By the time 2014 had rolled around, I was comfortable having pulled away from the game to re-charge myself. The previous 5 years had been a long, tiring haul with restarting the Oshawa Minor Lacrosse Association with my wife and another lacrosse colleague in 2009. I began to feel the burn-out coming along in late 2012 and I was also under incredible pressure in my work-life during that period. My enthusiasm and patience with the lacrosse avocation was beginning to wane when I decided to resign in November 2012. I knew the club constitution specified a 2 year suspension from the board of directors and I was okay with that. It was a tough decision, but the right one.
Now it must be mentioned that I wasn’t the first person to resign from the board of directors of the association. Anyone familiar with minor lacrosse will know that it is a common occurrence with all minor lacrosse associations across the province. What was interesting about my particular case is that when a person resigns from the board of directors in Oshawa, while they are suspended from the board of directors for 2 years, they are welcome to coach, manage or otherwise volunteer with teams. In fact, a couple of other club members who had resigned at the same time I did in 2012 ended up participating with Oshawa rep teams the following year.
In April of 2014 I was asked by the Vice-President of All Star (Rep VP) to coach the Oshawa Intermediate team and I agreed under the condition that I could work closely with the midget team, including some blended practices and so on. This setup had worked nicely the previous two years when I coached the Oshawa Intermediates and I wanted to make sure the same measures were available to me for the benefit of both Midget and Intermediate players.
A few days later The Rep VP – who was also the club’s Zone representative – informed me that after deliberating with the Zone Director, it was determined that the Oshawa club constitution did not allow me to come back to coach and that I would have to finish out my suspension with no involvement with the club in any capacity. However, since I helped write the club constitution, I was very familiar with the clause that the Rep VP and Zone Director referred to. Their interpretation of the club bylaw was completely incorrect and, in fact, it was established practice to allow members to continue to volunteer with club team after they had resigned from the board. I figured I was the exception to the rule, but did not pursue the matter with any vigor. I had other things to do and I was still involved with the game in other ways.
“Unfortunately the Executive does not have the power to reverse your suspension. As you know you resigned at your own accord and therefore under the constitution you have to wait two years to be eligible to be back on the board. This was said by the Zone 6 Director and other Presidents. ” – correspondence from VP Rep, April, 22nd, 2014
A letter must be submitted to the President who will present to the Board of Directors at their next scheduled Board Meeting the resignation of the Director.
An Executive member of the OMLA who transfers, through a release in accordance with the OLA guidelines, to a neighbouring association must relinquish membership on the Board under the discretion of the Executive.
Should a board of director either resign, in term, or be suspended from the OMLA executive, he or she cannot be elected or appointed for a position with the board or hold a volunteer position within the organization for a period of two years. It is the discretion of the present board to reduce the period of suspension from volunteer activity (i.e. cause maybe illness) ” – Oshawa Minor Lacrosse Association Constitution and Bylaws
There is a reason I am starting the story of the father and his son this way. For one, the club Rep VP and the Zone Director are two people who will figure prominently in the second part of the story, although their roles will change. Secondly, I had a previous history with the Zone Director who, as president of a neighbouring club, suspended me from volunteering with that club for two years after my son was released to play there. My dispute centred on the fact that I was suspended from volunteering, but was never given a reason or a hearing to explain my side of the story. When I complained to the OLA, after a several month delay, I was informed minor associations can do those things, even though the actions clearly contravened that club’s constitution and also several articles of the OLA bylaws.
Secondly, these two same persons were the cause of the fiasco involving the father and his son and were the cause of all the problems I experienced with the OLA. This is important to know because it illustrates how the informal at-a-whim practices that masquerade as a disciplinary process operate within the OLA and how such processes can be used to punish others for personal reasons, whatever those reasons they may be.
Finally, I must make it clear that not only do I know the father, I consider him a friend. We met each other while volunteering with a local junior lacrosse team years before. I have helped coach his teams over the years as he has helped coach my teams. In fact, in 2013, the father and I coached a First Nations Senior Women’s team. And, importantly, I have watched his son grow into a fine young man.
Lacrosse Dad and His Kid
In February 2014 I received an email from the father, who had been trying to get a release from Oshawa Minor for his son in order to avoid another season with a coach with whom the son did not have a good experience the previous year. This is a common scenario in minor lacrosse and no club is exempt from this sort of thing. The father had applied for a release to move his son to a neighbouring club for the season, believing that when his son entered the next age category the following year, he would not have that same coach. It was a pretty straight forward release request, done according to the club’s release policy and the OLA regulations on releases and, importantly, included the use of the official OLA release form. The father wanted to share some of the correspondence with me and to get my opinion as to what he should do.
At first appearance, the father was your typical ‘lacrosse dad’ coaching or helping out with his kid’s teams. In his case however, father was far more involved with lacrosse than the average person. He had grown up surrounded by lacrosse as his dad was heavily involved with a local junior team for many, many years. Father also was involved with the same junior team, volunteering, participating on the club’s community board of directors, and eventually becoming president for a few years. His family was from Oshawa, he had played in the old Oshawa Minor in the 70’s and had even played a little local high school lacrosse. He has a pedigree of sorts with the sport.
Being from Oshawa, father had little hesitation when I approached him to help us with the new Oshawa minor association. He was a coach in a neighbouring association and was familiar with what was needed to make Oshawa minor a success. In 2011, he became one of Oshawa’s first rep coaches, coaching his son’s team and he also helped out his daughter’s house league team. All in all, father was an excellent volunteer, a club builder with a lacrosse history, and a valuable member of Oshawa minor lacrosse from the very start. In fact, he never relinquished his involvement with Oshawa minor lacrosse and is involved in some volunteer capacity to this day. These are important things to remember.
Like any coach, there are going to be clashes with parents, volunteers and club executives, and father was no exception. One incident in 2012 I was personally involved in. I was helping him coach his son’s team that year and the Rep VP and the team manager had questions about our methods that caused a late night parking lot meeting in Scarborough after a game. It was obvious at that point that the Rep VP and the father did not get along even though the issue was eventually resolved satisfactorily. Father’s issue was that while he respected the Rep VP in her position, he didn’t think it was right that she dictated the style of play he was trying to achieve with his team since she had no coach training and was unfamiliar with some of the basic team strategies such as motion offence.
During the 2013 season, father was not the coach of his son’s team and, like any parent, he too had clashes with the coach over his perception of his son’s treatment by the coach and the performance of the team on the floor. These were minor arguments, some voices were raised, and so on. It was this experience with the coach that caused the son to seek a release for the 2014 season.
When the father approached me in February 2014 to share the situation he was in, I was somewhat shocked at what I was reading. His son had received his release form from the club, but what was written on the form was very concerning. It was almost as if the club was not releasing the son, they were releasing the father. In fact, I remarked at the time that it appeared like the son was being punished for the sins of the father.
Not only was the form filled out incorrectly, the specifics of the release were completely made up: the characterization of the father was patently false considering the evidence of his involvement with the Oshawa club since its inception up to and including his participating in the club AGM the previous October; there were no provisions in the OLA rules and regulations permanently forcing a player out of an association for any reason; and the release appears to be directed at the father, not the son. It was obvious this was punishment for some transgression perceived by the Rep VP and she was using the release process to get at the father. While the father and son did have a hearing regarding the release, they were never granted a hearing regarding any of the sanctions leveled at them. The release was, quite literally, a sham.
In subsequent correspondence from the Rep VP, she makes it clear who the focus of the release process is about:
A key thing to note here is that the Zone Director was copied on this message and no doubt was party to the entire situation as it unfolded. This is important to note because she will deny having any knowledge of this situation when I bring it up at my own suspension hearing a year later.
(Interestingly enough, despite her emphatic statement that the father would never be allowed back in the association again, he ended up volunteering and helped coach his daughter’s house league team and was a voting member at the club AGM that year.)
When father presented me with this sham release, I only had one piece advice for him and that was file a Code of Conduct complaint against the Rep VP, which he did. Since the Code of Conduct complaint process had changed, the father obtained the necessary signatures, filled out the requisite forms and submitted them to the OLA. His complaint was denied as having no merit by the OLA President.
As it turned out, both the father and the son had a successful 2014 season with the new club and had no complaints about their treatment there. Things also changed with the Oshawa association: the Rep VP resigned and was eventually elected as the new Zone Director in the Fall, while the past Zone Director took on other duties with the Zone, including becoming the Chair of the Zone Discipline Committee.
In early 2015 I rejoined the Oshawa Minor Lacrosse Association Board of Directors, having served the club suspension in full. I was glad to be back actually, well-rested and recharged. I applied to coach the Bantam team, but was offered the Midget and Intermediate teams instead. I accepted the challenge, especially since I could ensure the teams could work closely together. I had Midget tryouts in March and even though the team numbers were low, I was confident we had a talented enough core of players to form a competitive team. I was prepared for the Intermediate tryouts, which I was really looking forward to since I knew a good deal of the players and was excited to see that there was a good interest from many other players. All in all, 2015 was looking very promising.
Next: Chapter 2 Something is Wrong Here