Women’s basketball coach steps down, past and present players discuss her legacy

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Women’s basketball coach steps down, past and present players reflect on her legacy
By Simone Soublet

On the morning of April 5, Charity Elliott, the head women's basketball coach, stepped down from her position after nine seasons at LMU. 

In a statement, she said, “I’m very proud of the progress we accomplished and look forward to the memories of this adventure staying with me forever.”

Following Coach Elliot’s decision, several current and former members of LMU’s women's basketball team spoke out about their experience with Charity Elliot as their head coach and Charity’s husband Chris Elliot, who was the assistant coach. 

*Alicia, a former member of the team, posted an Instagram story detailing how her mental health suffered during Eliott’s tenure as coach. 

In an interview, Alica said that Coach Elliot doled out harsh punishments for certain players, saying, “Charity and Chris were very unfair people and were partners in crime.”

“She made me feel stupid. As if I didn't know how to play basketball,” Alicia said. “I had to have surgery and the recovery process took months. So when I was out, back-to-back from games I couldn’t play, she didn't even try and check in to see how I was doing. I was struggling to get back, struggling to really find my rhythm.”

Alicia also explained that after over 15 years of playing basketball she returned to LMU’s basketball court after not being able to play for almost two years. Alicia stated, “Coach Elliot demoralized me when my confidence was already very, very low because of my injuries and because I was unsure of how I would perform.”

Other former and current members of the women’s basketball team shared similar experiences in regards to Coach Elliot’s favoritism amongst certain teammates.

*Kristine, a former member of the team, also mentioned favoritism within her own team over the years 

“Some people could get away with stuff and other people couldn’t,” she said. “Even though I do feel like I could have done things differently, I didn’t feel like I was in an environment for that to happen, nor did I trust my own coach.”

Sophomore Laura Vaida, a former member of the team, really struggled with her mental health during her time as a player. 

“I was really not in a good place in my first year during those first few months around winter. There were a lot of things going on and the details are irrelevant, but I had a suicide attempt in the winter and it was a very big commotion because I didn't really show signs of anything.” 

Laura mentioned that Coach Elliot was very supportive of her at the time, “but that soon became a double-edged sword.”

“Charity was notorious for her ‘We did this for you, and now you're treating us and questioning us like that. How dare you?’ speeches,” Laura said. “I felt like a product of basketball, and I felt like they're only helping me so I can stay in line and perform well.” 

Some players also claimed that Coach Elliot didn’t help them develop as an athlete nor as a student.

*Nia, a current member of the women’s basketball team, and *Aubree, a former player, spoke to a pattern of rotating coaches that they felt resulted in players not being able to build strong relationships with them as athletes. 

“I had a different coaching staff every single year,” Aubree said. “They would come in and they're ready, they try to develop us, they try to work with us, as soon as they get a little close to us, as soon as they start putting in their own drills, they get booted.”

Cierra Belvin (‘20) described her negative experiences on the team until she was eventually kicked off during her time at LMU. As a senior, Coach Elliot put her in and out of the starting lineup at an inconsistent rate. “I'm over it,” Cierra recalls saying to Coach Elliot after practice. “This is too much. This is supposed to be my getaway and you guys just make it even worse.” 


Belvin claims that Elliot suspended her as a result before kicking her off the team.

“I felt like a big part of me was taken,” she said. “I played in three games my senior year, and the messed up part about that was that it literally ended my basketball career.”

Alicia also mentioned that she was almost kicked off the team and that Coach Elliot would hold her athletic scholarship against her when she disagreed with her. 

“She was vindictive and would treat certain players like trash and treat other players like royalty.”

Similarly, Cierra stated, “During my freshman year and every year after, my scholarship was always thrown in my face. If we ever had a problem or something, if she had an issue with how I reacted to something, or Charity didn't like my attitude, she would meet with me and say, ‘Basically, you shouldn't ever complain about anything because we gave you this scholarship. We gave these opportunities and you need to be grateful’.”

Alicia’s mentality was that Coach Elliot recruited her for a reason, so she should respect her as a player. “If I don't feel like I'm respected as a player, I'm not going to agree with how you are conducting yourself on this team and as a coach and how you treat other people in general.”

Former and current team members expressed how they felt about the potential misconduct and student-athlete complaints in LMU’s cross-country program. 

Sophomore Morgan Deboard, a former women’s basketball player, describes LMU athletes as “one big family” and that she is “proud of the people who were strong and could speak about those issues.” 

Aubree said she knew many of the people who spoke out personally. “Athletes deal with so much shit day-to-day, so much pain, so much frustration,” Aubree said. “I realized that sometimes it's hard to see when your other fellow student-athletes are also hurting, just because they're not on the same playing field as me.” 

In regards to the allegations against Coach Elliot, while some former and current players were relieved, some were surprised and did not see it coming. 

I'm actually kind of sad just because I had a good experience,” Morgan said. She gave me that opportunity to play basketball again.” 

Coach Elliot did not respond to Agency's request for comment.

When these women’s basketball team members were asked what LMU can do to change and make this a better experience for prospective and current student-athletes, it was unanimous. They all wanted for people in higher positions to actually listen to them, be transparent with them, understand them, make better accommodations for them, and make them feel safe and secure.  

On Friday, April 17, Athletic Director Craig Pintens announced that Aarika Hughes will replace Coach Elliot as head coach of the LMU women’s basketball team.

In an interview, Hughes expressed that she wants to be the type of coach to understand the balance between college athletics and being a student. 

“I think right now and along with the responsibility that we put on student-athletes in general, is something that I strive to build here,” Hughes said.

“It's not just about turnovers, rebounds, wins, and losses, it's also about the four years that you're going to grow and really experience things off the floor as well.”

*This source has requested to stay anonymous. 

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