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Know How to Learn From Others What You Do Not Know (Listen)

June 24, 2011
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” — Unknown

 Monday, April 5, 2010 – It’s just another day at work and I’m mentally preparing for the Board meeting the following day where we are supposed to finalize the Bylaw changes and present the Executive Director position. The Bylaw changes are seen as minor and should be a breeze. Mid-morning, I get a call from our Director of Coaching (DoC), and it’s the shocker of my life. He bluntly states “This is going to hurt you, but I have to tell you that [Ms. Secretary] and [Coach B] are against you and the Director position!”

Wait. Backup. Against me? Against the Director position? How? Why? Didn’t we just spend the last 2+ months discussing this in detail, working out how it would work financially? Didn’t we stay up late a few Friday and Saturday night’s scrutinizing every little word and phrase in the Bylaws to make sure it was right? All the hours developing and reworking every possible detail and scenario of the budget! I’ve never experienced physical shock, but this must be it!

Apparently a “secret” meeting had been called at the home of our DoC because there were whispers and rumors floating around – unbeknownst to me – and he wanted to “clear the air”, so to speak.

All but 3 of the club coaches showed up – those 3 not being interested in any finger-pointing or rumors if I wasn’t going to be present – to hear Ms. Secretary and Coach B present various items and stories of how I was being dishonest and had all sorts of bad plans for the coaches and club. This went on until 1:30-2am Monday morning when our DoC’s wife finally kicked them all out.

Coach C (remember that he is my oldest son’s coach and helped with the incubation of the Director position) and our DoC listen to their claims and admittedly begin to believe much of what they are saying. After sleeping on the conversation and so-called ‘facts’, they tell me that it doesn’t make sense and are still supportive of the Executive Director proposal. It took all day and several more to wade through what was really happening.

The number of phone conversations and emails in the proceeding 32 hours certainly put our cell phone batteries to the test. Without going directly to Ms. Secretary or Coach B, I tried to glean as much information as possible from Mr. VP and other club coaches by listening to the various claims and accusations. All I kept hearing was the claims were baseless and too far-fetched. Admittedly, I did not go to the sources to get their side of the story because I felt completely betrayed and Mr. VP suggested that we just wait and see what happens at the meeting Tuesday night. Everything was speculation and conjecture at this point.

It was either that same night or later in the week – I’m foggy on that date – our DoC, his wife and Coach C came to my home, until very late in the evening, to rehash in gory detail all that had been discussed. The three of them had come to the conclusion, on their own, that it was evident I did or said something to Ms. Secretary or Coach B that completely turned their feelings toward me. We speculated for hours! While I listened and processed everything, my wife had come to her own conclusions of demonic proportions. Our DoC’s wife was also climbing the walls over the situation. Although the knife in my back was evident, I was determined to take the high road and hear everything out. Unfortunately, none of it ever really got clarified to objectively proceed.

April 6, 2010 – for me, the Board meeting is a tense one. I know that our DoC and Coach C are on edge. I sense that a few other coaches are curious but appear optimistic. I don’t really hear any buzzing about any of the topics that are likely to come up as it’s actually just the beginning of the Spring season and people are talking about their teams and players.

As the meeting is just about to start, Ms. Secretary walks in, sits 2 seats to my right (buffered by our Member At-Large [MAL] person between). Mr. VP is to her right, our DoC to my left, and Mr. Treasurer and the Rules & Referee (R&R) guy to my far left.

Why would I even detail this? Well, this is exactly how many of the Board members want it so to keep things ‘civil’.

I haven’t mentioned the R&R guy in a while, but he begins to get involved shortly after this meeting.

Sidebar – an ongoing issue had been mulling in our group in regards to Coach C’s Visa status. His was scheduled to expire later in August, so we continued to talk about how to complete the application and find people who might help. Just before the meeting is to start, Coach C approaches Ms. Secretary and MAL about the subject as they apparently communicated to him that they might have some information. In the conversation, Ms. Secretary comments that there’s a $50 fee just to download a particular application related to the Visa process. I say that’s not true as I already have the document downloaded, but Ms. Secretary snaps back to me that it has changed. Really not a relevant point, but listening to her tone, I know that she is no longer interested in having any conversations with me! The Visa topic comes up again later in the story.

Throughout the meeting, I kept fairly silent. I knew that Ms. Secretary had gone behind my back so I wasn’t fully prepared to say anything and decided to just listen and ensure nothing inappropriate happen.

Inappropriate – there’s a word that gets so overused in the next 3 months!

Listening to the minor debates about the Bylaw changes – related to who had voting rights – I can sense the coaches are not happy with the direction some Board members are suggesting. However, the verbiage doesn’t change significantly and the Bylaw changes are completely ratified. Assuming that Mr. VP is going to introduce the Executive Director proposal and make the motion, our DoC nudges me to talk about the proposal. I’ve assumed Mr. VP will do it, so I give him a look of encouragement, which he takes as a suggestion to adjourn! They both assumed I was going to make the motion! Yikes! Ms. Secretary packs her stuff so fast and bolts out of the room! Everyone else starts to mingle and gradually disperse. DoC and Coach C approach me asking why I didn’t say anything. Again, I assumed Mr. VP was because we had discussed for months how it would be in our best interest that I never actually officially introduce the proposal in the meetings – “conflict of interest” (yet another overused word). The four of us then spend the next 60-90 minutes outside discussing what went wrong and how we are going to proceed before the next Board Meeting. What confused me the most, though, was a combination of statements by Mr. VP that seemed to contradict what he may or may not have known prior to the meeting or even over the past few weeks. I decided to not challenge him, nor have I to date because I honestly don’t remember exactly what was said. It just seemed strange at the time.

Over the next two weeks, there were some sarcasm laced emails from Mr. Treasurer regarding some of the auditing he was now performing on the Reign ’95 boys team, viewed mostly as an attempt to find something that I failed at, and mostly ignored by me to not fan the flames. (Although I later prove to him that money from the team had been gifted to me, he still makes the claims that I’ve embezzled something like $400!) I asked Ms. Secretary on Friday, April 23rd to put the proposal on the agenda along with a fundraising presentation. With these intentions stated, there weren’t any questions presented to me.

April 24, 2010, Coach B, our DoC and I meet at Starbucks where Coach B lays out what appeared to be the true issues. I listen to the issues:

  1. There’s an accusation made about a coach that is so outrageous, but apparently such a sensitive topic with Coach B and Ms. Secretary, it is clearly the impetus to all the venom. Although I have what I understand to be the facts, we debate its merits and come to the conclusion that we can agree to disagree, I think. Because of the nature of the topic, I’ve chosen to not discuss it in this public forum.
  2. Trust – Coach B doesn’t trust me because of a couple past situations:

                               I.            Back in 2008, we were notified of the logo issue that the English Premier League raised. I still contend we were ratted on, but that’s not for here. Anyway, sometime in the Spring of 2009, at around the time we were looking for new design ideas, Coach B’s ex-wife submitted a pencil drawing of something she thought would work. It had been forwarded to Board members and essentially shot down as not something we wanted to pursue (along with another design submitted by a close personal friend of mine living in North Carolina). The three designs presented by MAL’s husband were the most feasible. Sometime shortly after those email exchanges, I don’t recall dates, times or locations, apparently Coach B asked me if we had made a decision on the logo and I apparently responded with “we already voted on it.” Again, I don’t recall any of these details. Coach B apparently asked Ms. Secretary if there had been a meeting to decide this, to which she responded that there hadn’t been a meeting or a vote. While it may be true that our Board meeting had not happened, this was a meaningless decision we had basically done via email and then approved at a meeting. I would love to say that I can pin point the exact meeting that happened at, but I don’t have any electronic version of the meeting minutes because Ms. Secretary NEVER forwards them after the meetings are complete. Ultimately, this is such a minor item, but Coach B says this is when his “radar went up” about trusting me.

                            II.            At the Spring 2009 tryouts, it had already been announced that I would step away from being head coach of the Reign ’95 boys and Coach C would take over.  At that time, we had 3 teams. At tryouts we had about 7 players too many for 2 teams, so there would have to be cuts. Ms. Secretary’s son, ultimately, was one of them. Coach B stated that he was disappointed that I didn’t put in a “good word” for the son so Coach C would consider him for the team. I explained to Coach B that Coach C and I had agreed that I would not get into the politics of what many of the parents surely deemed ‘guaranteed spots’, nor would I put any spin on any player, positive or negative. I would provide the data we gathered at the tryout and allow him to make the decisions without influence. Coach B continued to push the point that I should have said something on behalf of the son given Ms. Secretary’s work and commitment to the club. Apparently, not doing so went against our 3 C’s (Community, Camaraderie, Competition), more directly “Camaraderie”. Now she has to drive him to Dearborn to play on a poor team with a bad coach (which incidentally, I heard he quit from mid-season). He also asked about a rumor that I had told Coach C that the son shouldn’t be on the team because he had a bad attitude. Again, nothing of the sort was said. Coach C made his own assessments throughout the last half of the spring 2009 season and tryouts and chose the teams.

                         III.            When was the Executive Director proposal presented to the current Board? As detailed throughout this story, the idea was discussed throughout January, discussed at both the January and February meeting, talked about at several meetings where the Bylaw changes were being detailed and the budget analyzed. I then forwarded the written proposal to Mr. VP throughout February-March for critique/revision. Apparently, the fact that it wasn’t shared in a timely manner with all the Board members created a perception of deceit and/or dishonesty.

Further on with the proposal, apparently something was said between Coach C and me at a meal we had with Coach B while on our way or in Philadelphia attending the NSCAA convention (I think I told this part in an earlier post). Apparently Coach C said something about “the position” to which I apparently said not to talk about it. I don’t recall this, but Coach B’s “radar” was again piqued since Coach C knew something. Honestly, it was at several meals that Coach C had at my home with my family that got me thinking about the idea so he was well aware of its merits and possibility. Our DoC was also fully aware and supportive. If I felt uncomfortable discussing it with others it was simply because I wanted to be sure it was developed properly and then communicated effectively.

                          IV.            In the meeting with Coach B, I stated, exaggerating a bit, that I had forwarded the budget and trainer schedule spreadsheet at least 10 times. How many times these were emailed over the year, I don’t know precisely. Does it really matter? NO! What matters is that he, Ms. Secretary & Mr. Treasurer felt I’ve tried to conceal or hide information or not be truthful about coach stipends, the Executive Director salary and overall control of the club. If someone asks for something, or clarification on data, I’m always willing to provide. Give me a snide, sarcastic response like Mr. Treasurer had become adept at, I prefer to ignore it and not say anything to reduce the flame throwing.

The issues seem so petty, right?!?! Well, honestly, the first issue was important and I felt that we had dealt with it appropriately. We just weren’t going to air this publicly, for sure. The trust issues were just strange given the positive direction the club had been taking all those years yet Coach B really wanted to dig deeper and prove “transparency”. What he (& Ms. Secretary) was really looking for was the “smoking gun.” In an email two days later, he asked for clarification.

“There are a couple of questions that are still bothering me about our meeting Saturday morning. I’m hoping you can clear these up for me. You stated that:

  1. You were unaware of the allegations against….. What excactly (sic) did you understand the allegations to be and when and how were you made aware of them.
  2. That a copy of your proposal for a new position was emailed to the executive committee months before April 24th. When exactly did you send that out and who was on the email list?
  3. That the budget for 2010/2011 requested by the treasurer was emailed to him over ten times in the past year. When exactly did you send that out and who was on the email list?
  4. That training timesheets for 2009/2010 requested by the treasurer were emailed to him over ten times in the past year. When exactly did you send that out and who was on the email list?
  5. That the board approved the use of new logo through email. When approximately were those conversations taking place and who exactly was in the email chain?
  6. [DoC] stated that you told him and that [Mr. VP] confirmed that the whole board except for [Mr. Treasurer] was onboard with you about this new position. When exactly was that and who exactly are we talking about?”

I never responded to these questions which I’m certain provided plenty more fuel for their fire. Not only was there fire and brimstone, but the tangled web of email accusations and threats heat up and club meetings turn ugly. I had listened to all the accusations and had learned all that I didn’t know up to that point. I felt that the problems weren’t going to hold the club back and we were going to move full-steam ahead. Unfortunately, steps 7-10 of Being an Expert were still out of grasp.

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