"Shadows and phantoms convene in the snow, among the low whispers are voices you know." ~Neil Fallon
Immediately after this meeting, I went with my assistant coach for food to try to sort out what had just happened in that meeting. Like me, he was bewildered by the things that were said at the end of the meeting; things that appeared to be setting me up to eat the majority of the blame. We talked for awhile and while I was weary of what had been happening over the past few months, I chose to give the benefit of the doubt to the team and the disturbing comments made to me. I figured that given only one week had passed since the team shit the bed at regionals, some venting may be necessary in order to be able to move on in a healthy manner.
Having no reason to think there was a sinister foundation being laid down against me at this point, we organized some footage watching for a month later. We would sit down and watch the BAD bout and also finish the team meeting from the prior month. The turnout for this was unexpectedly low and so I was told no additional meeting was necessary. I was personally fine with that as I was only setting up meetings at the request of some of the team. So this was just watching footage and identifying the numerous mistakes that had been made in the BAD bout. From there, everyone went home.
At the same time as this footage watching event, Alexandra had sent an email to the team for "team bonding". This email had a stipulation in it that read, "I'm thinking that this should be for girls only (sorry boys!)." At the time, I thought this to be no big deal as the team's completely idiotic obsession with glitter had never resonated well with me and I had no interest in being around such nonsense. Ignoring the obvious gender-based segregation and the implications that coaches aren't part of the team, I moved on very quickly from this stupidity. But I didn't know that this would be the first in a series of moves by the team and its female leadership to set me up.
What this deceptive little email was actually doing (as I would later find out) was creating two separate secret team meetings for the skaters to attend. Of course, this wouldn't be a problem to have a player-only meeting as it is acceptable in team sports to do so as long as it's done appropriately. What isn't acceptable is communicating to skaters through a MHC skater-only email address to set it up. What isn't acceptable is intentionally excluding members of the team (which coaches are to a degree) when people are going to talk about them (which the skaters did). What isn't acceptable is intentionally deceiving members of the team and being secretive little scheming douchebags. But at the time, I didn't know any of this was occurring or that our two wonderful former captains had set this up. Everyone on the team did a "wonderful" job of keeping myself and the other coach in the dark about this for weeks as well. Who wouldn't love that sort of respect? Additionally, because not everyone could make one day, they set up two separate meeting days. Very few people outside of the former captains attended both meetings, which is really an ideal way to disseminate different information to different people. Whether that was done intentionally or not, the results were undeniable in their effectiveness.
To go on a quick tangent to this, I shouldn't call them "secret" meetings. I say that because I was later told by Alexandra that the meetings weren't secret because of that MHC skater-only email address. When I pointed out that some skaters didn't know along with the coaches, I got no response. I was also told by both former captains, in a sit down we would have later, that their reason for taking that route was some sort of convenient fear they had of dealing with me. It wasn't because they were cowards that had the easier route of avoiding conflict right in front of them. No, it couldn't have been that. Or that they really feared doing the right thing because being accountable is difficult (see, there was a reason I brought it up in the beginning). No, not that either. It was because they were conveniently afraid of me. Considering I had worked with Sukie for 2 1/2 seasons and Alexandra for 2 seasons, I give no weight to fear being the reason to go the route they chose. It was convenient for them and allowed them to avoid doing anything respectable. Hell, that wouldn't really fit in with their reputations anyway.
Let's return back from that tangent shall we? Within a week of these team meetings occurring, the new captain selection poll closed and we had two new captains. I still hadn't heard a word about anything regarding these meetings; I had no idea what this group of people had done. Four days later, while attending the RMRG/DRD B team bout at the Bladium, all of the red flags I had been ignoring really started to scream out within my mind. I was at this bout with an MHC skater who (I thought) was a good friend of mine. I asked her what was going on and after some persistence, she proceeded to tell me about these meetings and what had been discussed. More importantly, she told me about one of the main focuses in the meeting. And that would be yours truly.
In addition to the team discussing me, another focus was the team finally trying to hold the former captains accountable. To which, quite predictably, both former captains blamed me for most of the things that went wrong. Neither captain had any sort of history for owning their own shortcomings. Wonderful at taking credit, whether theirs or not, they were just as wonderful at deflecting blame when there was blame to be had, whether theirs individually, the two captains together, or all three of us as MHC leadership. Their defensiveness was long a source of frustration and anguish for most of the team, but again, the team didn't want to address the problem and chose to ignore it like the big elephant in the room it was for months.
I wasn't aware of how the rest of the team really felt about their former captains as I hadn't truly seen their douche-y behavior until a few months before. Even then, it was just directed at me. The team didn't talk to me about it because it assumed I couldn't think for myself and that all three of us were the same. That's a pretty convenient cop-out. Most anyone that has met me knows that while I'm not the friendliest person ever (huge understatement), I think for myself and I'm more about the team as a whole than any single skater or two (even if they are the captains). Cliques are a huge problem in every derby league and they can be distastrous to a team. Had I been informed of how most of the team really felt, I would've addressed the problem with the captains, at the very least. No promises of how it would've went, but it would've been voiced for the sake of the team.
If you're a logical sort and you're reading this blog, you might think that the next course of action for the team would be to hold their captains accountable for their behavior, their lack of commitment, and their other shortcomings. You would be wrong in this situation though. They were still skaters on the team and through their manipulative words and ways of doing things, they essentially told the team that they were just poor little pawns of the true problem (here's a hint; its name rhymes with Schmangus Schmon).
Long story short, plenty of skaters walked away from those secret meeetings with a perception that I was being scapegoated by the former captains. I even heard the term witch hunt being tossed around regarding myself and what had been said and how it had been said. The short version of my character assassination read something like this:
"He's running everything and we (the former captains) have no say in the things that have happened. We, as captains, have no control over him and what he does. And oh yeah, he says mean things (apparently exclusively)."