NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Concerns about former South Bay softball coach accused of inappropriate behavior

The coach was most recently at Sweetwater High School
Sweetwater Softball
Posted at 6:14 PM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 01:12:15-04

NATIONAL CITY (KGTV) -- There are questions about a former high school softball coach in the South Bay after recent accusations of inappropriate behavior.

Candice's daughter played softball at Sweetwater High School. Her daughter loved the sport, but she said her daughter and several others on the team quit because of the former coach at the school.

"They quit because of this individual, because of his demeanor, because of his behavior, because of the things that he would do," said Candice. Candice did not want to use her last name.

She said it started in May when she noticed a change in her daughter. "She seemed very closed off," Candice said.

Her daughter eventually told her about her assistant softball coach. At this point, Team 10 is not naming the former coach because he has not been charged with any crime.

Candice said the coach treated her daughter in a way inappropriate for any adult. She said that included putting his hands on her.

"[My daughter] says that the individual touched her on her lower back, ran his hand down her buttock. And that was one incident," Candice said. She said it was supposed to show her daughter a particular softball stance.

"But when we physically showed on each other's body what the touch looked like, even as an adult—as a grown woman—you don't touch another female like that without her consent, especially a minor child," Candice said.

She said the coach also put his hand on her daughter's thigh.

"Relating to the sport, he has no business touching her thigh, much less going to her inner thigh," Candice said.

"What it boils down to is that there aren't policies in place, and if there are policies in place, they aren't clear for either the athletes or for the coaches," said Katherine Starr, a former Olympian and founder of Safe 4 Athletes. The organization is dedicated to protecting athletes from sexual abuse.

Starr said coaches need to be very clear when dealing with kids.

"If you don't have this open dialogue of communication, then what you're doing is you're just invading the boundaries and you're just pushing past what is comfortable. Every time you push past that boundary, you've now silenced the athlete," Starr said.

When Candice went to the school about those incidents and what she called the coach's aggressive behavior, the administration launched their own investigation.

In a response letter to Candice dated July 12, Sweetwater's principal said the investigation found many of the alleged actions by the coach "were substantiated." That included the two incidents where Candice said the coach touched her daughter.

The letter said that the actions were not "severe enough" or "pervasive enough" to be considered sexual harassment. The school instead found the behavior "unprofessional."

"At this point, I feel that we're not protecting our daughters. We're not protecting our girls," she said.

Team 10 learned of a similar investigation when the same adult coached baseball at Bonita Vista High School a few years ago. At least two parents told Team 10 they also complained about the coach's behavior.

Like Candice, one Bonita Vista parent filed a formal complaint of harassment. In the 2018 complaint the parent provided to Team 10, he said the coach kept a picture of a man's private area "in the dugout on the whiteboard for several days." The parent also said the coach mimicked a sexual act in front of the team.

In a third allegation, the parent said the coach "made comments to 3 Bonita Vista baseball players which contained strong sexual overtones."

A response letter to the parent from the school said the coach's actions "were substantiated." Like in Candice's situation, the letter also stated there was no evidence of sexual harassment.

A spokesperson for Sweetwater Union High School District said they "take allegations of misconduct very seriously" but would not answer specific questions about the investigations at Bonita Vista or Sweetwater High School.

She confirmed the coach is no longer at Sweetwater High, but she would not say when he left.

Team 10 reached out to the coach for comment, but have not reached him.

Candice filed a police report with the National City Police Department. The department confirmed the investigation is ongoing.

"I honestly feel from beginning to end, the ball was dropped completely and nobody was thinking of our children's safety," Candice said.

She hopes her daughter can get back to the sport she has played for years.

"She loves the sport and by these actions, he took that from her," Candice said.