ONLY ON 13: Report: Former athletes claim abusive culture in Saratoga Springs sports

A law firm representing former athletes at Saratoga Springs is requesting a state investigation into what they are calling an abusive culture in athletics that pushed athletes to play through serious injuries and demeaned them.

Attorney Martin Greenberg, who is representing a group called Safe Athletics for Everyone (SAFE), sent a 77-page letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, Education Commissioner Betty Rosa, Chancellor Lester Young and Robert Zayas, executive director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

The letter contains statements from former athletes that Greenberg says “amounts to a toxic culture of alleged abusive coaching that has persisted for possibly decades.” It also says that the administration and school board of the district have failed to act, which has “enabled and emboldened these coaches to believe they can behave in any way they wish towards student-athletes and parents.”

The document contains statements from nine former athletes, seven parents and one former Board of Education member.  

It cites the actions of girls cross-country coaches, who said discouraged the girls from having any boyfriends or other activities outside of running and urged them to run 7 days a week.

“We had to practice every single day of the year except Christmas,” said one anonymous complainant. “If you couldn’t come, you were publicly shamed and ridiculed.”

They also allegedly forced athletes to run through injuries. One anonymous complainant says that she had numerous stress fractures in her foot and leg and pneumonia. She kept running and not taking antibiotics, obeying what the coach had told her.

After winning a meet that May, she went to the doctor.

“I was made aware that I had an infection in my rib cage and had cracked multiple ribs from coughing and being seriously sick for 6 months,” she said in her statement.

One parent said they put their daughter into therapy because of the “psychological and emotional abuse.”

Another runner described as always being in a “state of fear.”  

The document also alleges abusive behavior by a girls soccer coach, who allegedly constantly yelled at and humiliated players who did something wrong. She is also accused of requiring the students to practice in extremely hot temperatures, leading some to vomit.

It also cites inappropriate language of former lacrosse coach.

“The things she has called the children on the team — including ‘whore,’ stupid,’ and ‘basic bitch’ should never come out of the mouth of anyone employed by you,” cites the complaint.  

NewsChannel 13 is not naming the coaches because they are not being charged with any wrongdoing. We reached out to the school superintendent, athletic director, district spokeswoman and coaches named and only heard back from one coach who had no comment.