Chilliwack FC finds itself dealing with major fallout from an on-field incident involving a recently hired coach.
Roger Torres-Jaramillo, who was hired as the club’s technical director in September, has been suspended from on-field activities pending an external investigation by BC Soccer into alleged bullying.
The incident he was involved in happened March 16 at an evaluation session for U16 boys.
There was an uneven number of players at the tryout, and they were asked to form groups of four. Three boys who couldn’t find a group were allegedly told that they were loners who nobody wanted. They were told to sing the ABC alphabet song in front of the other players, and when one of the boys was too quiet, he was allegedly made to sing alone.
The boy is extremely shy and has been dealing with a speech impediment the past few years.
Team manager Jolene Sharpe was one of several parents who fired off angry emails to Chilliwack FC after her son, who was not one of the players singled out, told her what had happened.
“Did you know that one of those boys has a severe speech impediment and can’t hear out of one ear, that it has taken him the past couple years to get comfortable enough to speak in public?” she wrote, addressing the coach directly. “Yet you think it’s OK for him to sing, to be humiliated in front of his peers?
“Unbelievable. Unacceptable and quite frankly you looked like a bully to the boys and have lost their respect. Never should it be OK to do that.”
The Progress verified the details of the incident through several sources. Sharpe confirmed it happened as described and added that parents of the U16 players wish to remain anonymous for fear of reprimand from the club, or fear that the boys may face additional stress if their names get attached to it.
Sharpe said there were other red flags from the session, including Torres-Jaramillo allegedly telling the boys they must not give a (rhymes with duck) about their defence.
“The swearing alone should be reprimandable, and the boys were hurt, angry and embarrassed for their teammates having to be subject to such bullying behaviour from the TD (technical director),” Sharpe said. “This is the TD, the highest level of coaching at the club, who we are supposed to entrust our kids to. I hope that the boys will feel that having this story told will give them a voice and that it’s not just a ‘slap on the wrist,’ as one player thinks may happen.”
Glenn Wilson, who held the title of CFC technical director until Torres-Jaramillo was hired, resigned as CFC’s head coach on Wednesday (March 23) in part because of what occurred.
Wilson said he didn’t witness it directly, but he said the consistency of the stories he heard after the fact from people that were there left him with no doubt that it happened.
“We have a slogan that we put on all our jerseys this year throughout the club, and that was the term ‘respect for all,’ and we need to adhere to that,” Wilson said. “Everybody deserves a level of respect and should not be subjected to any form of humiliation. On that night, that ‘respect for all’ mindset was overlooked and these boys, particularly that one boy that I feel really bad for, were humiliated in front of a good number of players and parents.
“It shocks me that it took place. In this day and age, we have to be very, very careful about what we say and how we talk to and treat players.”
Chilliwack FC chair Andrea Laycock couldn’t say much when contacted by The Progress, saying the matter is now out of CFC’s hands.
“We received a complaint with a fairly serious allegation, in our opinion,” she said. “We immediately struck a committee to do a fact-finding investigation. We felt from the information received that it was in the best interests to suspend him from all on-field activity at this time. He cannot go to the field, and that suspension will be in effect until the investigation is complete.”
Torres-Jaramillo will continue to handle his normal administrative duties as the BC Soccer investigation proceeds.
“We’re like everyone else now where we’re awaiting a decision from the independent review, and that’s the best that we can do,” Laycock said. “They’ll make a decision one way or another what the next steps are. Whether that’s further suspension, we don’t know.”
Asked for her personal feelings on the incident, Laycock said that people are human, people make mistakes and exercise poor judgement. At the same time, she acknowledged the incident should never have happened, and Chilliwack FC will not be appealing any decision that is handed down by BC Soccer.
“It’s a really unfortunate situation, and I expect better,” she added. “Everybody deserves better than what happened.”