In her statement, Shelly Barberee says she took a leave of absence Aug. 12 — before any of the players were hospitalized — for a personal matter.
“Since that date, I have not attended or been a part of any of the TWU volleyball team workouts. When I learned that several student-athletes were admitted to the hospital, I was shocked and worried about them,” Barberee said in her statement.
Her resignation “is in no way related to student athletes’ hospitalization,” Barberee, the Pioneers’ coach for 13 years, said in her statement.
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“I am working diligently to address matters in my personal life and need to place my focus there,” she wrote.
The university says a change in preseason workouts may have caused the illness, leading the athletes to be more exhausted and dehydrated than in previous years.
The team’s preseason two-a-day workouts ran Aug. 15-19 and included fitness testing, weightlifting, conditioning and pool stretches, a university news release stated. The team also had a light scrimmage at North Central Texas College on Aug. 17 and a morning practice Aug. 20.
Monica Mendez-Grant, vice president of student life, said in a news release, “Although the investigation remains underway, Texas Woman’s University’s initial belief is that overexertion coupled with dehydration during practices last week caused these student-athletes to experience rhabdomyolysis.”
One of the notable changes in fitness testing this year was that the athletes were given a specific number of repetitions to complete within a time frame, while in previous years they were given a time limit to complete as many reps as possible. The university said in its news release that the reasons for this change were to give the players a different goal to reach and for every player to have the same test.
The first player went to the hospital Aug. 20, and seven more were admitted the next day. As of Saturday morning, seven of the eight players had been released, and the last athlete remained hospitalized in her hometown, the university tweeted.
“We were all on the same floor, which was great. You know — team bonding. It’s not really how you want to team bond, but it’s how I got to know a lot of the new freshmen and other girls on the team,” one student-athlete who was hospitalized, Briley Cole, said at a news conference Friday. “We had fun; we were really in good spirits through all of this.”
Rhabdomyolysis happens when muscle tissue is damaged and broken down, and muscle fiber contents are released into the bloodstream, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Severe exertion and dehydration can lead to the condition, which can cause kidney damage and, in some cases, lead to acute kidney failure and shock.
The team’s physician, Dr. Michael Auvenshine, will work with each player, monitoring her recovery and determining her risk for recurrence, the university said.
The Denton County Health Department and the university are investigating, which could take up to 90 days, Mendez-Grant said.
The university plans to host its first games at Kitty Magee Arena in Denton for the 2016 Hilton Garden Inn Classic on Friday and Saturday. Most of the players are expected to be able to play by then, but they will have to meet health criteria before being given clearance, athletic director Chalese Connors said at a news conference.
Jessica Beener will be in charge of the Pioneers next weekend after Connors named her interim coach Saturday after Barberee’s retirement, according to the TWU athletics website.
“I am proud of 234 wins on the court, my mentorship of so many young women and watching my student-athletes graduate with college degrees,” Barberee said in her resignation statement. “I wish all my student-athletes, former student athletes and coaches all the best and thank each one of you for all of the opportunities, wins, memories and success.”
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Azia Branson: 817-390-7547, @aziabranson