Over the years, I’ve written this blog a million times.
It’s been long, its been short, its included different parts of the story, but for various reasons, mostly fear based, I haven’t hit “publish.”
So for a hot second, I just want to thank every victim, every journalist, every human being in general over the last couple of years that have gotten out of their comfort zone and had the courage to speak up about the abuse and harassment that runs rampant in all parts of society.
All those little actions have created a tidal wave of hope that things are starting to change, and a platform for others to come forward.
Last week CBC launched an investigation, highlighting the epidemic of sexual predation on young athletes in Canada.
And for this, I say thank you CBC.
I highly recommend any parent, athlete, or human that cares about the well being of people, take a good read of these articles to really understand how serious and rampant this problem is.
All I can say, with coaches of 3 different sports involving Canadian national team athletes across the country, that were either convicted or charged with sexual crimes in the last 2 years, it is long overdue that someone took a real interest and started to bring attention to this.
I’m going to try and keep this to the point as possible.
Myself and/or others have told some and/or all parts of this story many times. To representatives of the Whitecaps, Canada Soccer and BC Soccer. To many members of the media over the years, both local and national, print to TV.
It has been utterly disheartening over and over again, to see administrators, journalists and others, despite being in a position to give the story a voice or do something to help, just haven’t given a damn enough to do anything.
Over and over the story has died until someone from behind the scenes has had the courage to interrupt their own lives to get it going again.
This is the last time I’ll tell this story, albeit the first time publicly.
I don’t want the weight of it on my heart or my conscience anymore.
If still no one notices or cares, it will just confirm what has been the overwhelming feeling over the past decade that people are happy to turn a blind eye, or just talk about it but do nothing.
And if that is the case, I will just accept it and move forward, leaving this whole shitty situation behind.
But I share, with the hope that transparency breeds awareness which breeds positive change.
I share because I believe soccer players in Canada deserve better than this.
I share because disturbingly, the structure in 2019 is almost the same as it was in 2008.
I share because the majority of people that were in charge that brushed this under the rug and put player’s safety and well-being in danger in 2008, are still in the same positions of power in 2019.
I share because of these factors, there is the large possibility that something equally horrible could happen again.
I share because the possibility of what we went through happening again, is extremely disturbing.
And I ask the question: if we can’t guarantee players a safe space to play in, then why are we even talking about player development strategies or national team accomplishments?
It was telling that while many other sports, retweeted and brought attention to CBC’s article about athlete sexual harassment, the timelines of Canada Soccer, BC Soccer and the Whitecaps remained silent.
If there is one thing my soccer career taught me, it’s the mental and physical health, safety and well-being of people is more important than anything.
That was a luxury that many females playing soccer in Canada weren’t afforded in our playing careers, and it needs to change.
I’ll rip through this as best I can. Because it’s a lot.
In 2005-2008, if you were female and wanted to play for Canada, you essentially had to play for the Vancouver Whitecaps. This gave the coaches and the organization an unhealthy amount of power.
Around this time, a couple of things happened that put us in our place, showed who had the power, and illustrated the consequences of speaking up.
First was in 2005 when after driving all over the city to do unpaid appearances for the Whitecaps, the female players on the team had had enough and started to gather behind the scenes to unite, discuss and take a stand against the club.
For our efforts, the day that we were to meet at a Boston Pizza in the summer of 2005 to discuss how we would handle the unpaid appearances we were forced to participate in, and receiving zero financial support from the club despite drawing thousands to our games, the Whitecaps president made an extremely rare appearance at our training session.
His appearance unsettled all of us further when he offered us a pittance of a stipend.
Here’s a blog I wrote a few years ago that went into detail on this: Click Here
This interaction injected a palpable fear in the group that we were being watched. With the Whitecaps being so closely aligned with the National Team, to step out of line with the Whitecaps meant that it could affect your status with the National Team, a power play that felt increasingly scarier and inappropriate as time went on.
In 2006, the power of a few coaches and the consequences of one pathway to the National Team was becoming clear.
At this time, the Whitecaps owner injected a large sum of money to support the team in their run to the 2007 Women’s World Cup. Overnight national team players received a somewhat livable sum of money to play, and were mandated to go to Vancouver for residency camp.
Because of this, 3 starters and non Vancouver residents on the team, stood up to the coaching staff and said that they weren’t comfortable with what they felt was an unreasonable demand and unrealistic timeframe for them to move across the continent.
They didn’t show up for a game against China in Newfoundland in August 2006 in protest, and promptly were dropped from the team.
None of them ever represented Canada again, despite one of the players, being the most decorated player in Canadian history at the time.
The right or wrong of it was argued til people were blue in the face. Regardless of where you stood on the matter, it was a pivotal moment that served to cement the knowledge of who had the power, and gave a clear reminder of what would happen to those that challenged the authority.
Not even starter status or longevity on the team gave anyone any kind of immunity.
A former player of the Whitecaps and another on the fringes of the Canadian team like me, wrote her masters degree which, through a qualitative study, detailed the environment around 2006 – 2007.
It’s a very good read for anyone interested in going in depth of the culture that set up what was to come: Ashley McGhee Thesis
A quote from the intro sums up what it was like for the players at this time:
“Deeper readings of the data revealed more complex themes and troubling issues such as the level of sacrifices players were forced to make in their personal lives and their sense of losing levels of control over their playing careers.”
It was an environment of pure stress where coaches had all the control and we had zero power or voice.
With these dynamics, shitty things could happen and they had started to.
And things soon escalated.
Going into 2007, I had been invited to train regularly with the Canadian National Team, by a coach that at this time had been named the head coach of the Canadian Women U20 Team, the Whitecaps Women’s Team, and who held a third hat as an assistant with the full Canadian Women’s National Team.
We’ll call him Coach Billy.
I had known of Coach Billy since high school, as he had also coached with the BC Team Program that I was a part of.
It was on the BC Team that I had my first experience with witnessing inappropriate coach behavior. My BC coach (not Coach Billy), who was in his late 20’s reportedly was hooking up with my 15 year old teammate. After defending them from what I thought was vicious gossip, the truth in the gossip became apparent when they married and divorced before my former teammate was 20.
Coach Billy coached a couple of my friends with a Provincial Team a couple of years older than me back then, and they talked about how he made them feel uncomfortable for various reasons, one of them being asking them to do things outside of practice, 1 on 1.
But it was the 90’s and anything seemed to go.
Coach Billy was charismatic and charming, and a very, very good coach. In my early 20’s he built a training environment that I often participated in, and loved.
Coach Billy climbed the ranks quickly, and by 2007 he had been named head coach with both the Canadian U20 team, head coach of the Whitecaps and as the assistant with the full Canadian National Team.
Over time, with this immense amount of power, he started to bully and manipulate people and created a shitty, fearful environment. For those of us on the fringe of the national team, we were also on the Whitecaps, and so we were shuffled back and forth and at Coach Billy’s mercy.
He reminded us often, that he was the reason we were training with the national team, with the obvious underlying insinuation that he gave us the opportunity and he could also take it away.
In the Spring of 2007, there were more things happening that heightened the stress and anxiety, especially for those of us on the fringe of the National Team program.
I witnessed him bully a friend into hysterical sobbing as he berated her for asking to not sleep in a room the size of a closet as her housing for the summer, and for daring to ask to go to national team practice instead of showing the incoming star Whitecaps player around the neighborhood like he had requested.
After witnessing their exchange over the phone as she drove me to practice, later that night Coach Billy sent her an email insinuating there would be playing consequences if she continued to stand up to him.
Additionally, the demands on our time to drive all over the Lower Mainland to promote the Whitecaps without getting compensated had increased. High school players on the team that were on the U20 national team were getting pressure from Coach Billy for going to school instead of morning practice, and there was zero academic support for a high school player close to failing the year in school because she was expected to be at training all the time.
The environment was getting more and more fear based, anxiety ridden and fucked up to the point that I just couldn’t take it anymore.
After watching my teammate and carpool-mate bawling while getting bullied by Coach Billy, and not knowing where else to turn to get help, I convinced her that we should reach out to the Whitecaps president, who we had just spent time with at a camp.
I suggested at the very least we should let him know what was going on and hopefully get some help, advice and protection.
On Tuesday, May 8th, 2007, after exchanging emails the same day, the Whitecaps President agreed to meet us that evening at a coffee shop in Edgemont Village in North Vancouver.
Scared of the consequences of speaking up, we blurted out everything that was occurring in our environment, that left us fearful of Coach Billy. We begged him for both help, as well as anonymity, in coming forward. We told him we didn’t know where else to turn.
He told us he would talk to Coach Billy and look into it.
I was floored three days later, while I coached on a Friday afternoon and stepped away to take his call, the Whitecaps president told me that he had told Coach Billy that we had come to him and he told him everything we had said.
I was terrified and speechless that he’d put us in this situation when we were already so vulnerable and we’d begged him not to.
Because of everything going on, I decided that I had had enough of all of it and arranged with the Ottawa Fury to play for them in the summer of 2007, and within a week I was on a plane to the other side of the country.
In the days before I left for Ottawa, I wrote Coach Billy and the president of the Whitecaps, this email, the second week of May 2007 outlining everything that we had experienced in detail –
This quote from the above email to the Whitecaps President and Coach Billy pretty much summed up how I felt about all of it:
I am not willing to put up with all this, or watch my teammates put up with this any longer. By no longer being in the situation, I do have the freedom to say something and break the code of silence. So many of my teammates, including myself before this point have felt trapped in calling out things that they know aren’t right in how they are being treated because of that power imbalance created by the Whitecaps being so closely aligned with the National Team. Although ethically, my leaving the Whitecaps, shouldn’t affect any opportunities I get to train with the National Team, I realize that often times politics are a lot stronger than ethics, but I am willing to take that risk. Leaving a situation to the girls with the Whitecaps now, as well as the young ones coming up of an environment where they feel they have a voice and don’t feel their passion, opportunity, and work that they have put into their National Team dreams is threatened in calling out things that they don’t feel is right, to me is more important than any amount of National Team caps that I could ever get.
I came home later that day from sending that email, and turning on to my street, there was an ambulance outside my house.
I was so fearful of Coach Billy, I immediately started hyperventilating. My first thought was that he had hurt someone in my family in retaliation to me standing up to him. It turned out my neighbor had a heart attack, but that sickening feeling of terror I will never forget.
My friend that was outed to Coach Billy by the Whitecaps president with me, stayed and played for Whitecaps that summer.
After being a 90 minute player the year before, and despite all the national team players being gone that year, she hardly played that summer with Coach Billy in charge. Despite being on an upward trajectory with her play and on the cusp of the Canadian team, shortly after that season, she fell away from the Canadian soccer scene altogether.
And with me?
I predicted things correctly, and never got an opportunity with Canada again.
It was a risk I was ok with, because I knew with my Irish passport, I’d still have the chance to play internationally, something that other brave players that stood up over the years, who suffered similar consequences, didn’t have the benefit of.
And I had an amazing experience with Ireland that I am so grateful for.
Everything that I thought pulling on that Canadian jersey meant was destroyed anyways.
As I was not willing to keep my mouth shut and watch people getting mistreated, I moved on, happy to leave it all behind.
Right before I left to go to Ottawa in May 2007, I came across an article in the local newspaper about a dance instructor that had been charged with a sexual crime.
The victim, when questioned by the defense lawyer about why she didn’t come forward sooner, said, “I had worked so hard and so long to get on that dance troupe, the only one that was at that level. I knew that if I said something I would lose the opportunity that I had worked so long and so hard for, and I was afraid so I stayed silent.”
The hair on the back of my neck stood up, as it sounded exactly like the situation we were in, in Vancouver, minus any allegations of inappropriate sexually charged behavior.
As 2007 moved into 2008, I signed to a pro team in Norway and tried to remove myself from the Canadian soccer scene as much as possible.
The U20 team was now living in Vancouver in an apartment building, training in full residency for the 2008 U20 World Cup in Chile, teenagers, almost all who had taken at least a semester off from high school and university, some even the full year.
Coach Billy, despite having a family in another suburb, also had an apartment in the same building as the players.
I had a couple of good friends on the Canadian U20 team under coach Billy at this time, living in the apartment building and training daily with the Canadian team.
I spoke to them regularly and they would often say, in their words, “how fucked up everything that was going on was.”
I listened as these friends told me how Coach Billy’s bullying had increased. About how uncomfortable they were with him also having an apartment, right where they were living. How he would make inappropriate sexually charged comments to players. About how one of them had seen him at 6am in the parking garage with one of their 17 year old teammates on the U20 team.
I continued to field calls from these teenage players through 2008 as everything continued to escalate. Sometimes they needed to just vent, other times asking for my advice.
I heard how some players had player meetings in their bikinis sitting on his bed at the CONCACAF qualifiers in Mexico in June 2008. About inappropriate sexual innuendo filled text messages he was sending their teammates.
They told me while some players were horrified, others were proclaiming it as collateral that they had over him, if he ever tried to cut them from the roster.
My friends on the U20 team in these calls often expressed their disbelief that this was the environment for any team, let alone a Canadian national team.
I listened and tried to give advice as best I could, horrified by what they were telling me, but grateful I wasn’t there anymore.
Two U20 national team players I know of, left the team in 2008 because they couldn’t stomach this environment anymore.
In the Spring of 2008, one of my friends on the U20 team called to tell me that a third player had left the team after getting inappropriate text messages from Coach Billy, and had presented the messages to the CSA. My friend told me that because of this, they were told Coach Billy had to go to “sensitivity training. ”
What that entailed she didn’t know.
I want to make clear, I heard this information regarding what was going on with the U20 team through friends that were on the team. It was not what I witnessed first hand. But it was all information that was presented at points while it was happening either to the CSA and/or in an official capacity to a CSA/Whitecaps hired mediator later.
The information alone, involving underage players, once presented and known to those in charge, should have caused the police to be called immediately to investigate further, as was the case at many points in this story.
In recent years I spoke directly with a 4th player who was involved with the Canadian U20s and also targeted by Coach Billy. She had reported her horrifying story to BC Soccer in October 2017 including tangible evidence.
While all this madness was going on, weeks later, I was told that older Whitecaps players, who were playing with some of the U20 players on the Whitecaps in the summer of 2008, questioned the U20 players on the team one morning.
The team had to do fitness as punishment, because some of the U20s had been out the night before.
How did Coach Billy even know you were out? the older players asked the U20 players.
“Oh I was texting with him from the nightclub at 2am,” one of them told them.
The older players responded, “You guys realize how wrong it is that you’re texting with him in the middle of the night, right?”
Finally things came to a head at the end of the summer of 2008.
Coach Billy’s name started to get thrown around as a potential replacement for the head coach who was leaving the Canadian National Team at the end of 2008.
Older players, who were retiring and felt able to speak freer, vehemently expressed their displeasure at the possibility.
Coach Billy’s antics with the U20’s were now well known to most elite female players connected to Vancouver at this time.
Somehow this information finally filtered through to someone in power who felt it was worthy enough to trigger an investigation.
This investigation started at some point in September 2008. A good friend of mine, and long time senior player on the national team, reached out to me, asking me everything I knew and if I would be willing to share with a mediator.
I agreed, as at the time it felt official and safe.
In retrospect, we were manipulated.
As parts of it involved possible inappropriate sexual misconduct against youth players, the police should have been called immediately to get the whole truth and that “trusted 3rd party” should not have been someone on the Whitecaps/CSA payroll.
It is interesting to note that on the website of this mediator we spoke with, one of the benefits she lists in hiring her ombudsman services to “deal with sensitive issues for their workplace” is, “reduced bad publicity through formal litigation.”
Not exactly someone with the best interest of the players in mind.
I spoke to the CSA/Whitecaps hired mediator over Skype in the early morning of September 30, 2008 from a hotel in Sweden, the day after my 29th birthday. I was preparing to play a match against Sweden later that week with Ireland.
I shared with her everything that I’ve written here. I spoke after with many friends who also spoke with her and we all corroborated many of the same things, most of which were listed above.
What stands out in my memory from this time is 2 things:
- At no time were the U20 players themselves pulled aside by anyone (mediator/police or otherwise), given a safe environment, and interviewed in depth about what exactly had been going on.
- The pure terror that my friends on the U20 team had at this time.
Insane both then and in retrospect, was the fact that, despite an investigation being underway, Coach Billy was still on the field with the U20 players for a couple of days after it began.
So he started pulling these terrified kids aside at practice, weeks out from the 2008 U20 World Cup in Chile, asking them what they knew about the investigation being done on him.
It was one last bit of access to attempt to scare them into silence.
The ones I spoke with were terrified that their U20 World Cup spot could be in jeopardy if he had found out they had done him wrong.
My friend called me after Coach Billy pulled her aside, asking me who I had told what to, and begging that I not say anything that would make her be easily identified. I can still feel the chilling fear that she had, and the thought of it is traumatizing.
Finally a few days after the investigation had finished and everyone had been interviewed by the mediator, it filtered through the player group that Coach Billy was done.
We were assured that part of the exit agreement with this coach was that he would never coach girls again. Despite momentum building within the player group to take it further, because of this assurance, we dropped it.
After an extremely psychologically traumatizing experience, we were happy to cling to a reason to leave the situation and start to move on.
On October 9, 2008, it was announced publicly that the Whitecaps/CSA and Coach Billy had “mutually parted ways in the best interest of both parties” and a new coach was announced that would be taking the team to Chile.
November 20, 2008 the team played its first game at the U20 World Cup in Chile.
After beating the US and winning the CONCACAF championship in June 2008, the team only managed to beat the Congo, lost to Germany and Japan and didn’t make it out of their group.
At the end of 2011, I received a Facebook message from a player on that 2008 U20 team that reached out to me after a blog I wrote in this period. I hadn’t spoken to her since 2007 when I had last trained with her.
We exchanged messages and she told me how traumatized she still was by everything that had gone on as a U20 player in 2008.
A quote from what she wrote to me in 2011 in regards to her experience on the 2008 U20 team:
i knew what it would take to get what i wanted, all i had to do was flirt with him like some of the other girls had desperately finally resorted to.
that is what it took …. schmoozing and pretending you approve of the way this guy coaches, talks to women and even the disgusting way he would look at his players.
….yes Coach Billy was gone but he wasnt the source of the problem. i was mad at the organization for letting .. him have power over so many young, naive women and then let him walk away without any consequences. they did not protect us and after the truth was on the table, they reconfirmed with me what we had known all along: the priority of the CSA is men. the mens program, male coaches, and in this example of a man feeding on the fear and dreams of young women: they chose to cover for and protect HIM – not us.
I wish I could say the story ended there, but it doesn’t.
In 2011 I played one more season for the Whitecaps. A coach I knew fairly well was in charge and despite my reservations, he convinced me that things were different. I was at the tail end of my career after 3 seasons in the pro league in Norway and was happy to spend some time at home.
To make a long story short, again we had coaches acting inappropriately with players, but with many older American former professional players, we had the benefit of
- Players that were more mature, that had played in a professional league and had standards of basic professionalism that coaches should uphold
- They weren’t Canadian, weren’t looking to play for Canada, and therefore, the usual card that had kept everyone silent and in line didn’t apply.
The most serious allegation was mid-summer when one of our teammates from the US confessed to us that she had been forced to share a hotel room with our Whitecaps head coach on her “tryout” for the team earlier that year.
He had told her she needed to fly across the country to California for a game. He wrote a letter for her to give her to her work, saying that it was a for a professional tryout. Once she flew across the country and arrived, she was told that the game had been cancelled, and he told her that the Whitecaps had screwed up and had only gotten them one hotel room. She tried to protest saying she wasn’t comfortable, but he said it was the only option and as she didn’t have money to get herself a hotel room, she had to share with him, and deal with his advances that night.
As she told the story, another one of our teammates that had come in from the US piped up.
“I remember that game,” she said. “I was supposed to go. It got cancelled days before.”
We all looked at her in shock, as we realized our coach still flew our teammate across the country anyways before putting the moves on her under the guise of a professional tryout.
At this point, nothing surprised me anymore.
What riled me up about this situation in 2011, was that nothing had changed, even after all the human carnage that had to happen for Coach Billy to finally get removed in 2008. There was still no procedure in place for us to go and report what had happened to our teammate.
No place where we could safely go get help in a manner that wouldn’t affect us on or off the field.
Instead we waited it out, and at the end of the season, 8 of us senior players put together a letter that we sent to one of the senior Whitecaps management. We detailed everything that had gone on throughout the season.
This is the letter the senior Whitecaps players wrote to management in 2011: Whitecaps End of Season Letter 2011
After, a mediator was sent to interview players about specifics, the Whitecaps COO, awkwardly joking to me, that I’d recognize her.
“She’s the same one you spoke to in 2008.”
Needless to say, I didn’t see any humour in any of it.
After the mediator interviews were complete, the entire team was sent a player survey about the season. It backed up what we said in our letter, and was so overwhelmingly negative, that one of the senior Whitecaps management, called our captain and apologized for the environment we endured, that the survey confirmed.
For the player that had been forced to share a hotel room, the Whitecaps Director of Soccer Development sent the following email in August 12, 2011 to this player, cc-ed to the Whitecaps COO confirming their policy of dealing with distressing items internally: Email
Eventually after all this, we were told the coach was let go.
Again, it was brushed under the rug, and this coach has continued to work in women’s soccer since.
In October 2011, I received an email from the newly hired Whitecaps women’s coach, thanking me for my time on the team.
On October 28, 2011, I responded with a letter to the email to the company email address I had for the Whitecaps owner, along with the the Whitecaps COO and Director of Soccer Development.
This letter reiterated everything that had happened over the last decade described above, to those in the most senior positions with the Whitecaps.
After I sent it, I received a request to come in and talk with the Whitecaps COO that I declined.
I said in the email that actions spoke a lot louder than words, the organization had destroyed many good people over the years, and I just hoped they would make changes if they were truly genuine about having the best interests of players as they said.
I said I had given enough of my time to the organization and wanted to move on.
After the 2012 season the Whitecaps shut down the women’s team.
They continue to run the pathway that every elite female youth player in BC must go through in order to get an opportunity with the U17 Canadian Youth National Team, with many players from out of province flown in as well to be a part of their Whitecaps REX Program.
I walked away from this situation for a long time.
Although I was never victimized sexually by a coach, on the field, my playing career was severely impacted by speaking up through these messed up situations.
Off the field, the mental stress, anxiety and anguish, both of what I experienced and of seeing people victimized around me, was a lot to process and cope with, both then and since my career has been over.
I have tried for years to take my negative experiences in the game and have used it as motivation to create a better environment and system for players. I’ve created as many pathways and opportunities as possible for them to get to the next level so no one person, team or system holds any power over them, like it did over us.
It’s been a form of therapy to cope with what I endured as a player in Canada.
But this situation still lingers and victimizes all of us, in light of the fact that Coach Billy is still coaching teenage girls in the community.
And not having snuck by in some small town in the middle of nowhere.
No, Coach Billy is back coaching female teenage players, in the BCPSL pathway in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, that elite female players are mandated to play in, in order to get to get an opportunity with the Canadian U17 Women’s National Team, run by the Canadian Soccer Association.
Let that sink in for a moment.
And it gets disturbingly more ironic.
The CSA are in the midst of mandating youth soccer clubs across the country go through a CSA Licensing process to become certified. As part of this, they are demanding that clubs spend thousands of dollars of their own money on courses to make sure that every youth coach in the club, knows how to handle and spot inappropriate behaviour towards players, as part of the requirement to be considered and ranked for the new CSA Club Licences.
This, despite the CSA themselves, knowingly allowing a coach that they removed over a decade ago for inappropriate behaviour, back into the direct pathway that young females have to go through, in order to get an opportunity with the Canadian Youth National Team.
Not only a massive fucking slap in the face to every single female player that Coach Billy negatively affected on and off the field, that bravely stepped up and spoke up over a decade ago, but horrifically ironic beyond words.
There are many reasons I am against a one pathway system to the national team.
The willful lack of care towards player safety and well-being, that has been shown time and time again in Canadian soccer, is one of them.
A former writer for the Province Newspaper recently tweeted in regards to this situation, that a former teammate of mine had apparently reached out to the Lower Mainland BCPSL club that Coach Billy is now at:
January 24, 2019: @marcdweber : Another ex-player has now told me that she questioned the club who hired this coach, and she was told that he passed a criminal record check and that the “accusations were with a different age group”. In her words, she found this response “horrific”.
If “allegations being in a different age group” is the standard of supposed top youth clubs in regards to their coaching placements, this whole system needs a fucking shakedown.
Furthermore, in June 2017, 2 male youth Vancouver Whitecaps Residency players were alleged to have sexually assaulted another male youth teammate in the locker room after training.
The Whitecaps would have gotten away with brushing another serious situation under the rug, only that the alleged victim’s mother insisted the police be called.
When the police were called, the Whitecaps youth players were charged with a crime within days.
The mother of the alleged victim gave a TV interview about how she felt the Whitecaps were trying to cover up what happened and how inappropriate it was that in the case of youth, that they were trying to deal with it in-house instead of calling the police.
Pretty much confirming to a tee the same protocol that we dealt with in 2008.
From 2008 to 2017 this shows a clear pattern of behaviour by the Whitecaps, that puts the safety and wellbeing of youth athletes in jeopardy, a serious allegation when the pathway to the national team still goes through them for both male and female youth players.
This is what the mother of the Whitecaps youth player had to say about how the Whitecaps handled the situation with her son: Click Here
Interesting to note, the Vancouver media dropped the story at 4pm on a Friday.
One could say perhaps due to the uncomfortably cozy relationship much of the Vancouver media has with the Whitecaps, or maybe just total apathy towards the situation in general, nevertheless the perfect time experts say to put a story out that you don’t want anyone to notice.
More than ever we need standards and legal protocols that eliminate this massive power imbalance that clubs and national sporting organizations have, and to ensure that players are safe, because right now, at least in soccer, I can confidently say, they are not.
It is reassuring to hear Canada Sport MP Kirsty Duncan is proposing financial consequences to organizations putting athletes in danger, because in her words, “money talks.”
She has said that the government will withhold funding to organizations that don’t:
- Immediately disclose any incident of harassment, abuse or discrimination to her office
- Put in place an independent third party to address cases of abuse.
I feel strongly in saying that, additionally, there needs to be legal requirements in place that legally mandate clubs and NSO’s to report to the police any kind of allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour against players.
Criminal consequences is the only way to ensure that players are safe moving forward, otherwise associations and clubs will continue to protect their interests ahead of players.
And clearly with what I’ve described above, if MP Duncan is serious in her reforms, the Whitecaps, BC Soccer and the Canada Soccer Association should have any government money they are receiving stopped immediately, until there has been a full independent inquiry into their actions in these above described, swept-under-the rug situations.
The total lack of regard all 3 organizations have shown towards player safety and well-being over the last decade, is truly beyond comprehension.
In closing, I appeared on CBC the National on Friday, February 15, 2019 (minute 6) asking a question of the NSO’s about if they are truly able to investigate themselves in cases of misconduct without there being a conflict of interest, and if the onus should be on them to do so.
If the simplistic answers that were given were the true beliefs of the “expert” panelists, then it is incredibly disturbing how out of touch supposed Canadian leaders are, on what lays the groundwork for inappropriate behaviour by coaches in the sporting world.
Quotes to some of the answers of my question included:
“Athletes should tell someone they trust that need to call the police”
“At Basketball Canada we have policies in place on our website”
“It’s not an either or situation ….There’s lots of clubs, players can join other teams”
Hopefully everything I’ve described above would cause experts to start realizing that what we are doing isn’t enough.
Only one person on the panel acknowledged the gaps that currently exist and need to be fixed.
Because we did tell someone.
Because there were policies on websites, lots of them, but that doesn’t mean anyone followed them and anyone was being held accountable to do so.
And because when you are talking about a national team or a one pathway system to the national team, there aren’t other teams you can join.
It shouldn’t be the responsibility of victims and bystanders, people who want nothing more than to move on and heal, to have to shout from rooftops and be re-victimized all over again years later by a system and people, who when they had the chance, had no interest in getting to the bottom of the truth.
If the police had been called in 2008, as they should have been, and a detailed, unbiased investigation happened, where athletes were given a safe space to share the truth to people who truly sought it, then this situation would have been finished.
Players would have been given a chance to heal and move on, and any deserved consequences would have been meted out to the perpetrators if the law decided they were warranted.
These actions would have definitively protected future players.
Instead now, we have women that were faced with an unfathomable environment a decade ago, who want nothing more to heal and leave this behind them, being told by the media they need to come forward with their names if they want this story to have a voice.
A voice they were denied when this situation happened.
They are being asked to share their painful stories without a cloak of anonymity and disrupt the lives they’ve worked hard to build in the aftermath of what they experienced, if they don’t want it on their conscience that Coach Billy is still in the game working with young female players.
How the fuck is that fair or right?
If we allow organizations to make the choice themselves to protect athletes, without holding them accountable to concrete requirements and criminal consequences with failure to do so, they will always choose to protect themselves and their organizations over anything else.
Player development methodology and achievements mean nothing without players being given a safe environment to grow and develop in.
Athletes around the country pour their heart and souls into their sports, every day vulnerable to the power dynamics that coaches and organizations hold over them.
They deserve so much better than the cheap lip service to their well-being that they are currently getting.
They deserve real action and real laws.
I pray someone with some power hears this and real wheels start turning to give the next generation something so much better.
Because what we experienced, and where we are now, is still so far from good enough.
The silence has to end. So many kids dreams destroyed and family lives upheavaled. I can account for countless, upon countless, upon countless lives ruined because of the actions of this so called Professional Organization and the people running it. If everyone took a stand to the abuse and outright lies this club displays they would not survive a week in the public eye. They celebrate the accomplishment of developing Alphonso Davies while destroying hundreds of other kids in the process. You have to ask yourself is it really worth it.
Hello Ms McCormack,
Thank you for bravely posting this. I have tweeted it and others have been posting on various social media sites.
I live in Vancouver and have been a CanWNT & Whitecaps fan for years. I want to support you and the players in the best possible way for your well-being.
I can continue to post & write. I can try to reach out to media. I can write to CSA, BC Soccer, Whitecaps FC. Let me know if there is anything else I can do. Do not hesitate to email me.
There are many people on your side.
Horrifying. This must be rooted out and the enablers brought out to answer for their abject failure to protect the players in their care. I’d like to think this situation is a one-off but events in the US (women’s gymnastics) make it impossible.
You are one brave lady! Thank you for speaking your truth.
Ciara – Thank you for taking the time and effort to document this thoroughly and to bravely share it. I am listening. I am investigating. and while not terrifically powerful, I can certainly ensure a lot of folks take a very close look at this. You have always gone above and beyond, not only for your team mates, but for a lot of young women in sport. You have my full attention.
Ciara, thank you for your courage in sharing your story. I have retweeted it and will share it on Facebook. There is no way this behaviour should be allowed to exist. This story needs to be shared far and wide to root out those responsible, including those who look the other way.
First and foremost: I believe you.
I’m so sorry you and others around you have gone through so much. I’ll be sending this forward to some of my contacts in the media.
Infuriating, I was already pissed after the first paragraph where they expected you to work for free. What a rotten tree. There are going to be creeps , but when those creeps are shielded and allowed to continue…..well those people doing the shielding are disgusting. The Whitecaps should be 100% removed from the national team, its President and COO should resign, and anyone that had anything to do with allowing this guy to coach again should not have anything to do with soccer. They hired an investigator to minimize damage to the organization. Sickening.
So proud of you.
I just saw the news about this right here: https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/youth-soccer-coach-in-surrey-suspended-following-allegations-of-inappropriate-behaviour/ar-BBUbfQn?ocid=ACERDHP17
And your article is linked to it.
I’m sorry about everything you and your teammates went through. This is such a corrupted system and I am disgusted when the ones with money and power are always protected.
Thanks for speaking up CMAC!
Thank you for bringing this to light. My daughter is in a Coastal FC program and it’s horrifying to think about what her future holds as she progresses up the ranks. Thank you for your perseverance and determination to keep our daughters safe!!
All I can say is Wow. Thanks for sharing this, I am sad that this type of behaviour is tolerated and I am so proud of you for sharing your experiences. I am literally speechless, I guess part of me assumes that there are checks and balances in place to stop this from happening, but as always as soon as there is money or politics involved sadly people seem to get away with anything.
If the Whitecaps organization was truly aware of these types of allegations, then shame on them and they better step up and own it, and do what they can to make things right.
As far as coach “Billy” goes, he better not ever get near the sport, or be in a position of power over others again…EVER.
I hope you are able to give other athletes the courage to step forward and speak up.
I applaud your courage and thank you for helping future generations with your grit by telling the truth and hopefully making a chance.
Thank you, Ciara, for sharing this, and giving us all a powerful insight into this nightmare. Your courage is inspiring, and too many good people are in your corner now for this to just fade away.
Thank you for writing this article, detailing all of your experiences. I have experienced abuse and tried to write a whole book about it. Writing helped, but always felt as though it should be public so more people aren’t hurt. The system needs help, thank you for raising your voice over and over.
THANK YOU from all the parents who support their children in their athletic quests. It is the dream of many children to follow their passion of sports…and we trust that it is a safe environment.
We as parents must be more involved and not be so trusting and keep an open dialogue with our children…& encourage them to talk to parents/adults/teammates about situations that are not ACCEPTABLE.
Ciara…you are a very brave woman and I know your teammates and the public support you.
I am very proud of you.
Thank you for your bravery and courage and for standing up to these corrupt men in power. As a father of two young daughter’s, a former collegiate athlete and someone who has recently struggled with mental health it infuriates me to read what is going on behind the scenes. It looks like a lot has happened since you brought this to light so keep fighting! Thank you again.
Dear Ms. McCormack,
First, I would like to say how sorry I am that this has happened to you. Second, I thank you very much for shedding some much needed light on this horrifying situation. I have an 18 year old daughter who has been a traveller along the CSA Development Pathway and watching her face as she read your essay told quite the tale. That tale continues to be heartbreaking. While she was lucky enough to not be exposed to the sexual power plays that are so prevalent in
your experience, the effects of the emotional blackmail that she experienced since the age of 12 may never leave her. This is a story that needs to be told.
Thank you for your courage. Thank you for making these horrific details public and for outing these people in power. As a father of two daughters, a former collegiate athlete and someone who recently went public with my own issues with mental health this really hit me. Since you posted this it looks like real action is starting to take place so keep fighting!
Pemmi, you are truly my hero. I absolutely know that lives will be changed because of this. I could not be more proud!
Absolutely disgusting. Thank you for your perseverance with sharing this, time and time again. It reminds me of how the Catholic Church has failed to protect its members from pedophiles in its ranks, and priests have been able to stay in leadership positions despite inappropriate or illegal behaviour. I’m no expert but this sick pattern of behaviour seems to come down to influential organizations doing everything they can to maintain power and control, with no regard for the trauma caused to members of the community (particularly vulnerable people).
I feel absolutely terrible that Canada has had plenty of chances to do Soccer Great but waste them away. And, I feel sorry for you and all the other ladies that should be top of the World but aren’t this Mother’s Day.
A professional counselor and professional basketball coach interviewed by child and lodged a formal complaint to my child’s coaches, the local soccer club, BC Soccer, and Canada Soccer in 2012 about the abuse my daughter was subjected to by her coaches, no response was received.
My child chose to not play soccer with the club again.
This is not the conduct I feel we should support.
I should have stated a professional basketball player and coach.
3.5 years later and this is still relevant. It is with great sadness that it is still relevant – but I thank you for pulling the trigger on publishing this. It has been one of the drivers for change, a piece of ammunition in the gun of all those pushing to hold persons of concern accountable in order to first bring some remedy, then change things (permanently) for the better. Thank you Ciara.