Washington volleyball coach fired for team karaoke outing

Cameron Smith
October 8, 2010

A high school volleyball coach in Washington state has been fired for one of the oddest offenses imaginable: She took her team out to sing karaoke.

According to the Tacoma News-Tribune and Seattle Times, Tanya Campbell, who served as Emerald Ridge (Wash.) High School's volleyball coach for eight years, was fired Wednesday in connection with a "team bonding" night out Friday, Sep. 17, when she and her team sang karaoke at a Spanaway restaurant called J.R.'s Whistle Stop. Campbell told the newspaper that the location was her team's choice, since they specifically wanted to see their coach sing karaoke, something she spends much of her free time doing.

Since the evening ran late, some players left around 10 p.m. and a few others left with Campbell shortly after midnight. A few of the players slept at the coach's house, a violation of the school's Coaches Handbook, which provided the school district with grounds for termination. Despite that, one parent specifically emailed the News-Tribune to say parents knew about the evening's activities beforehand, and were aware their daughters might sleep over at the coach's house.

Still, neither the venue nor the circumstances of the team bonding bothered Tammy Roy, the mother of one of Emerald Ridge's players.

"I'm a good mother, I want to see where my daughter is going," Roy, who walked her daughter into J.R.'s Whistle Stop, told the News-Tribune. "There were families with kids all around, having a good time. This was not a dark bar."

Campbell and the team had held prior team-building outings at the Olive Garden, a Red Robin and a barbecue at a teammate's house, where Campbell brought her own karaoke machine and first sang with her athletes.

The final grounds for the coach's firing, however, may stem from the connection one of the Emerald Ridge players made with a 19-year-old male acquaintance of Campbell's. According to Campbell's letter of termination, a 15-year-old Emerald Ridge player met the man during the course of the night and exchanged phone numbers with him, planning to meet at J.R.'s Whistle Stop again the next night.

When asked why she was going back to the restaurant the next day, the girl told her mother that she was meeting with Campbell. The coach said she knew that the man and her player planned to meet again, but was unaware of -- and did not approve of -- the fact that she was being used as her player's alibi.

When Campbell met with school officials on Wednesday, she was given the option to resign or be terminated. She choose the latter specifically to try and clear her name.

"I didn't violate any school district policy or rule," she said. "My union is completely on my side. ... No coach coaches for money. I'm doing this to clear my name and if I resigned I'd be admitting guilt and I didn't do anything wrong."

In the meantime, the coach is supporting her players by attending their games. On Wednesday she watched the team's straight-sets victory at Beamer (Wash.) High School after entering the gym surrounded by her players' parents.

"They showed their support for me by surrounding me like a bubble," she told the News-Tribune. "I cried a lot (that) night."

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