Written by Mitch and IllaRouge
Saturday, December 5, 2020
Practice had gone well enough for those who had turned up to it. It was the last day of a break, so not all the Spirits were present, though Crosby had shown up each day of the week. Perhaps not for the full day, but enough to work with the others who were there, and to focus on where he needed improvement.
Off the court, things had not been going well. There was anger, resentment, and frustration among the team, and he could tell there was some from management as well. A simmering pot which had boiled over as of late, and it had taken Saphira to remove the lid and let some of that steam off safely, yet it was not doing much to regulate temperature going forward. A simmering pot which was doing no one any good, and didn’t need to be left to boil over again because no one was tending to it. While a disaster in a real kitchen, the genet could at least handle cooking metaphors. So, after showering and changing into normal clothes, Crosby Sutters knocked gently on the cracked door to Coach Tetreault’s office, before easing it open to step inside.
“Good evening, Coach,” he said with a nod, then indicated toward one of the chairs. “Would you mind if I took a seat? I think it’s… well past time we had a talk.”
“Oui.” Henriette set her papers aside. Tagwizult sat to the side of the desk. She smiled pleasantly at the player. The corgi-husky didn’t translate what was easily understood.
Crosby eased himself down into the chair, then crossed one footpaw in front of the other at the ankles. Next to him, his long, ringed tail tapped lightly on the floor, as it often did, seeming to have a bit of a mind of its own at times.
“Coach,” he started, then vented a light sigh. “I’m sure you know that the team is not… terribly happy. I’d like to help remedy that, but I can’t do it alone, and quite frankly you’ve not been helping.”
Immediately he lifted a staying paw, and continued in a calm and polite tone, if a bit reedy as was his nature. “And no, I don’t believe you’ve done it on purpose. But there is an element of pride in the way, from both sides, that is keeping us from reaching each other.
Henriette spoke. Tagwizult responded, "If we're to have this discussion, you'll change your tone. What's at issue here is not pride from my, Madame's, side. Not in the way you might think, so if you need time to deal with your own pride, take it."
Crosby’s left ear ticked. His tone had been polite, calm, and respectful, in voice. Perhaps it was the subject which had caused issue. But that was the point. The subject itself was causing issues.
“If it is not the way I might think, then would you explain to me what way it is, then?” Crosby asked.
Henriette folded her hands. Tagwizult translated, "My decision to speak in my native tongue is intensely personal and cultural. I am not coming here to impose my language on this team." She gestures to the corgi, who continued, "As you can see, I have provided a real time translator at no cost to the league or to this team."
Crosby nodded. “While it may be intensely personal and cultural, it has come off as elitist and cold,” he replied. “I’m saying that’s the perception, not the reality. And perception is a powerful thing, which leads to issues if not corrected. From my experience with you, you seem to understand my English quite well. If that is not the case, then I will attempt to better communicate. But, rather like how I have to ask people every now and then to repeat things, because I’m deaf and my hearing processors don’t always catch what they said, I preface it by ensuring they know I’m hard of hearing, and I wasn’t ignoring them, or distracted. It took a lot of difficult work to get back to what hearing I even have now, and while it may not be perfect, it’s enough, as long as those around me understand why I might ask for things to be repeated on occasion. If I didn’t, they might perceive the reality of the situation incorrectly, you see.”
"Perception is one thing. Assumptions are another," Tagwizult interpreted. "And immature tirades on social media do not inspire respect from me, Madame, that is. Combined with Mademoiselle DuPont's haughty demeanor, this has not made Baltimore look good in the public eye." Henriette leaned back in her chair. "You are aware of, as the saying goes, 'playing the game,' are you not?"
“I am,” Crosby replied. “And I’m also aware that a coach should be involved with their team, instead of letting them run their mouths - if the coach doesn’t approve of it, that is. But little was done, which leads to the wider perception that you either don’t care about the team, or you don’t wish to control it - and I know neither of those things are true. So the question now is, what ‘game’ is being played, by whom, and to what end? I know that the game I came here to play is basketball.”
“So, if you are playing basketball, and I, Madame that is, is coaching, then what is the problem?” Tagwizult adjusted herself in her seat before continuing. “Stop speaking in lessons and tell me why you’re here.”
“I’m here because the coaching has not been beneficial to team cohesion. In fact, it’s been detrimental,” Crosby replied. “There has been a lack of engagement which has left the team feeling disregarded. Also, there has been a lack of discipline, which has allowed egos to get too big. There needs to be structure, and we’re simply not seeing that. What may be a more hands-off approach has come across as a lack of care about the team. That, and none of us actually know you yet. We don’t know why you chose to come here, we don’t know what’s driving you, we don’t know what it is you’re looking for. Without knowing your goals and intentions, it’s difficult to gather behind causes and support them.”
“In what way are my intentions unclear? I do not recall being hands-off when it comes to my coaching duties. If you have an example, I’d be happy to hear it.”
“You don’t actually call any of us in to talk, when someone mouths off on Twitter. You don’t seem to try to tamp down on egos. You leave it to Erik and I to forge a group dynamic, when you know Erik doesn’t like you,” Crosby said, then leaned forward a bit. “And, you don’t come across as seeming to want to engage with us much. Maybe it’s a language thing, maybe we’ve taken that all out of proportion. But because we speak in English, and you seem to understand us just fine, yet you insist on French - for whatever reasons you may have - it makes us feel looked down on, and distant. Even simply saying, ‘I speak in French because of deep, personal reasons,’ would have been enough to get the team to go, ‘Oh, okay,’ and just move on. But you haven’t even given us that much.”
Leaning back in his seat, he then added, “And, though I know this is nothing of your doing, your daughter hasn’t exactly made a good reputation for herself among players, and that family connection does reach to you, if it’s not actively stopped. Yes, I know that’s unfair, but it’s an unfortunate fact of relations in the same technical position, when we know so little about you. Even if you opened up a little, that would help. Help us see you as a person. I had the most jackass of all coaches in Jackson Price, and it would have been really easy to hate him, and spite his direction, if he hadn’t opened up to the team, and shown us his commitment to us, not only as players, but as people. That made a world of difference, on the Spectrums, and I think it can make a huge difference here.”
She took a moment to absorb his words. She decided to deal with them one at a time. "Let's begin with your social media presences. I assure you, your punishments are coming. I don't need to police you and force you to be adults. But if you expect more pain, then that is what you shall receive."
Henriette took a moment to sip from a glass of water on her desk.
"As for my language, yes, there are reasons. I don't see any incentive to bearing my soul as to why that is, but if I must feed you children bread crumbs, I'll ask you what I asked Saphira. Does my age suggest any reason, any reason at all, why I might be disinclined to talk about my personal experiences?"
“No,” Crosby shook his head. “In fact, I believe your age, and experience, would give you more reason to speak of your personal experiences. What it does not do, however, is give you the platform to consider us ‘children,’ nor does it give you the air of superiority to speak of ‘bread crumbs.’ This sort of attitude only further turns off the team. A team which, quite frankly, many members of which don’t want to be here anymore, because of this leadership. And a team which other players will refuse to join, if contracts are offered.”
"You are children because you act like children. Why should I see you as something different, when all of you simply choose to vent your frustrations to the internet and not come and see me? Saphira is clearly much more of a leader if she can find the courage to do what the rest of you could not." Henriette crossed her arms; Tagwizult remained unbothered. "I will not be coerced to speak of my experiences in the war. That is not negotiable. Does this satisfy your curiosity enough to respect my, Madame's, wishes?"
Crosby stared back at Tetreault, his face still. “Did you not realize that no one was coming to you because you gave us the impression you didn’t give a shit about us?”
"Quite aware, but you and Erik failed to show initiative. I will not take responsibility for that." She scowled. "I am more than capable of amending my behaviors and working in a manner that helps this team succeed. I am still waiting to see my self-appointed captains do the same."
“What form of initiative were you waiting for, then? A coup?” Crosby scoffed. “Because, one was coming, and your self-appointed captains stopped it. And you never even knew about it. I look forward to these amended behaviors, though, and I’m sad it took this long for you to see that it was needed.”
Henriette laughed. "A coup. Very cute. I don't think you understand the structure this team is under." The hyena's smile faded quickly. "Madame Khaldi is not pleased with this course of events either, but she is not about to remove me as coach for the actions of you players. Are you done threatening, or is there some manner of empathy you're looking to show? I truly am unsure of what you are trying to accomplish by these empty threats."
“I never once threatened you,” Crosby shook his head. “If you took it as such, I’m not sure how. I came here to make plain the feelings of the team. Make clear what needs to be done to actually make a useful bridge between you, and the team. But if you so quickly dismiss what I’ve told you, then it is clear you don’t care. I’m not looking for empathy. I’m looking for a coach. I’ll let you know when I find one. Good day.”
With that, Crosby rose, shaking his head.
Henriette growled. "What about 'I am amenable' was unclear, you petulant child? A coup is a threat. That. Was your threat."
“I told you there was one brewing, and that I put a stop to it! How is me stopping a coup a threat!” Crosby snapped
The coach took a moment. "Then a misunderstanding has occurred."
The genet’s tail slowed from its lashing, and he tugged on the bottom hem of his shirt to straighten it as he stood there. “I believe there has,” he nodded. “And I believe it’s not the only one. That is why I’m here. I wanted to make things clear, in both directions, so there would be no more misunderstanding. Do you get it, now?”
Henriette's glare would be response enough.
"What are you proposing, Monsieur?"
Taking a deep breath, Crosby took a moment to calm himself. “I’m proposing that you actually talk to us, through interpreter as needed, and get to know us. And let us get to know you. We don’t need to know everything, but there are things you haven’t told us which we’ve had to research. Tell us about your own experience in the game. Tell us about past coaching glory - and mistakes. It’s important to admit mistakes, because we can all learn from those, no matter whose they are. I realize that perhaps things here aren’t as you were expecting, and we certainly weren’t expecting things to be like this either. But one way or another, we’ve become the drama laughing stock of the league, and more people want to be on the Whips, than want to be here. That can be remedied with communication, and a tiny bit of humility. I know I ran my mouth, but after failing to get your attention by normal means, I was trying a new tactic, to see what it was you would respond to. We shouldn’t have had to come to this conversation. I’ve had plenty of conversations with the rest of the team, either in groups, or one on one, to help keep them going. Help keep them together. While, yeah, that’s something I’m known for, it’s more of your role to inspire and lead us, to keep us on the same track. I do it because I love my teammates, and I love this game. But I shouldn’t have to be doing it, especially not nearly as much as I have been. I want us to succeed. But I need your help. We all need your help. We all need to get our collective heads out of our butts, and see that.”
Henriette's face had not changed. She thought for a moment. "If this incessant, offensive demand that I betray my language ceases, I don't see the problem with speaking more." Her eyes narrowed. "But understand that we do not have the same romantic ideals of what a team is. If you all want to see this as a family, then do what you will. Since you mentioned my daughter, then I'll give you a lesson. The Tetreaults are a matriarchy. I respect results, and I respect obedience. I am not policing your lives off the court, but in my house, this stadium, under the banner of Baltimore, you will respect that hierarchy."
“Then address the team,” Crosby replied. “In French, whatever, I don’t care. But make your position, and your expectations, clear to the team. Because right now, we don’t know what it is you want, which has resulted in some of this chaos. And this is why I kept bringing up communication. Without communication, there is chaos. If you wish to speak in French, fine, just tell the team that’s the way it will be. But actually tell us, so there’s a baseline understanding. And, at the same time, understand that some of these players will not return under a leadership style like this, and that it will also turn off some players from coming here. You may lead as you like, but I feel it is my duty to let you know that.”
"I've known basketball longer than your parents have been alive. Your advice is noted." She folded her hands again. "Before you're dismissed, there's your punishment we need to discuss."
“Fire away,” Crosby replied.
"My, Madame's, method of discipline involves physical punishment. Training, as you've all felt. The increased practices and intensity after losses, as an example. As we differ on how we view a team, then I feel a different course of action is required." She straightened in her chair. "Lisa is becoming a problem. As long as she gets results, I'm not as concerned as you might be. Consider this me shifting my course in this matter and demanding that you and Monsieur Toivonen live up to your roles." She pointed at him. "If Lisa's behavior persists, on or off the court, you and Toivonen will find yourselves ex-captains."
“I’m not even really a captain. The team just trusts my experience, and my understanding of team dynamic,” Crosby replied. “But Erik is a captain, and I’ve not seen you do much to try and work through him. Also, a captain can only do so much, when it appears a coach has no problems with a player’s behavior. I’ll work on bringing Lisa back down to earth, again, but you can’t absolve yourself of any responsibility, here. I’ll do my best, as always.”
"As I said, I am concerned with results. Lisa's punishments are my responsibility. If you want to lay your heart on the table for her, so be it. Get results." She stood, the meeting clearly over. "Monsieur Toivonen will mature in due time, or he will cease to be captain. If you do not see yourself as co-captain, then fine. Your punishment will be akin to Lisa's. You will cease driving your car to practice. I expect you to get in your calisthenics in. Your endurance is atrocious. I will let you know when you may drive here again."
Crosby shook his head. “No,” he replied. “My endurance is as good, or better, than most on this team. Also, it would be a security risk for me run here the whole way, as my neighborhood isn’t exactly the safest. I don’t think you’d want a player getting mugged, or assaulted, on their way to practice, because you barred them from using a mode of transport which is safe.”
"I'm not asking." She pointed. "Get out." Tagwizult remained pleasant.
“I’ll leave,” Crosby replied. “In my car. And I’ll return to practice, in my car. You do not get to knowingly endanger a player. That’s in the rules. Good day.”
With that, the genet left. The meeting had been a partial success, but there was still a long way to go. Though for now, distance would continue to be traveled in a car.