Last Monday, on May 20, 2019, myself and three of my former teammates met with Greg Kerfoot and Jeff Mallett, the owners of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
It was emotional and tough at times, but also productive and amicable and it felt like a step in the right direction.
Most importantly for the first time in 12 years since this situation started, I felt heard by people in a position of power who seemed to have a genuine desire to do something, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
In the meeting, myself and my teammates had a chance to voice our individual and collective experiences, and our desires in what we want moving forward.
For me I would like transparency from our situation in 2007/8 so that something like it can never happen again. I would like anyone that didn’t protect us to be held accountable. If something bad happens to players moving forward, I want them to know exactly what they need to do to report it, and to not lose anything they’ve worked so hard for. I want transparency and accountability in the system so players will have the best chance of always playing in a safe and positive environment.
I want the passion that they have for their sport to be used to lift them up, and not as a weapon against them.
Looking forward, I appreciate that we have been included by the Whitecaps on the investigation that they are conducting and been given the opportunity to see the scope of it. I appreciate also that we have been given the chance to vet and approve the group that they are going to go with to conduct it.
While we are not paying for the investigation so can’t dictate it exactly to our wants and needs, it is close enough and most importantly, a positive step forward.
It also leaves me hopeful to see various groups agree on concepts such as the need for a third party neutral organization that is a watchdog and protector of athletes, and a national coach registry that reports and tracks coach misconduct.
I look forward to doing my part in supporting those concepts in coming to fruition.
After everything I’ve experienced, it is hard to trust and be hopeful, but I am willing to try.
For now I just wanted to say thank you.
Three months ago this past Saturday, I, terrified, hit publish on a blog I had written more times than I can count, over the last 10 years. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it because I didn’t want to be talked out of it.
At the time I was thinking witness protection program, not walkouts.
And if what experienced 11 years ago was some of the worst of human behaviour, in the last 3 months through this journey, I am so grateful to have experienced some of the best.
I find myself crying tears of gratitude daily for the support that has been received.
It has been my healing and my therapy.
Through these last few weeks, I’ve realized that keeping this experience buried, stifled me from moving forward in many areas of my life. I’ve felt an incredibly positive shift and a weight lifted in just the few short weeks since I published the blog.
It’s amazing what letting light into darkness can do, and I can feel the fog around a sport and a city, both of which I used to love so much, but that hurt me so deeply, so unbearably, slowly starting to lift.
First I want to say thank you to the Southsiders and Curva.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I choke up every time I talk and think about what you have done.
People so very rarely take on someone else’s fight, let alone so passionately. Once this kicked off, as was experienced at the time and since, we were dismissed and ignored yet again.
But instead of letting this fade, and leaving us silenced for a final time, you took it upon yourselves to give the story a voice. Some of you put in stupid amounts of time you could have spent with your friends or family, for people that before this, you had never met.
I know in my heart with certainty the story would have been buried yet again, only for your choice to step up and help us. I am so grateful for your kindness, for your compassion, and most importantly for your action.
I will never, ever forget how it felt to see thousands of strangers of different ages, races and genders that I’d never met, walking out in such a visual display of support, to give people they’d never met, a voice.
I write this, as more tears stream down my face (in a public place, yet again. Ciara, pull it together).
Thank you to every single person that walked out of the games.
Thank you to the Timbers Army. I have no words. Just more tears of gratitude.
To everyone that wrote the club, or gave up their season tickets. Who bought t-shirts, wrote messages on twitter or privately. Or who did anything to support this. I wish I could thank each of you individually and give you a hug.
When you are vulnerable and scared, I can’t even begin to tell you the kind of impact, that level of support has.
I titled the blog in frustration: “A Horrific Canadian Soccer Story, The Story No One Wants to Listen to, but Everyone Needs to Hear.”
Because of all of you, people were finally forced to listen.
Thank you to all the media, both local, national and internationally, who listened to and shared the story in such detail. A special shout out to Marie Malchelosse, the first journalist I spoke to, after 11 years of telling the story more times than I can count, that made me feel that the story was worthy of being shared. Your empathy and lack of skepticism lifted mountains off my shoulders at a time that I was feeling especially vulnerable. A special thank you also to Matthew Hall from the Guardian who kicked the door open in giving the story to a large international audience and really helped move things forward locally.
A very special thank you also to Gen Simard, a former Olympic skier who endured her own hell with a coach, who I was connected with, the day I wrote the blog. I would not be standing here without your support that first month, no word of a lie. Thank you for all the time you gave me at all hours of the day and night and all of your wise advice, despite being in the midst of your own painful situation. You skiers are brave heroes that have paved the way for the rest of us and gave us a voice and a lead to follow. I will be forever grateful to all of you and your example of resilience and true courage.
To all the people that trusted me with their own hard stories, thank you for giving me the privilege of listening. It was healing to cry tears with you and allow you to feel heard. We are in this together and I will forever have your back.
To the people I’ve had the privilege of meeting and speaking to, across the country, in these last few weeks, that are passionately and sincerely fighting for athlete safety and not just in a trendy, lip service kind of way. The time you’ve put in is incredible and inspiring, and you are making a difference.
To current athletes such as Erica Wiebe, that amidst her own successful gold medal Olympic career, is fighting so hard for the well being of other athletes and teammates that don’t have the same status or voice. You are what sports and being a good human is all about, and you are setting an incredible example for every current athlete, especially those in a privileged position, on how important it is to speak up, and stand up for those around you.
To the other players, coaches and administrators that came forward to support the story written about in the blog: Thank you for your bravery.
For our small little team behind the scenes, so different in personality and method, but some of the most articulate, passionate, sincere, brave people I have ever met. You are incredible human beings. I am honored to know you and its been a journey I’ll always be grateful for, to have experienced the kind of teamwork that’s moved mountains in three short months. Thank you for being everything that being on a team is about.
The time the owners gave us, and the positive steps that the organization has taken since, is appreciated and I look forward to seeing the investigation unfold and its results.
I look forward to real action and conversation with the CSA next.
Finally, I hope that through this, and the example that everyone that took big and small actions has set, that we all realize the power that we have in setting the culture around us.
That we see that we create the environment that we exist within, by every action and/or inaction we take, in every situation that happens around us every day.
I know how much it affected me and made me doubt myself when friends and others would question why I was always in the midst of turmoil as this situation and its aftermath unfolded.
Like there was something the matter with me for speaking up.
I now have peace, knowing with certainty that there was nothing wrong with me.
I was doing the right thing all along.
The problem was those in power that stayed silent and affirmed the shitty actions going on around us by not saying anything both at the time and in the aftermath of the situation. That allowed this coach to continue in the system for more than a decade after he was terminated by the Whitecaps and CSA.
Smaller versions of this silence happens every day as people stay quiet not wanting to rock boats or get involved in other people’s issues.
I hope words like brave and courageous are no longer used for stepping up, standing up, and doing right by those around us.
That one day, it’s so ingrained in the sporting world and day to day culture, that it just becomes the unremarkable norm.
We can have all the policies and investigations in the world, but nothing will change unless in those moments big and small, people stand up and do the right thing and those watching support them, no matter what the consequence.
Because, I can tell you, with certainty, that no accomplishment is worth staying quiet and watching those around you suffer.
It’s time to move forward, it’s time to trust the process to unfold as it should, and its time for everyone else that’s been impacted by this to have a safe space to be heard and taken care of, knowing that we are working together in a positive way with the organizations involved.
I personally will not stop until I know that meaningful, long lasting change has occurred. The story I shared, that is now known, is the first step.
Thank you again to everyone that got the story to this point, for your support and for your example to all of us.
I will be forever grateful, because of each and every one of you, to finally being heard.