coach Gonzalez and his staff perpetuate a culture of harassment, bullying, and belittling.” the letter, obtained by KLEW, said. “Many of the girls are now experiencing a marked decrease in mental and physical health.”
The student-athletes also blamed the coaches’ behavior as the reason the Vandals finished the 2023 season 1-27.
Gonzalez’s alleged treatment was noticed immediately during one of the first practices of the season in August by one of the program’s newest members.
“The way he was talking to girls. The way he was just trying to instill complete and utter control through fear, was really not something I’d ever experienced.” Emma Patterson, a junior transfer from the University of Alaska Anchorage, told the outlet.
Another Idaho player, Travel Morris, told the Orange County Register that Gonzalez “physically pushed a player” during practice because of a failed drill in 2022.
“He literally told her to move and then pushed her and she fell to the floor,” Morris claimed to the outlet. “He said, ‘Move!’ and just pushed her, like completely just pushed her over. He pushed her quite aggressively.”
Patterson also confirmed players were told not to eat food because they were “overweight.”
Gonzalez allegedly removed a player from the travel roster for eating a calzone during the trip, the complaint read.
“Trying to withhold food, and not feeding players correctly, because in his head we weren’t skinny enough. The team was built like linebackers is what he said, pushing the girls to the ground,” Patterson said.
The letter listed alleged comments made about the player’s appearances, including being “bottom-heavy,” “built like linebackers with too much mass,” and wanting “bodies to be a certain way.”
Hernandez was accused of showing “clear favoritism” to international students since he doesn’t “have to worry about their level of commitment and discipline.”
Gonzalez is accused of grabbing the players during practice in ways that made them feel uncomfortable.
“Without their consent, Gonzalez grabs girls around the waist/hips to lift them in the air for a blocking drill, again without their consent. Girls feel violated/ uncomfortable even when he says, “Don’t take this out of context.”
The letter also accused Gonzalez of tracking the student-athletes sleep using an OURA ring, a smart device used to track sleep patterns, which they felt “violates the privacy of the athlete and may reveal personal medical or physical data without their consent.”
The letter also alleges the school was notified of the abuse a year before, as Athletic Director Terry Gawlik and former head trainer were made aware but “there was a feeling of disregard of our situation,” following a meeting in October.
“AD Gawlik was shown documents last season containing statements of Gonzalez’s past players but refused to read,” the complaint read, with the players accusing Gawlick of splitting athletes apart and interrogating them instead.
The school has launched an investigation into the claims made about Gonzalez and his coaching staff.
“There is no definitive date for the investigation to conclude. The investigators have contacted dozens of people for interviews and are working expeditiously,” University of Idaho Executive Director of Communications, Jodie Walker said in a statement to IdahoNews.com.
“We are committed to a timely, but fair, and thorough investigation. Meanwhile, the student-athletes [have] a variety of support services offered to them to help them navigate this challenging time,”