Only while performing on the field could teenage soccer star Amy Carnell escape the turmoil engulfing her life away from it.

The attacking midfielder for the Northwest Nationals Stellarz youth select team knew once she headed to the sidelines, her coach, Michael Koslosky, would be there waiting. She’d joined his Mountlake Terrace-based Stellarz in 1997, when she was 13 and he was 40. She claims his personal phone calls, affectionate notes and gifts of trinkets and mixtapes began soon after, along with back massages and leg and thigh rubs by age 14 and sexual touching by age 15. 

In September, Carnell filed a lawsuit against Koslosky and soccer associations he coached under, claiming he pressured her to go along with the abuse and she was not the only player he’d groomed. Koslosky admits he had an “inappropriate relationship” with Carnell but says it started when she was 16. He denies other accusations in the lawsuit.

Though they never had intercourse, Carnell’s lawsuit alleges unmarried Koslosky — who called her his “angel’’ — touched her intimately on a routine basis, rubbed against her and forced her to fondle him. She said he also gave her a ring and suggested marriage once she turned “legal” at age 16.

Carnell was aware some parents felt Koslosky — who’d once coached local national team icon Michelle Akers — unduly favored her soccer talents. She was terrified of revealing the truth, but part of her hoped somebody would figure it out.

 “I needed somebody to step up and intervene,’’ Carnell said. “My whole life was soccer, but I needed to be rescued.’’

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And in summer 2000, when Carnell was 16, somebody apparently did sound the alarm. Carnell’s mother, according to the lawsuit, was phoned by a man who said he was from the Washington State Youth Soccer Association and who told her someone suspecting sexual abuse complained Koslosky had driven Carnell to a tournament in California alone and they’d overnighted at a hotel.

Her skeptical mother confronted the pair, who’d indeed driven alone, but they claimed others carpooled with them and parents jealous of Carnell were starting rumors. Carnell’s mother believed them and says the association — today operating as Washington Youth Soccer (WYS) — never followed up while Koslosky kept coaching and abusing her daughter, according to the lawsuit.

It was one of numerous red flags allegedly missed or forgotten around the Northwest Nationals and other teams Koslosky coached over two-plus decades through 2002, according to interviews by The Seattle Times with former players, parents and administrators. The allegations also are in Carnell’s lawsuit claiming the coach pressured her to go along with the abuse while the soccer groups failed to protect her. Seattle attorney Lindsay Halm filed the suit in King County Superior Court against Koslosky, WYS and Sound FC — which Northwest Nationals became after a 2016 merger with FC Alliance and a 2019 rebranding.

Read Amy Carnell’s lawsuit:

Since Carnell filed her lawsuit, other former players have come forward, telling The Times about behavior they thought inappropriate by Koslosky since the late 1970s — describing a “touchy-feely” coach who at least three times abruptly left teams under unexplained circumstances. Carnell and others say they’re speaking out because today’s newer WYS safeguards still won’t suffice unless players and parents are better trained to spot potential “grooming” and sexual abuse by coaches.

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“My life may have been totally different had people known what to watch for and not dropped the ball,” Carnell said.

Koslosky, 63, declined to be interviewed. But his lawyer, David Marshall, gave The Times a written statement saying: “Mike Koslosky admits that he did have an improper relationship with Amy Carnell when he was her coach. He fell in love with her. He deeply regrets that his emotions led him to ignore the mismatch in their ages.’’

In his court response to Carnell’s lawsuit, Koslosky denied calling her “angel” or giving gifts, a ring and suggesting marriage. He admitted hiking with her alone and hugging and kissing her on a team camping trip when she was 15, but said their first unspecified “sexual contact” wasn’t until she was 16 and they were driving home from the California tournament.

Washington state law defines 16 as the legal age of consent. Intercourse and other sexual contact between coaches and minors ages 16 and 17 they supervise can still result in charges of sexual misconduct. But with those younger than 16, the charges would be child rape or molestation.

Carnell said she put a stop to the abuse right before turning 17. She later played for the University of North Carolina Greensboro and became the first general manager of the W-League Sounders Women and National Women’s Soccer League Seattle Reign. But she says she’s battled depression and even contemplated suicide, which she attributes to Koslosky. 

Before her lawsuit, Carnell last April wrote WYS — youth soccer’s governing body in this state — and suggested settling the case and that she’d help with further abuse-prevention initiatives. But she said she never heard back. 

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If you need help

News reports of sexual-assault allegations could be a trigger for victims and survivors of abuse. Here are some resources:
  • The King County Sexual Assault Resource Center offers a 24-hour resource line (888-998-6423). Additionally, KCSARC can help connect people with therapy, legal advocates and family services (kcsarc.org/gethelp).
  • UW Medicine’s Center for Sexual Assault & Traumatic Stress (depts.washington.edu/hcsats) offers resources, including counseling and medical care. For immediate help, call 206-744-1600.
  • For readers outside King County, the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs lists 38 Washington state providers that offer free services. (wcsap.org/find-help)
  • RAINN: Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network provides a free, confidential hotline (800-656-4673) and online chat (hotline.rainn.org) with trained staff members.

WYS CEO Terry Fisher, who joined the association in 2009, declined to comment beyond saying his organization follows U.S. Center for SafeSport guidelines, including “rigorous background checks” on coaches, assistants and employees having contact with players.

“We want to protect kids,’’ Fisher said. “That’s what we do.’’

Created in 2017 — following the USA Gymnastics scandal in which Dr. Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison after more than 150 athletes said he sexually abused them — federally authorized SafeSport requires mandatory coaching certification on spotting and reporting sexual abuse. But Carnell says telling a “child predator coach” what they can and can’t do won’t deter them.

“People need to understand that these are highly manipulative people. They’re just going to work around parameters they’re given,” Carnell said. 

WYS had also done background checks well before SafeSport came along. Former association President Pam Copple said she started using the Washington State Patrol criminal database in 1993.

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“I started doing background checks on everyone at that time,” Copple said.

But Koslosky wasn’t flagged; he had no criminal record.

Carnell said predator coaches often don’t have records because reporting of sexual crimes is low. And while WYS offers parents and athletes optional online training on recognizing abuse, Carnell wants it made mandatory in structured group settings.

Her concerns are amplified by recent abuse cases in national and local youth soccer.

Ballard High School coach Meghan Miller last year received a one-year jail sentence for molesting a 15-year-old player she’d had a two-year relationship with. Tacoma youth coach Kelly Bendixen, charged with inappropriately touching a 16-year-old girl he’d coached since age 8, pleaded guilty last year to a lesser charge of communication with a minor and got 30 days in jail. A youth soccer club in Olympia in 2018 paid a reported $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit by a former player claiming a coach groomed her starting at age 13 and had sex with her at 17.

None of the coaches had prior records.

On Koslosky’s teams — starting with the late-1970s Shorelake Thunderbirds, featuring Akers — he’d begin coaching girls as young as 9 and advance age levels with them as high as 18. Players said Koslosky touted his prior Akers connection to parents, claiming girls could benefit from “one-on-one” training with him.

Akers, who credits Koslosky with sparking her love of soccer from ages 9 to 11, issued a written statement that it’s “beyond disturbing to learn of the abuse allegations and shocking to hear my name was used as influence to potentially cause harm to others.” She said she’d trusted and respected Koslosky and “can’t fathom or reconcile the two extreme and contrasting experiences of having Mike as a coach. My heart goes out to all involved.”

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Koslosky’s lawyer has stated about Koslosky and Carnell: “Mike’s relationship with Amy was unique; he has never sought or had such a relationship with any other player, or with any other young person.’’

But Sarah Junkin-Clark, 52, who in 1979 played for a Koslosky team called the Strikers at age 11, remembers Koslosky driving her alone to extra soccer tutoring. “On the ride home, the hand was in the lap — his hand would be on my [bare] leg,” she said. “It was the brush across the chest. … It was hands where they shouldn’t be on an 11-year-old child.’’

Junkin-Clark estimates there were five to seven occasions during which Koslosky touched her inappropriately, telling her,“You’re special’’ and “You’re different.” Uncomfortable, she said she stopped extra training and became “persona non grata” with him.

“He would say things like, ‘If you’re not willing to do the one-on-ones, then you’re not going to be good.’ “

Koslosky’s lawyer responded to the allegation by reiterating his client’s relationship with Carnell was unique and contrary assertions are false.

Junkin-Clark quit the team in 1980. She said her “sexual seduction as a child’’ by Koslosky caused problems setting boundaries with men in her later dating life and wants to spare other children from something similar.

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The Times generally doesn’t publish names of abuse victims, but Carnell and Junkin-Clark wanted theirs used. They haven’t gone to police, concerned that the length of time and the statute of limitations would make criminal charges difficult. The Washington state Legislature last year eliminated the statute of limitations for serious child sexual abuse allegations — including those made by Carnell — however, the bill wasn’t retroactive. Still, state courts have routinely interpreted the law in broad fashion and upheld that the limitations clock begins only when victims discover links between prior abuse and adulthood trauma.

Not long after Junkin-Clark quit the Strikers, Koslosky also abruptly left.

“We had practice on a Tuesday, then showed up on Thursday and he’s not there,’’ said former Strikers player Kris Forth Brauns, who remembers shocked, crying teammates and parents who were evasive as they issued instructions to players. “We were told that he had quit. That we can’t talk to him. And that if he calls us, don’t talk to him.’’

Gina Mortimer, 52, another former Strikers player, agreed “we were all in shock” given Koslosky’s seeming over-involvement in coaching. She said her late mother felt Koslosky spent too much time around young girls and was leery of extra training Mortimer had with him. Her mother was also “uncomfortable” with a trinket and handwritten note Mortimer says Koslosky gave her. “She said if I was going to be doing these trainings with Mike, I wasn’t allowed to be with him alone,” said Mortimer, who was 11 at the time and can’t remember the note’s contents. “There always needed to be somebody there, and I wasn’t supposed to get in the car with him.”

Mortimer can’t remember how much time elapsed between receiving the note and Koslosky’s departure. But Koslosky soon began coaching a new Zodiax team, winning state titles and making the 1987 under-16 national championship game.

Michelle Carmel, 47, a star of those squads and eventual youth and under-21 national teams player — under her maiden name of Michelle Thornsbury — said Koslosky routinely gave trinkets to her and others. She remembers Koslosky telling the girls how “boys wanted us” and “about his relationships” and also phoning her at night for hours.

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She said Koslosky’s coaching tenure ended abruptly the season following the national finals appearance.

“It was definitely one day he was our coach and the next day he wasn’t,” she said, adding her late father, who managed the team, wouldn’t explain Koslosky’s departure. “I was devastated, I mean, crying and going overboard. And I look back and wonder, was it about the unhealthy relationships and the phone and trinkets and stuff? I don’t know. No one ever told us why he left. But it was not normal. It was instant.”

But Koslosky soon moved on to a younger Kodiaks team. They merged years later around 1994 with a higher-level Emerald City squad — bringing over Koslosky and several players, including Amanda Potts. She remembers Koslosky “always touching girls’ shoulders, always trying to hug girls. I know that multiple parents had problems with it.”

Her father and stepmother, Pam Buchanon, confronted the coach after Buchanon said Koslosky suggested sleepovers with his players. “He was just inappropriate and too friendly with the girls,” said Buchanon, now believing he was “grooming” them.

She said Koslosky got defensive when confronted and soon quit — dumping pylons, soccer balls and other equipment in her driveway in the middle of the night.

But the following season, in 1995, Koslosky began coaching the Stellarz. Carnell joined two years later.

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Jessica Bathurst, who played alongside Carnell and now coaches youth soccer, described “absolutely inappropriate” behavior by Koslosky, like gathering players, then ages 14 or 15, to discuss dating and declaring he was a virgin. She remembers Koslosky sleeping in an Oregon hotel room with her and another player — him on the floor, them on the bed — which “looking back is very odd. But he didn’t try anything with us.”

Koslosky’s lawyer declined to comment when asked specifically about this and other allegations from former players and parents.

Tara Graybill, 37, said soon after she joined the Stellarz at age 11, Koslosky phoned twice weekly and kept her on for hours — even when her parents thought she was asleep — discussing life, religion and dating.

“I’m 12 or 13 years old and just want to play soccer,” Graybill said. “But I figured he could help me be good, so I listened.”

That changed once Carnell joined the team. Graybill by then had a boyfriend and said Carnell became Koslosky’s “favorite” while her own playing time was cut and confidence shattered. She partly blames Koslosky “messing with my head” for an eating disorder she later suffered.

Nancy Overturf, whose daughter played for the Stellarz, said some parents by spring 2000 “noticed the behavior between Amy and Mike just didn’t seem right. There were rumors going around that maybe something was going on.”

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Overturf said she invited Koslosky to dinner at her home, where she confronted him about the rumors and told him to “knock it off.” She said he stormed out. Her daughter’s playing time was soon reduced and she quit the team.

Carnell’s mother, MaryJo Peacock, said she believed her daughter and Koslosky had caravanned in multiple cars with coaches and other players to that summer’s California tournament. Peacock remains guilt-ridden over believing Koslosky’s subsequent explanations the pair hadn’t driven alone, but can’t comprehend why WYS didn’t investigate further.

“This information should have gone to somebody other than me.”

Amy Carnell is pictured here in 2000 with her Northwest Nationals Stellarz coach Michael Koslosky. Koslosky was driving Carnell to and from a California tournament alone. Parents on the trip questioned the driving arrangement and somebody claiming to be from the state’s governing youth soccer body later phoned Carnell’s mother saying someone had complained and suspected sexual abuse. (Courtesy of Amy Carnell)
Amy Carnell is pictured here in 2000 with her Northwest Nationals Stellarz coach Michael Koslosky. Koslosky was driving Carnell to and from a California tournament alone. Parents on the trip questioned the driving arrangement and somebody claiming to be from the state’s governing youth soccer body later phoned Carnell’s mother saying someone had complained and suspected sexual abuse. (Courtesy of Amy Carnell)

Ron Copple, whose wife, Pam, had years earlier instituted background checks, was by then the association’s president. Both he and the association’s then-executive director, Tony Screws, say they don’t know who phoned Carnell’s mother.

Copple said had he known of allegations, he’d have removed Koslosky pending further investigation. Copple said the association — overseeing hundreds of clubs and more than 100,000 players — relied on teams and club programs to alert them to suspicious coaching departures or interactions with players.

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Officials from Sound FC and their parent Northwest Youth Soccer Association did not return telephone calls. Neither did former Northwest Nationals administrator Don Nelson.

Mike Lovejoy, a Stellarz assistant coach for six years, said he never saw Koslosky act inappropriately and didn’t report him driving Carnell to California — despite parents questioning it. “There weren’t any raised voices or alarm or anything,” he said, adding he’d have reported any suspected abuse.

Lovejoy said he’d declined Koslosky’s suggestion of driving down in a multicar caravan of players and wasn’t aware until later Carnell’s mother was told otherwise.

After the trip to California, Carnell said she rebuffed further Koslosky’s advances despite him threatening to kill himself. After months of no sexual contact, she said he asked to be “friends” in early 2001, lured her to his house and abused her one final time.

Koslosky’s court response admits to “sexual contact” at the house but denies luring Carnell or threatening suicide.

Carnell mostly avoided Koslosky during her two final Stellarz seasons but grew increasingly depressed.

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“It puts on a lot of shame on kids — shame and guilt and confusion,” Carnell said.

That depression intensified into adulthood. She said she repressed memories of Koslosky but was an unhappy “workaholic,” frequently declining dates. Then, on Feb. 11, 2018, sobbing and curled up alone on her floor, she contemplated ending her life.

A friend prompted Carnell to seek help. Then, she was watching a movie last year about childhood sexual abuse when, she said, “It all clicked. I said, ‘Oh my god, this is why I’ve been alone for so many years.’ ”

After Carnell reached out to WYS last spring, Koslosky sent her a text message greeting. “Hey Amy. Remember me?” he wrote, according to images of the texts included in the lawsuit. ” … Thanks for sharing so many adventures & fun times with me.”

Carnell said she was stunned, and suspicious he’d reached out after she’d contacted WYS.

“The man who sexually abused me when I was a kid??? Yeah I remember you,” she responded.

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She described the abuse’s toll on her. He responded with multiple apologies. “I hate myself for this. I was really messed up emotionally then, which is no excuse,’’ he wrote, according to the suit.

Koslosky has admitted sending them but denies they constitute an admission of guilt.

Carnell is moving forward with the case and her push for WYS reforms. Among desired changes, besides mandatory training, is that two “parental advocates” per team be designated to watch for signs of inappropriate behaviors she believes adults from her youth playing days failed to stop.

“Nobody should have to endure what I did.”