Sun. May 26th, 2024

Photo: Pictured is the front page of The Quad‘s print edition of last week, published April 22, 2024. Featured is the article “‘It was mental warfare’: Former WCU Softball Player Recall a Hostile Team Culture.”

*This article was compiled by Emma Hogan, Managing Editor.

 

After the publication of “‘It was mental warfare’: Former WCU Softball Players Recall a Hostile Team Culture,” multiple former players and parents, from across Diane Lokey’s 22 seasons, have contacted The Quad to share their experiences on WCU’s softball team culture under head coach Diane Lokey. We’ve received 11 emails from players who shared that the article spoke to their experiences on the team and three of emails from players who had different, more positive experiences on the team. Additionally, former softball player Bri Garber has written an op-ed where nine current and former softball players have detailed their positive experiences on the team. Below, we have provided excerpts from some of the additional former players who have reached out to us and were willing to have their stories published. It is our hope that these accounts provide more context to the situation. For transparency, we have edited these excerpts for clarity and correct grammar usage according to AP style and our in-house style guidelines, as is our standard editorial practice. 

 

A player from the late 2010s: 

“During my time in the program, I listened to Lokey tell myself and others that anxiety is not real, [that] it is simply an excuse for our ‘mess ups,’ and that even if a doctor prescribed it to us, we were not to take medication for it as she believed they were ‘drugs’ and ‘not acceptable.’ I listened to her tell my best friend and roommate that her injury (herniated disk) was made up and an excuse for her ‘poor performance’ and to ‘cut the drama’ (this roommate is still dealing with said injury, and will have to undergo a serious surgery from pushing through the pain to please [Lokey]). I listened to [Lokey] body shame and make comments about those, including myself, who did not pass the fitness test of the mile-and-a-half run (blue shirt / gray shirt situation) — [of] which the time you needed to beat was via your body weight class ([the] meat eaters, cheetahs, rabbit example). I still think about the times I woke up at 4:45 a.m. to re-do that mile-and-a-half [run] with one other person / solo EIGHT times in one year, in the cold days of fall, in the dark, on the track, with nothing but my team to help get me through. Even when I was battling pneumonia, I was to make sure I was able to get out of bed for our Friday morning practices to redo that run, with no grace given to attempt at a later date, because it does not matter how sick you are — you are NOT to miss a practice under any circumstance. If you were not a favorite, it simply was NEVER good enough for her. No matter the number of reps, the time and effort spent at practice, [being] at extra hitting lessons, extra time in the gym — it did not matter, and you were not going to play. There were games where we were up 12–0, [and] she refused to take the starters out or even switch an at-bat, so [that] players who usually did not see the field would have a chance to prove themselves in a game-time situation. She didn’t start all the seniors on senior day [during] the years I played for her, even when there were only TWO seniors and we were playing a team we had previously 10-runned.

While we did have sessions with Rachel weekly, which was supposed to be a safe space, everything got back to Coach [Lokey]. I was called into her office my sophomore year for something I said during one of those meetings, and I never spoke in one again after that. 

During one of the seasons I played for Lokey, I went through a personal incident that put me in a very bad mental state, which Coach [Lokey] was aware of. One week, when I was feeling particularly low, I decided to use my free absence days (many classes give you up to three unexcused [absences] before a penalty) to take time away from class. Lokey found out (even though these were days that were ALLOWED via the class syllabus) and made me run the warning track of the field back and forth for each class I skipped (a total of 6, skipping each class once with one double skip), all while having the team stand there and watch. 

At the end of each season, we were given a paper evaluation where we could write about our yearly experiences providing feedback on coach, schedule, etc. I know for a fact that myself and various teammates expressed our extreme dissatisfaction and detailed the way we were treated multiple times on those evals. I confirmed this with a few old teammates since receiving your email. These evaluations were given to Terry directly. 

On top of that, I know the AD knows as I have personally been a part of meetings with Terry where the information about Lokey’s treatment was shared. My parents got involved and emailed him once I left the program as well… As I’m still close with many of the girls who both left (and stayed and played, even some of the favorites who I was heartbroken, yet not surprised, to see defending her), I can also speak to the fact that, during my time, there [were] five other parents [who] took their concerns to Terry, as well as many of the players.”

 

Megan (Kelly) Portelli, a player from 2011—2014:

“During my time on the team, Coach Lokey supported us on and off the field. She helped develop our skills and motivated us to reach our common and individual goals — which is not an easy task when you have over 25 unique players on a team each year. 

Coach Lokey gave me the tools to become a successful student-athlete, and more importantly, she instilled values in me that have made me the person I am today. During my time on the team, I learned self-discipline, mental toughness, empathy and accountability. All of which have helped me become a successful person both personally and professionally. 

Over the years, Coach Lokey has cultivated a legacy of excellence which fosters successful, strong and confident women. Being part of the West Chester Softball team was a special time in my life. I made great memories and life-long friends. I am thankful to Coach Diane Lokey for bringing me and my teammates together and for the positive impact she has made on my life.”

 

A player from 2009–2011:

“The fitness tests were used to shame athletes. Even before there were shorts to signify which players passed and which didn’t, Lokey would force the same athletes to run for their tests over and over again, regardless of if their specific position required what was tested by the assessment. I remember one of our catchers continually failing the 1.5 mile test over and over again. Lokey was shaming, and forced her to run alone. Members of the team ran with her despite having passed themselves to save her from the embarrassment.

She frequently commented on player’s weights and what they ate. I vividly remember her saying to a thin player that she was probably ‘ugly on the inside’ after the player spoke about what she planned to eat for dinner that night. 

She told current players they were not allowed to speak to players who left the team and threatened punishment if they did.

Diane Lokey is a horrible human being. There is so much more that I am sure I’m forgetting. I had the option to go to school an extra semester to play my senior year, and opted to graduate early instead because of how abusive the culture was. I wrote a lengthy email to the AD at the time about it and never received a response.”

 

Kelly (Anderson) Sanderson, a player from 2011–2014: 

“I am a proud alumni of West Chester University and the WCU Softball team. Coach Diane Lokey is a talented, knowledgeable and well-respected coach by many. During my time playing for her, she fostered a welcoming environment for her players and supported her athletes not just on the field, but also to be well-rounded student athletes. I would not be the person that I am today if it was not for the values, self-discipline and mental toughness that Coach Diane Lokey instilled in me during my time as a student-athlete. She runs a winning program and that comes with high expectations for the coaches and players. While under her direction, Coach Lokey consistently communicated where I stood on the team in regards to my role and provided me feedback on my specific skills and areas of growth for me as a softball player. Whether I received playing time or not was directly correlated to my performance on the field, and those factors alone. Diane Lokey was a great mentor to me, and I truly feel blessed to have her in my life.”

 

Trisha Kopinetz, a player from 2019–2022: 

“I was on the team from Fall 2019 until Spring 2022. Initially, I had a pretty positive experience, but I quickly learned that there were a few things that were considered ‘normal.’ During my freshman year, the upperclassmen made it apparent that the way you got through a lot of the situations that occurred on the team was by going to your teammates about whatever had happened, and I slowly learned that, sometimes, it felt as if you were walking on eggshells. But again, my freshman year was pretty positive. I didn’t start to feel [that] I couldn’t go to my coaches about an issue in my personal life until my sophomore year. During that time I had begun to lose weight, and as a result of doing so, the coaches had begun watching the things that I ate (which we were warned about my freshman year and the upperclassmen had told us to be aware [of]). Before one of our series during the spring, [Lokey] had stopped me during COVID testing, and told me that I needed to meet with the nutritionist because they felt that something was going on with my eating habits. After this incident, I became hyper-aware of everything I was putting into my body, and it became very toxic very quickly. This is also when I began to really struggle with my mental health. During my junior season, I was chosen to be co-captain of the team. During this time, I lost complete enjoyment being on the team. My mental health rapidly declined due to the situations I was forced to face/deal with. I was unable to turn to my teammates since many of them felt that, ‘since I was one of coaches’ favorites, there was no way I could have a terrible experience,’ and I no longer felt I could go to the coaches either. During this time I truly felt isolated and alone, so much so that I would cry before/after any practice or game because I dreaded going, and I didn’t care if I woke up or got a career-ending injury, but continued to go and be ‘myself’ for the sake of the team. I also began to really struggle in my classes and when I was just told that ‘my classes were hard’ when I tried to bring it up to the coaching staff, I had felt that softball truly came first all of the time. Over the years, I lost trust in my coaching staff and felt completely isolated by my teammates (who made it feel as though there were two different groups you could be in: coaches’ favorites, or the other group). And while there are resources for student athletes, you feel as though going to seek help is useless since others have talked about things that may have happened in the past and nothing has been done.”

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