Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Part Four of Until I am Done "A little more catharsis."

The deal right from the get go was that my boss would help us develop athletes and answer any questions we had when it came to training, injury, nutrition, race planning, etc.  He was there most of the time I needed help.  My boss is a brilliant guy.  And he is an excellent coach, when he wants to be.  The problem was always those times when he seemed to be pulled away, pulled into some other project, pulled into what would be the "next big thing."  And there was always another project, another avenue that had to be explored in terms of expanding the company.  The first was that we were going to have our own "premium" version of our website.  For a certain amount per month, athletes could have access to all the workout libraries and forums to talk to each other.  The entire Facebook group was just going to be "moved" over there.  I had my doubts whether people would log into a new forum, when Facebook is so easy. Everything in one place.  You have your news feed, then you just click on a group and its all in one place.  My boss seemed to think everyone would just do it because he told them to.  Someone worked hard on that project, developed it.  It never caught on though. 

Training Peaks has always been my preferred platform for on-line scheduling. There are other platforms out there, and each has its own merits.  We were using Training Peaks when I joined.  Most of us shared one account.  Looking back, I should have just started my own.  Although looking at other athlete's training was an important part in the learning process and for that I am grateful.  Each athlete was made premium, at a $9 cost per month.  It added up fast.  Why it was done this way, I do not know.  You can have unlimited basic accounts, and have the athlete upgrade it they choose to (buy their own premium or pay you the extra $9 per month).  Training Peaks was a huge monthly expense.  I understand the desire to look into other platforms, but they all cost money for coaching accounts.  After the "premium" thing fizzled out, there was talk about selling to another company, which I was against.  Again, we had a good thing going.  When everyone was in a good mood, people were getting solid training and the Facebook group had terrific camaraderie.  Why mess with a good thing?  There was talk of moving to Addero, then finally everyone was abruptly switched out of Training Peaks into Workout log.  This was supposed to be a temporary switch.  A month or two at most, while the newest platform was developed.  This platform would integrate training schedules and the social component.   Someone else, outside of the coaching team was enlisted to develop the product.  We were to have input on design.  I remember feeling exhausted mentally at this point.  We made attempts to have some say in design.  One of my biggest desires was to have a calendar view.  At that time, the beta version had a week only view.   The way my brain works, the way I fit the puzzle pieces together, I need to see a few weeks at a time.  I need to easily click on an older workout, read the comments and look at the data.  I mentioned this during a group Skype and was scolded for wanting such a feature.  It was insinuated that I wasn't a good coach and didn't understand my athletes, if I needed a calendar view.  Fortunately the other coach on the call supported me in wanting that feature and he backed off.  A little more damage done.  Another little reminder of who was in charge. 

After 3 or 4 (maybe longer) months of using Workout log, I couldn't stand it any longer.  I got my own coaching account and moved everyone back to Training Peaks.  Why did it take so long?  One, the "new" platform was promised and because I had respect for the teammate involved in development, I wanted to be supportive.  We had been accused of not "showing any respect" to him.  At one point we were trying to arrange a group meeting.  I did not know the developer was to be on the call.  I put our my available times but apparently I was being too stringent.  At the time I was training for an Ironman, running a household, raising two active children.  I volunteered at the school.  Was working with athletes.  And its important to me that I cook a healthy dinner for my family.  That we sit down together every night and spend some time together.  The second reason why I waited a little long to switch back to Training Peaks is because I was afraid my boss would get mad.  Finally, upon discussing it with another coach, it was decided that how I "house" my athletes is my business.  Most people were glad to be back to a familiar platform and I am glad to be in the position of making my own decisions now. 

Despite all that had happened so far, we were still a growing company.  We needed to hire some new coaches.  I remember thinking at the time, if we just had some help.  If we had just a few more people on board, maybe we could right this ship.  There were four (if memory serves) new coaches hired.  Three of them I knew from social media only, one was a friend of mine.  A fellow triathlete and mother.  She is smart, persistent, driven, devoted and above all a wonderful mother and a good person.  She was promised a job.  She finished her certification and was excited about coaching.  What happened is her story to tell.  From my end I can tell you this.  She was promised payment for working with one of the Facebook training groups.  She answered questions and worked hard.  Inexplicably, she was taken off the job and not paid.  She was not supported, would ask questions and was often ignored.  There was little I could do about it.  The way she was treated by my boss was inexcusable.  Eventually she left.  I felt terrible and at that time, it became very clear to me that this was not a ship we, or anyone number of people could right.  It became clear that things were never going to change and were only going to get worse.  This woman and I have talked.  A lot.  She knows I am sorry and part of my desire to tell my story is to make things right with her and every other person who could not understand why I stayed so long and why this man could continue to hurt so many people.

One tactic that over time I realized my boss was using over and over, is diversion.  If a hard question was asked, the answer would come back with denial, then a diversion.  A diversion onto another topic or a diversion into how the person asking the question was to blame, overreacting, or was crazy.  Case in point.  One of the female coaches had left abruptly.  I did not know her well.  I asked why and was told that "she was posting on Facebook about doing drugs with her husband."  Apparently she was let go because this behavior is not tolerated.  I was floored.  I knew there was NO WAY this woman every did drugs.  She is a serious, respected athlete.  Even though I knew my boss was lying, I scanned her timeline.  Of course I found nothing.  Many months later I brought this up with her and she confronted my boss.  The first thing he did was deny, then called "whoever said that" (in this case, me) a "F#$KING LIAR" then divert to how great a person he is and how crazy other people are.  He said to "stop throwing shit around," and that he would "deal" with the person that said that (me) and that there was an "interesting background in that story."  The anger and hysteria in that response was frightening. 

I have had occasion (which I will touch on later) to have conversations with my old boss.  One pertained to race entries, one pertained to his treatment of an athlete that he had no business interfering with and one pertained to me following up on his claims to be getting a specific certification.  He often would say "I would appreciate the badmouthing to stop."  That phrase always made me so furious.  Badmouthing?  For two years I tried to help make his company into something great.  For two years I defended him.  For two years I stood by as everyone slowly peeled away and did what was best for them.  Asking for follow through on race entries, standing up for poor treatment of an athlete and requesting that he provide proof of certifications he claims publicly to have...this is not badmouthing.  This is finally standing up and speaking the truth about what happened.  This is finally finding some catharsis.  This is my story. 

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