SARATOGA SPRINGS – Alleged verbal abuse and body shaming by the Saratoga Springs High School girls’ varsity lacrosse coach has been so upsetting that some players were actively hoping to lose Monday’s Section II Class A quarterfinals game just so the season could end, according to two parents of players.
Those parents were part of a contingent of concerned players’ parents who signed a May 18 letter to the Saratoga Springs City School District’s superintendent and athletic director asking that head coach Katie Hannan be fired for inappropriate, disrespectful and bullying behaviors.
The letter, obtained by The Daily Gazette, has been signed by 15 parents representing 12 athletes’ families. The letter, which includes email addresses for the 15 signees, states that four additional families support the letter’s call for Hannan’s dismissal but wished to remain anonymous, meaning the letter speaks for the wishes of 16 of the team’s 22 families.
“Our children are reaching breaking points that have caused them to cry uncontrollably,” according to the letter. Players are “unable to pay attention in school, unable to sleep at night, shake in fear when seen by the coach in school.”
In some of the most disturbing allegations, parents claim Hannan, who has been the head coach since 2019, called one player a “whore” and told players they needed to lose weight by saying she wanted to see more space between their thighs.
The Daily Gazette is not naming the parents to protect the student athletes. The Gazette spoke on Tuesday to three parents who said they signed the letter.
The district said Hannan has apologized and will remain as head coach through the end of the season. After winning Monday, the team plays Wednesday against Bethlehem Central High School in the Section II Class A semifinals.
“Our athletic director has been dealing directly with our coach and has offered to meet with parents who have expressed concerns and want to come in and make sure that we’re meeting the needs of kids,” said the district’s top official, Superintendent Michael Patton. “Coach Hannan has taken full responsibility, has apologized to the team, has clearly communicated to the parents. But, obviously, you still have some folks who are upset, who feel like not enough has been done.”
Patton said the alleged behavior is “unacceptable.”
“That doesn’t meet the expectation that we have of any staff member. Those types of comments are unacceptable,” Patton said. “Comments that are made to kids have to be appropriate all the time. We have to be role models for students, and we always have to be using our professional judgment in all of our interactions.”
Nick McPartland, the district’s director of Athletics, Health and Physical Education, referred questions on the matter to Patton.
Hannan, who graduated from Saratoga Springs High School in 2010 and played lacrosse at Long Island University-Post, did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday. She is listed as a pupil services and special education teacher with the district.
After apologizing to the team on May 17, Hannan issued a written statement to parents, which The Daily Gazette obtained Tuesday. The letter reads, in part:
“The week has been difficult for the team. I am proud of how this team has handled such events both collectively as a unit and as individuals. From what I have observed, I can say all 22 members of the team have handled this difficult situation with grace and a commitment to each other,” Hannan wrote. “My reflection over the past few days has focused on my words and actions as a leader. It is clear to me that I have fallen short of the expectations and standards that I set for myself as an individual and as a leader of this team. But most importantly, I have fallen short of what the team should expect from me as their coach and for that I apologized to the team and extend that apology to you the parents.”
Parents said Hannan has long had an upsetting, negative coaching style that includes turning her back on games when players make mistakes. They said a complaint was issued on May 9 to the district following alleged inappropriate comments made by the coach. After looking into the complaints, the district ultimately decided to retain Hannan as coach. She issued her apology on May 17.
Parents responded with their letter to the district on May 18, saying Hannan continues to display passive-aggressive and mean behavior.
“These behaviors are not changed overnight,” the letter reads. “Therefore, we are requesting that Coach Hannan be removed from her coaching position for the remainder of the season while this is further investigated due to the emotional trauma that it is having on our girls at a point where it is critical to remain focused on their academics and performance at sectionals.”
One parent pointed to concern about a recent spate of self-harm among female college athletes, including three deaths at colleges in America between March and April.
Another parent said her initial inclination had been to ask her daughter to have thicker skin against tough coaching.
“That’s what I was saying at the very beginning,” the parent said. “But this goes much further, much deeper. There are girls that are literally shaking when they are around [Hannan] and have so much anxiety and fear. She is negatively impacting these girls emotionally. You can reach a point when it just breaks you.”
McPartland wrote to at least one parent on May 18 offering to set up a meeting between the parent and the coach, according to emails obtained by The Daily Gazette.
The parent responded to that email on May 19 with a meeting request involving more parents.
“I have never in all my years witnessed such disregard for children’s feelings of anxiety and fear towards an adult who is supposed to be an educator and role model in their world. You are telling these kids that their feelings do not matter and that their fears are not valid by keeping Katie [Hannan] on that field. No one is comfortable when she is present,” the parent wrote in response to McPartland.
On Monday, McPartland wrote the parent back to say he was not comfortable having a meeting with a large group of parents but would facilitate a meeting between a smaller group.
“I understand why you feel that this is being ‘kicked down the road,’ and I can assure you that is not the case. We are not hoping to just get to the end of the season but to try and make the most of what’s left in the season,” he wrote. “Your concerns have been heard and have been taken seriously, along with the concerns of the students. This situation has included a variety of district administrators to be involved throughout the process, which will continue even after the season is over.”
McPartland and the parent were scheduled to meet Wednesday one-on-one, according to the parent.
This is not the first time a Saratoga Springs High School varsity coach has faced backlash for negative behavior in recent years. Varsity girls’ soccer coach Adrienne Dannehy was accused of bullying in 2016 and boys’ varsity lacrosse coach Jon Warner was suspended that same year for directing inappropriate language at players.
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.
Correction 7:47 a.m.: An earlier version of this article included an incorrect photo that has now been replaced.