By: Katie Megel
Most of us are taught, from a young age, that bullying is mean and unacceptable behavior. We are told, as a society, that bullying is not to be tolerated. So, why is the Tamarac Recreation Center not only tolerating bullying, but rewarding it?
Let me explain. Over a year ago, the Recreation Center started an adult coed volleyball program. We were told that it was going to be mixed play of all ages and levels. I was eager to sign up. I’ve been playing since I was 7 (I’m now 28) and had some top level coaching. I initially learned the game at the Air Force Academy and have had additional training from top coaches in the Colorado Springs area, who have now moved on to higher level jobs. I’ve done drills with the women’s Olympic team and received playing advice from their former coach, so, I’m not new to the game. However, I’m short and I’m not an outside hitter or blocker, but I have other very strong skills that are necessary to a well-rounded team.
Dictionary.com defines bully as, ‘a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.'”
The first day I was there, one of the male players started berating my skills and telling me that I needed to go somewhere else. This was not a Tamarac resident. He is also short, by volleyball standards, but thinks he is an “expert” player. He continued to make fun of me, both privately and in front of all the players at every game. I just tolerated it. He even approached my mom as she sat watching, and jumped all over her because I wouldn’t listen to him. “I have a resume,” he snipped. We later found out that his “resume” consisted of coaching JV volleyball at a public school. Not exactly overwhelming.
As time went on, he and some of the other players decided to take over half of the gym and not allow anyone to play with them that they didn’t deem good enough. This included all but one woman, who was allowed to play with them because she is in a relationship with one of the players. She is less than 5 ft. tall, several inches shorter than I am. There were secret meetings to make deals among the men to keep me and other female players, from playing to our level.
I met with Parks and Recreation Superintendent Michelle Zimmer along with Parish Garret and Vince Dixon and was assured that the behavior would be stopped. It didn’t.
We continued to watch the game deteriorate over eight months as players left because they were tired of being pushed around. I met again with the staff of the center. I was again told that they would fix the problem.
Three weeks ago, the players were asked to sign a “Code of Ethics.” It stated specifically, that there would be no discrimination of players because of age, sex, race or skill level. If the players didn’t sign it, they would not be allowed to play. The guys weren’t happy, but they signed it. By the end of the evening, they were already meeting to figure out how to subvert the contract. That week, Parks and Recreation Site Supervisor Raphael Acosta attended the game and told the complaining men that they were going to stick by the contract and it wasn’t going to be changed.
Two weeks later, Acosta was back again at the game. I had heard that the men were forming a petition to only play with players that they wanted with at least one night a week. Raphael told me that he figured they would. He looked me straight in the eye and promised me that it wasn’t going to happen. The offending players staged a walkout over the next couple of play nights.
On Thursday night, just one week from the promise, we were given a new format that one night a week (we only play 3), the men would be allowed to do whatever they pleased. This is in complete disregard of the code of conduct, and any ethical behavior.
I wrote to the staff and received a letter from Michelle Zimmer this morning which, to cut to the chase, told me if I didn’t like it, I could leave.
We have exchanged several emails. Every time I asked her how this can take place with the code of ethics that they wrote, she’d skirt the issue and just continuing with the usual rhetoric. I have received support from only one of the staff members out of the half dozen or so that I have contacted.
Is that the way “The City For Your Life” behaves? It caves in to bullies from neighboring communities and tells its own citizens to take a hike? The business cards of all these staff members says, “Committed to Excellence…..Always.”
Shame on you Tamarac Recreation Center, for not honoring your stated commitment and having anything resembling a backbone. Shame on you for encouraging these bullies to keep up with their behavior by rewarding them for it.