Archive for December 17, 2017

#metoo

https://twitter.com/search?src=typd&q=%23metoo

A reckoning. By definition, “a settling of accounts.”

Is that what best describes the #metoo movement? The sad truth: every woman and many girls have had such an experience and can post #metoo.

Sad.

My #metoo moment didn’t happen as an adult, but as a teen, and like so many others, it played a significant role in the course of my life, and shaped the woman I became.

August right before school started, a friend and I rode our bikes out to the high school. Anxious about starting our freshman year, we wanted to check things out and settle our nerves. A man came out of the gym and invited us in to try out for the volleyball team. A life-long baseball and softball lover, I had never considered volleyball. I made the team, and continued playing all the way through college. Volleyball remains a part of my life today as I coach and my daughter plays. I remain forever grateful for that invite into the gym and sport.

However, I am not grateful for the four years of unwelcome, demeaning and inappropriate advances from that same coach. The distance of almost 40 years has not diminished the sting of the things he said, and if allowed, would have done.

~ “Wendy, come sign this paperwork,” as he held a clipboard. As I took the pen, he pulled the clipboard against his stomach and said something like, “Anything to get you to come closer to me.” I dropped the pen with disgust and went back to practice without signing anything.

~ Heading into a gym for another game, that team’s coach had one of his players up against the bleachers as he leaned over her looking very much like her boyfriend. My coach said to me, “See! She lets him get close.” That coach, also a teacher, years later lost his license to teach and coach for sexual abuse with students and players.

~ Sitting on the bench doing the team stats, watching a female coach of an opposing team smack her players on the butt as she subbed them in and out. He turned to me and said, “Maybe if you let me hit you on the butt like her, I’d play you.”

Another guttural groan and eye roll…my only defense.

The constant attempts to touch me, get me to touch him, disgusted me. He held play time as the carrot, knowing how much I wanted to get on the court. I bristled and threw my nose up in the air; I retorted with rude and disrespectful comments that went completely against the grain of who I was. I had no other recourse. I never wavered. He was a bully and I hated bullies. I have no idea where that resolve came from. How I had the tenacity to stand up to him so boldly, I’ll never know. I did not have a strong fatherly figure in my life. My mother, not exactly a beacon of feminism, hadn’t drilled independence into me. But I stood against him at every point of my four years with him. Many of us did. His inappropriate, smarmy behavior was no secret. We all hated even more the rare occasion his wife and kids would show up at the gym and how he’d change. A complete 180 including his posture. His entire demeanor altered to Father/Husband/Coach of the Year. As she walked out, he’d turn with a disgusting grin and return to his usual, oily manner.

I’ve had many coaches in my life as an athlete. My favorite was my high school softball coach. A small, loud bearded man who limped, chewed tobacco, swore, screamed, and threw bats when we made too many errors. His mantra, “Play as tough as boys, act like ladies.” And he meant it. Far tougher than the boys’ baseball coach, he drilled us…hard. Repeated errors from the infielders brought on a spree of swearing along with bat throwing against the backstop, as well as screaming at me in the outfield to “TAKE A LAP!” As if the swearing, screaming, tobacco chewing, and throwing wasn’t enough, making her daughter run laps for errors she didn’t make put my mother over the edge. She would beg me to quit. She would compare this outrageous man to the fine, upstanding volleyball coach. She didn’t hear me. She couldn’t believe me. Perhaps I didn’t say it loud enough or serious enough.

How could that lovely man be worse than that bearded, foul-mouthed one?

The things she couldn’t see about my softball coach:

  • He never altered his behavior for any audience. His wife and kids attended practice often.
  • He protected me from an abusive and manipulative boyfriend, not letting him near the field.
  • He found out a doctor had told me to stop all sports due to two heart murmurs. I ignored the recommendation. During the three-whistle drill, he would always yell at me to stop sprinting. (So his making me do extra laps for other players didn’t bother me.)
  • He would tutor any of us before or after school if we needed it, making us always put our school work first.
  • He wouldn’t tolerate any drama or bad-mouthing of each other. We were to remain a team or we’d sit.

He prepared me for meeting with my college coaches. I had all my stats ready to report. I knew my RBIs, batting average, my Gold Glove award, my aces, kills, etc. While at the university, meeting with my new coaches, my mother and new volleyball coach left the room for some reason. I was left with the softball coach. He looked me up and down, said, “So what are your numbers?” I pulled out my stats, but this new coach cut me off and said, “No, not those.” He pointed at my body, moved his finger up and down, “Those,” he finished.

Again.

Not again.

18-years-old and I was tired.

Exhausted.

I never played for him. I walked away from softball…my first love. I cannot explain the heartbreak. An awkward jock (before it was “cool” to be a tomboy), I rarely fit in. A team of other girls helped me find my place in the world. I walked away from a sport and a connection that I adored, all because of yet another disgusting predator.

This college softball coach was also the head trainer for the university. He decided whose injury had cleared up and which players could return to the game. I played volleyball for a lovely, quirky (female) coach, resulting in a lower back injury. I chose each day for the 19-year-old college boys to work on my back, close to my butt, rather than that 50-year-old predator.

Not everyone had that luxury. The softball team made the final four. Our school hosted the tournament. One of my friends showed up at my apartment late one night in tears. A senior with a back injury, her desperation to play in the final four matched my heartache that I had opted out of this once in a lifetime opportunity. She needed clearance from her coach/head trainer to play. He wouldn’t give it … unless. Unless she performed oral sex on him.

She did.

And she sat in my arms sobbing.

She played. They won.

Did she?

Eventually, all the swearing, yelling, and throwing got my high school coach forced out. Parents complained, and while I admit you cannot behave like that, he remains my favorite coach. Never anything fake…what you saw was what you got, and he gave me his best.

My high school volleyball coach retired from coaching and teaching last year to a fanfare of celebrations. Facebook pages, parties, and tributes. I was invited. I respectfully declined.

BUT WHY???

Why do the women who suffer at the hands of these predators feel they have to show respectful and demure behavior? I admit that I worry that perhaps his wife or children may somehow find this and read it. Certainly some will say that they can’t possibly believe such things. Look at all the tributes!

Again, why am I the one who should worry?

Why not him?

#metooScreen Shot 2017-12-17 at 8.28.13 PM

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