A view of Downtown Ketchikan near the intersection of Dock and Front streets in 2017. (Leila Kheiry/KRBD)

A Ketchikan High School volleyball coach facing assault charges for allegedly grabbing and shoving a student is denying a slew of accusations from a former player who says his comments impacted her mental and physical health. It isn’t the first time Kevin Johnson has faced complaints as a coach.

“We weren’t doing something right,” Demi Ingle, a former Ketchikan High School volleyball player said. “Something wasn’t right. And he just freaked out.”

She was recalling what happened just before she said Johnson threw a chair onto the court while her team tried to learn a play.

Ingle was a sophomore at Ketchikan High School when Johnson took over coaching the Lady Kings volleyball program. Ingle said that her time on the team was marked by several incidents of abuse from Johnson, mainly verbal.

She said Johnson would comment on her weight, or what she would eat or drink. 

“I’d bring a drink from B & D (Espresso),” she said. “And he’d be like, ‘That’s a lot of sugar. Are you sure you’re going to drink that?’ And he was constantly making comments about how big I am. And I was a little bit bigger than most of the girls on the team. So sitting there constantly comparing myself to them really hurt me mentally. It got to the point where I would purge every meal, and I would try and take out appetite suppressants.”

She said he’d also make comments while she was exercising during practice.

“He ran me one time till I threw up,” Ingle said. “And (at) practice and stuff, if I wasn’t running fast enough, or if I wasn’t the person lifting the heaviest when we were weightlifting, he bashed me — just make me feel so horrible about myself.”

Those comments are what she said drove her to leave practices, to purge whatever she had eaten or drank. 

“And that’s where I’d do it, I’d go into the locker room,” Ingle said.

Ingle said she also started taking antidepressants because of this.

“He really did a toll to my mental health,” she said.

And she said there were also times that the abuse turned physical. 

“He would grab me by, like, the collar of my jersey and bring me in close to him and tell me that I’m replaceable,” Ingle remembered. “And that I need to sit and watch apparently, and watch somebody else play my position. And that happened all throughout the time he was coaching me.”

Ingle also said that he would throw clipboards at the players.

Ingle said she believes Johnson was “strategic” about when these incidents happened.

“Most of the time, he wouldn’t do it when the parents were around,” she said. “It was a lot of like, in private.”

Ingle said she took her complaint to the Ketchikan High School principal at the time, Jason House. But she said it went nowhere. 

Reached for comment, House said he could not remember how he handled the complaint and referred further questions to the school district. House is now an assistant principal at Ketchikan’s Schoenbar Middle School.

In an interview, Johnson cast doubt on Ingle’s accounts.

“I don’t know where this person is coming up with these stories,” he said. “That is completely unfounded.

He denied ever grabbing a player’s jersey or throwing a chair or clipboard at players. 

“Where would that — where did that happen?” Johnson said. “… And why didn’t somebody report it at that time? That’s, that’s preposterous.”

Johnson also said it’s possible Ingle misinterpreted comments about an athlete’s nutrition as shaming her. He said he discouraged players from drinking sugary beverages while on the court.

I would never publicly shame a student or shame female students,” Johnson said. “I’ve spent my entire career trying my best to help to help build them up. I believe in empowering women. So I think that comment is preposterous.”

Johnson said he was unaware that Ingle would purge at the school. But he said it wouldn’t have been during a practice with him that she left to do that. 

He denied ever having Ingle as a student in the school’s weightlifting room. 

He also said that he doesn’t make volleyball players run laps.

He said that what he remembers of Ingle leaving the team is her not showing up to practice one day, and being a student at a different school the next.

It’s not the first time that Johnson has faced allegations as a coach. 

He was issued a formal reprimand on his teaching license from the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission in 2014. That’s according to copies of the reprimand sent to KRBD by staff at Lebanon High School in Lebanon, Oregon on Wednesday.

Lebanon High School is where Johnson coached the boys basketball program, from 2010 to 2013. The reprimand came after an investigation of two complaints filed by parents’ players, alleging abuse. He admitted to using profanity on the court – something he recalled in his interview with KRBD.

“I received a public reprimand in the state of Oregon, for telling a group of boys to get their asses to the baseline,” he recalled.

Johnson said he didn’t make a habit of cursing at players — he said he only used foul language with students “once or twice.”

He quit his job after the reprimand.

Johnson’s trial for charges of fourth-degree assault and second-degree harassment, related to allegedly shoving a player on the court earlier this month, is set to begin in February. He’s currently on paid administrative leave, with instructions from Ketchikan District Court not to be within 100 feet of Ketchikan High School.

Raegan Miller is a Report for America corps member for KRBD. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution at KRBD.org/donate.