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Mentor or predator? Two very different portraits of coach Rick Butler

Rick Butler

Rick Butler during a volleyball camp in 2014. | Stacie Scott/Lincoln Journal Star

They all wanted to be Olympians.

And when they were teenage girls in the 1980s, they all said they heard a version of the following speech from youth volleyball coach Rick Butler:

“You’re not like everybody else. You need to understand. You need to be pushed harder than everybody else. You have to listen to me. You have to follow me blindly, and you just have to do what I tell you to do.”

Sarah Powers-Barnhard, Christine Tuzi and Julie Romias have maintained for decades that Butler’s speech was a mere prelude to sexual abuse — the grooming of young, ambitious teenagers with stars in their eyes. And while Butler has denied the allegations and continued his successful coaching career, the women say they still struggle with what happened to them.

This is part two of a Chicago Sun-Times investigation into Butler’s volleyball empire. To read the full story and other parts of this series, click here.