By Kristen Griffith, The Whetstone
Junior Betty Lee said she joined the rugby club team last fall because it seemed so welcoming: it wasn’t a Division III sport and didn’t require try-outs.
It didn’t work out the way she had hoped.
A year later, some members of the women’s team accused their former coach, Chris “Baby” Henry, of inappropriate behavior, and reported the situation to Dean Wanda Anderson.
The College suspended the team and began conducting a Title IX investigation.
“I don’t know if Coach Baby meant to do harm, but I don’t feel bad saying that she was manipulative,” Lee said. “She used her health and made-up financial burdens to impact what we did.”
Players from the team told Anderson that Henry frequently spoke to them inappropriately and told players they owed money to the rugby league when they didn’t.
“The coach and team were suspended for Title IX complaints of a possible hostile environment,” Anderson said.
Henry counter-complained to Anderson that she was harassed by the team.
“Since the extreme harassment by a few players, which I reported to administration from late August to the first week of September, my health issues have deteriorated to a dangerous level,” she said.
Henry resigned Sept. 30.
“I have requested a medical leave of absence while the Title IX is being processed,” she said.
Some of the team’s complaints involved the way Henry spoke to players.
“One time we were at a game and she was smoking around us – we have players with asthma,” Lee said. “We asked, ‘Can you please not smoke in front of us?’ And she told one player, ‘I don’t f***ing care what they say, they can suck my left tit. I’m going to smoke my cigarettes.’”
Henry had told players she often had mild seizures.
“She was putting her health on us,” Lee said. “One girl said ‘I’m starting to fail my class so I can’t come to practice.’ And Coach Baby said, ‘Well, I’m failing in health.’”
A common complaint from players involved the rugby team’s finances, and many players blamed previous rugby Coach Kevin Phillipson as much as Henry.
Phillipson, who moved to North Carolina in the summer, had spent the entire budget – meant for both men’s and women’s teams – only on the men’s team.
Lee said Phillipson told the team last fall the school gave him a budget but that athletes needed to fundraise to keep it afloat.
“He bought brand new uniforms for the guys and he bought all brand new equipment,” Lee said. “They never fundraised to get the uniforms and they never fundraised to get anything, so he used the start-up budget to pay their match fees, gas – he used it for everything.”
Phillipson said this is inaccurate. He said the men fundraised by bringing an illusionist to Wesley and selling calendars.
He also said the $10,000 given to him by Student Affairs was presented to him as an annual budget and not a start-up.
Dean Anderson, however, said they were start-up funds.
“Kevin Philipson was given start-up funds,” she said. “To my knowledge the funds were spent on the men and women’s team.”
Sophomore Marquita Dickerson-Frisby said, as treasurer of the rugby club, she saw the budget last year.
“He spent all the money on the men’s team,” she said. “He just blew straight through that budget.”
Phillipson said since the women’s rugby team started earlier than expected and there was not enough money for them.
“I made it clear to the women that if they started a team, then they needed to fundraise,” he said. “There were two opportunities for them to get uniform donations, and they did not pursue them.”
Phillipson said he donated jerseys to the women’s team, and requested more money to be added to what he believed was the annual budget.
Phillipson left, but the financial problems remained when Henry became the new head coach.
She repeatedly told the team inaccurate information about their standing with the rugby league, and repeatedly claimed they owed money when evidence proved otherwise.
In one instance, the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union (EPRU) fined the team after its first game for playing unregistered.
Players were supposed to each pay $65 to be registered, but Phillipson said there was no money left in the budget when he went to register the women.
“They had every excuse under the sun as to why they didn’t have the money,” he said. “I told Coach Baby and she said she’s got it covered.”
Lee said Henry told the team they were put on probation after playing unregistered.
“She thought that that meant if we didn’t follow every rule and regulation, we were going to be fined $5,000 and be on probation for three years,” Lee said.
In another instance, Lee said Henry also told them they owed $5,000 for borrowing players from the opposing team during one game since they didn’t have enough.
Junior Jacinda Sicari said she thought about quitting when she heard about the amount of money Henry was asking for.
“We kept finding out that we needed more money, even if all the girls paid to be registered,” Sicari said. “How do we pay for this, we’re a club sport.”
The team also consistently paid out-of-pocket for things like food and gas.
In yet another instance, Henry borrowed money from Student Life to purchase new uniforms.
“The Rugby team was given money to purchase uniforms for the women’s team with the understanding that the funds would need to be paid back,” Anderson said.
Lee said they still don’t have the uniforms.
Henry said she was promised a budget from Wesley but never received one.
After the team questioned her about the probation and money, Henry forwarded to a rugby team player an April 11 email conversation between her and Scott Stratton, a play coordinator from EPRU.
Stratton had forwarded Henry’s questions about probation, rules and regulations to Dana Bateman, EPRU’s secretary. She said probation only lasts one year, not three, and a team had been fined $500 – not $5,000 – if it had forfeited a game.
“We went to the Den and started calling everybody on the (EPRU) page trying to figure out what standing we were in and how much money we owed,” Sicari said.
Junior Lauren Gray said the EPRU President, Frank Lentz, told her the team wasn’t on probation. She also noticed their names weren’t on the EPRU probation list online.
“We brought this up to Coach Baby and she just flipped out,” Gray said. “She dismissed it and said (Lentz) was wrong.”
The rugby players took their complaints to Anderson, who told them that Henry did not have to be their coach.
“In club sports, the team has the right to choose their coach,” Anderson said. “I informed the team that if they no longer wanted Coach Baby to be their coach, they would need to put it in writing and have it signed by everyone on the team.”
But they needed a certified coach who’s taken courses and participated in a clinic in order to play for EPRU.
Rugby players are now paying for freshman Ryan Ortiz’s certification so he can coach the team after Wesley’s Title IX suspension.
Student Affairs is conducting a Title IX investigation – that Henry created a possible hostile environment – after hearing the complaints.
Dickerson-Frisby said she once threatened to report Henry to Anderson earlier this semester if Henry didn’t delete a picture from the Wesley women’s rugby Instagram page of Henry kissing a beer bottle.
The caption read, “After a very long day of Rookie Rugby, sometimes a gal needs a bf and fall in love at the same time! Lol.”
“She said it was for recruiting purposes,” Dickerson-Frisby said.
Henry resigned Sept. 30, but she told the team she was fired.
“She continued to text four or five people saying Wesley fired her and she needs all the help she can get,” Gray said.
“Coach Baby chose to leave the team for medical reasons,” Anderson said. “I have no idea why she would say that she was fired.”
Gray said more people want to join the team.
“Since she’s been gone, there’s been around five girls who said, ‘I want to join the team now that you have a different coach,’” she said.