Chaminade girls basketball coach Megan Kelso out amid bullying allegations

Chaminade Prep girls basketball coach Megan Kelso has been forced to resign after more than a year of complaints by players and parents to school and Archdiocese of Los Angeles officials alleging that she has routinely bullied players.

While Chaminade officials for months repeatedly dismissed complaints against Kelso, the threat of the girls team boycotting practice and games until the coach was removed prompted the school administration’s decision, according to two people familiar with situation.

Kelso has been aware of bullying allegations against her since at least September of 2022 but has continued to allegedly verbally and emotionally abuse players during the current academic year, according to a Chaminade parent.

Chaminade principal Luis Guerra informed girls basketball families of the move this week.

“Megan Kelso will be taking a leave from her leadership role on the team. We respect the privacy and dignity of our employees and our students, and for that reason, we are unable to provide any additional information. We ask that you respect the privacy of Ms. Kelso also,” Guerra said in an email to the families.

The move comes as seven current and former players, 11 parents, a former assistant coach and an attorney representing the families allege in dozens of interviews with the Southern California News Group, in emails, letters and confidential Chaminade documents obtained by SCNG that Kelso has targeted players for regular bullying by her, verbally and emotionally abused players on an almost daily basis, body shamed players, made inappropriate comments about her personal life and sexual experiences to players, prohibited players from dating other players on the team, and made homophobic comments.

Chaminade officials ignored or failed to effectively address the “foreseeable danger” of the continued abusive and inappropriate behavior by Kelso outlined in complaints to school and Archdiocese of Los Angeles officials, players and parents alleged in interviews with SCNG and in letters from an attorney for the families to school and archdiocese officials, creating a toxic environment.

“Megan just brings people down every single chance she gets,” said a player, who left the team but remained at Chaminade.

Kelso’s alleged mistreatment of players and the school’s failure to address it in an effective way has led to a steady stream of players leaving the team or school before completing their athletic eligibility, according to interviews with players, parents and the former coach as well as emails, letters, and Chaminade documents. At least 16 players during Kelso’s four years as head coach have left the team or school before finishing their senior season, according to team records. All 16 left the team because of Kelso, according to players who have left, other players and parents, and a former coach.

Players and parents maintain in interviews and letters and emails to Chaminade officials that Kelso’s behavior is not consistent with the stated objectives of a school that states in its literature to the families of current and prospective students that, “We prepare students for success in college and beyond while fostering in them deep and moral values and a commitment to service that is grounded in the Catholic faith.”

Kelso, school president Robert Webb did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

“We respect the privacy of our employees and our students, and for that reason, we will not be providing any additional information on what is an internal matter,” Guerra said in an email to SCNG Wednesday after this report was first posted. “What we can share is that our school takes concerns about our athletic program seriously. We have procedures and policies in place to ensure that employment matters, including those involving our athletic staff, are addressed appropriately at our school.”

Players and parents, several of whom have backgrounds related to mental health, allege that the school’s failure to recognize the effects of Kelso’s bullying and abusive behavior has led to girls suffering from depression and anxiety. It was commonplace for players to have panic attacks at practices or even while playing in a game because of Kelso’s alleged abuse, seven players and 11 parents said. Players have sought therapy as the result of Kelso’s alleged treatment of them, according to players, parents and communication with the school.

“(Kelso) pits the girls against each other,” said the mother of a player who left the team this past season. The woman asked, like the other parents and players, not to be named in this report because of a fear of retaliation by Chaminade or Archdiocese of Los Angeles officials.

“She picks favorites and it’s constant,” the mother continued. “It’s like a live version of some humiliating social media experiment.

“It’s like “Lord of the Flies” and she loves it.”

The woman said she, like other parents, is constantly concerned that a Chaminade player will commit suicide.

“I don’t know how the school wouldn’t be worried today,” the mother said. “Why is the school not scared?”

Among the players’ and parents’ allegations:

Kelso each season targets one or two players for almost daily bullying, all seven players and 11 parents, and the former assistant said.

“Megan always pinpoints one player every year that she bullies,” said a parent whose daughter transferred from Chaminade this past season.

“She has a (expletive) list,” the parent said.

Seven players, 11 parents, and the former assistant coach confirmed that Kelso keeps what players and parents within the program widely refer to as a “(expletive) list.”

In addition to routinely bullying certain players, all the players and their parents allege that Kelso regularly uses family crises to verbally and emotionally abuse players. Kelso has used or referred to parents’ separations or divorce proceedings, the hospitalization of parents or grandparents, the death of pets, or in one case a physical altercation between a player and her father to mock or belittle players, according to seven players and 11 parents, as well as emails and letters.
While swearing from coaches is common in high school sports, the players and parents allege that Kelso routinely curses at players in a deeply personal manner.

“She’s always telling the girls to “sit the (expletive) down” at games and practices, said a current Chaminade parent.

A former player, who went on to play college basketball, said Kelso routinely singled out players and screamed at them to “get your (expletive) together!”

The player also recounted an incident with a player returning to practice after an illness. The team had installed a new play while the girl was sick. In her first practice back, the girl struggled to pick up the play, prompting Kelso to start screaming at her. The girl had a panic attack.

“She had a breakdown in the middle of practice,” the player recalled. Then, the player said, Kelso screamed at the panicking girl, “Get out of my f—ing gym.”

The incident was confirmed by four players as well as five parents familiar with the incident.

Kelso regularly talked about her personal life and sexual experiences and desires with players and asked players to share details of their personal lives with her, seven players and 11 parents said.

“Megan was trying to be cool with the girls about her own sexual escapades,” a player said. “There’s a racist component too.”

Kelso regularly made sexual comments or jokes about Black men that the players viewed as racist, according to the players and their parents.

A group of Chaminade players were recounting their weekends as they stretched before a Monday practice in January 2022 when Kelso walked over to the group and joined the conversation.

“How was your weekend Coach Megan?” one of the players asked.

“I got some (a sexually explicit term for Black male genitalia) this weekend. I can see why you people enjoy it so much,” Kelso, who is white, said to the group which included Black players, according to a player she allegedly made the comment to and seven other people who overheard or are familiar with the conversation, and letters that recount the incident to the Chaminade administration.

Kelso’s alleged Black genitalia and “you people” comment in January 2022, left one of the Black players to whom the coach made the comment speechless.

“What was going through my head, if somebody had told me my head coach in high school would have ever said that, I would have looked at them like they were mentally insane,” said the player, who was 17 at the time of the incident. “I never would have expected someone to say that. Especially someone who was older than me but someone who I’m supposed to be looking up to and taking guidance from. So I was really just in shock. …

“In my heart, I wanted to swing. I wanted to because not only did she say something sexual which was very inappropriate, but the way she said, ‘You people,’ like that in itself, giving me a label, pushing me into a group, especially as a Black woman. It’s hard enough being Black, it’s worse being a Black woman. So the fact that I was really labeled and put into a category that wasn’t seen in a positive light, it made me mad.

“I see it as, it’s a racial label, it’s without identity, it’s kind of, when it’s used it’s basically objectifying our men and I mean, our men have been objectified since we were first brought over here. So this is really, really setting us back. And then for having a white woman say that it kind of just, yeah, it pretty much brings us all the way back to slave days.

“That statement stayed with me for a while.”

Kelso did not respond to multiple requests for comment over a several week period.

When a SCNG reporter reached her on her cell phone and identified himself, Kelso immediately hung up. The reporter then texted Kelso asking, “Am I correct in assuming that you hanging up on me means that you have no comment?”

“Hi,” Kelso responded in a text a few minutes later.

“No comment. I understand the school has already responded.”

A SCNG reporter emailed Kelso an interview request in June detailing the specific areas that would be covered. Kelso did not respond but the Chaminade administration emailed a statement to SCNG with the same wording as the statement Guerra provided SCNG Wednesday.

Multiple Chaminade officials have not responded to subsequent SCNG emails or telephone calls over a period of five months.

Chaminade, the archdiocese said in a statement “is not a school of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles – it is operated independently. As a result, administrative matters are managed by the school directly. All matters brought to the attention of the Archdiocese are replied to and referred directly to the principal and president of the high school, so they are aware of the communication with our office.”

Current and former Chaminade players and their parents allege in interviews and letters to school and archdiocese officials that Kelso’s “abusive misconduct” has caused players “psychological trauma, injury and damages with most requiring therapy now and in the future.”

Among those injuries, according to interviews, letters and emails to Chaminade officials and school documents, are a series of severe mental/emotional distress disorders including “anxiety disorders; mood disorders; major depression; personality disorders; attention deficit hyperactivity disorders; eating disorders; body dysmorphic disorder; adjustment disorders; substance use disorders; impulse control disorders; psychosomatic illnesses; post-traumatic stress disorders; general overall low self-esteem, sleeping disorders.”

“No one is caring about the kids’ mental health,” said the parent of a current Chaminade student “and to have to listen to Chaminade talk about their religious stuff and treating each other kindly, to complain about Megan and be so dismissed is just beyond insulting.”

Kelso was a 10-year assistant before being named head coach in the summer of 2019, replacing Kelli DiMuro, who took the head coach position at Cal Lutheran.

DiMuro did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Three other former Chaminade assistant coaches including Jen Laolagi, the current Notre Dame head coach, also did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

At first, the hiring was greeted with enthusiasm.

That soon changed.

Players and parents said Kelso began bullying players almost from the first practice.

“She’s a bully,” said a mother of a Chaminade player. “She emotionally abuses these girls. She degrades them. She erodes their self confidence.”

Starters and bench warmers began to dread practices, players, parents and a former assistant coach said.

“Every day I knew going to be the worst two hours of my day,” a Chaminade starter said.

Games were not any better, former and current players said.

A Chaminade player was noticeably upset during warm-ups before an away game before a female assistant coach approached her.

“I was a mess,” the player recalled. “I visibly looked uneasy.

“She asked, ‘What’s going on?’ I just broke down.”

She told the assistant in confidence that the previous night the player, then a minor, had gotten into what she described as a physical altercation with her father. She didn’t know where she would spend the night after the game. The assistant coach informed the player that as a mandated reporter under California law, she would have to report the altercation allegation to either law enforcement or Child Protective Services.

She would also have to tell Kelso, the player recalled the assistant telling her.

The player said she then witnessed the assistant tell Kelso about the altercation between the player and her father. A few moments later Kelso walked up to the player, the player said.

Kelso, according to the player, told her “Whatever you’re going through, I don’t care. I don’t care what you’re going through right now. This is a game and whatever you’re crying about, it better not be about playing time.”

“For the rest of the season, (Kelso) never checked in on me even once. You know, no ‘What’s going on?’ Why are you trying to make me feel even more (expletive). I’m not crying about playing time. The game hasn’t even started. She was just trying to make this situation more insignificant than it was. Failed to bring it up or ask me how I was doing even once.”

The incident, verified by two other people, is one of dozens of occasions in which current and former Chaminade players, their parents and a former assistant coach allege that Kelso has bullied, verbally and emotionally abused players during her four seasons as head coach and displayed inappropriate behavior that contradicts the Roman Catholic school’s stated standards and values, and damaged players’ mental health to the point where multiple parents have expressed concern that players might attempt suicide.

Players, parents and their attorney allege in interviews and letters to school officials that Kelso’s bullying was constant.

“Megan was the type of person to damage and continue to damage you and especially for the younger kids because they would break down because someone is in their face yelling at them and it was like a big bully, that was what she was trying to do,” said a former Chaminade standout, who now plays college basketball. “That’s what she was using her power to do, to bully the younger kids “

Players and parents alleged Kelso’s bullying often consisted of her swearing at players in deeply personal terms in front of the team.

“She would completely tear me down,” said a former player “’You shouldn’t even be on the court.’ She used the F word on me.

“She personalized it. ‘You’re not any f-ing good. You shouldn’t be on this f-ing team. You should f-ing leave.’ Why I left was completely because of her. After those talks, I would go in the car and completely bawl my eyes out.”

The player and her mother said she began suffering from depression and having regular anxiety attacks. She eventually transferred to another school out of state.

Another former player who also transferred said she suffered similar treatment.

“Megan would constantly tell me, ‘You need to get your (expletive) together, you’re playing like f-ing ass, you’re practicing like f-ing ass, you’re not a good player,’ you’re this, you’re that. It was constant. There was no reasoning or no winning with her. I would ask her, ‘What do I need to do better?’ And she would say, ‘There’s nothing you can do better, there’s nothing you can do to play at this level. You’ll never get to D1 college. You’ll never even get to a D3 college. You’re always going to play on a trash club team. You’ll never be noticed.’ Constantly swearing and putting me down at the same time.”

A player’s mother recalled her daughter “coming home every day crying because Megan belittled her every day at practice. She felt singled out and isolated.

“It was the whole bully mentality.”

Mother 1 said her daughter was a frequent target of Kelso’s bullying.

“Megan was so abusive to her,” Mother 1 said. “Make her cry and then mock her for crying.

“Scream at her ‘What the f– are you doing?”

A former player recalled Kelso screaming and swearing at a player during a league game. Kelso was unhappy with the girl’s play.

“She was attacking the girl in the locker room,” the player said. “She was attacking her. This wasn’t a coach telling the team to do better.”

Four other players confirmed the former player’s account.

The former was one of six players who said they suffered panic attacks because of Kelso’s alleged verbal and emotional abuse. A seventh player also said she suffered from panic attacks in a letter to Chaminade officials that was obtained by SCNG.

The former player said she began having episodes where she began “shaking, hyperventilating, (having) blurred vision” in games.

“I started having depressive episodes, anxiety attacks because of her,” said the former player, who left the team in January.

“Megan made me never want to pick up a basketball again. Since leaving the team I’ve avoided stepping on a basketball court or even getting near a basketball because it just reminds me of a bad time in my life, because of Megan’s coaching and style.”

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