Greater Seattle Surf SC
All Club Meeting
January 3, 2018
Brightwater Community Center
Meeting Start Time 6:30pm
Meeting adjourn time 8:30pm.
This summary of the meeting was compiled by Ruth Nicholson from Nicholson Facilitation & Associates, LLC.
Ruth Nicholson opened the meeting and explained that this was the first of a series of meetings for club families to get information about the goals and direction of the club, to ask questions, and to provide feedback to the board. The purpose of this meeting was to provide an update on club progress in implementing the recommendations in the Washington Youth Soccer (WYS) report on the club.
Sean Hansen, President, introduced the board members and directors who were at the meeting.
- Todd Hollenbeck, board member
- Chris Jones, board member
- David Overcash, board member
- Shannon Hannan, board member (introduced but not present)
- Judy Andrews, attorney with Washington Youth Soccer with expertise in non-profits and bylaws
- Scott Newman, Technical Director
- Dave Schumacher, Director of Operations
- M’ily Reiter, Girls’ Associate Director of Coaching
- An Nuon, Interim Boys’ Director of Coaching
He then reviewed some of the history behind the merger of the two clubs that formed Greater Seattle Surf, and highlighted some of the main goals and objectives of the merger that have been met, including
- The formation of stronger teams providing our players better competitive opportunities.
- The tighter range of ability within individual teams and age groups, providing a better training environment and achievable steps between teams.
- Ensuring that every player with the commitment and ability to play for Surf has that opportunity by maintaining a scholarship program that provided roughly $200,000 in financial aid this year.
- Investing in tools like Zoom Reports to increase the amount of feedback our players and parents receive from their coaches, and College Fit Finder to help our players plan for their future after Surf.
He also noted that the club still had work to do on:
- Organizational Structure
- Professional Development for Coaching Staff
- Leadership Training
It was explained that progress in these areas has been slowed by internal issues identified in the independent review of the club conducted by WYS. A copy of the full report can be found on the club website under Parent Resources and Board Meeting Minutes.
The remainder of the presentation focused on the four areas of the WYS report, each of which contains findings and recommendations:
- Board of Directors
- Professional Work Environment
The WYS report contained three findings in the area of Communications:
- The club needs to improve the accurate flow of information through its Directors to coaches and parent and at the same time the coaches need to provide the Directors with their concerns and the parents’ concerns so that they can be discussed by the Board of Directors.
- Posting Board minutes on the Surf website may be an easy way to provide accurate information to coaches and families.
- Having an outside firm perform an audit, could also show the families that the club is financially stable.
In response to these findings, the club has committed to a series of meetings with coaches on various club-related topics, as well as discussing other ways to better connect coaches with the board, such as the creation of boys’ and girls’ representatives and board updates at coaches’ meetings. There is also a commitment to holding a series of informational meetings for parents and reintroducing regular meetings of club voting representatives to provide a communications pathway between parents and the board. Board minutes are now being posted on the club website. In addition, the board is currently talking with firms to compare costs and services for an audit that would occur in the May/June timeframe after the end of the club’s fiscal year.
Board of Directors
The WYS report contained two findings about the Board of Directors:
- Any board members who violate the Code of Conduct of Washington Youth Soccer, Code of Ethics, Expectations and Responsibilities of Greater Seattle Surf and their fiduciary duty as board members should be removed from their position on the Board of Directors.
- The club should retain a consultant who can educate the board members in what serving on a not-for-profit board entails and help them understand their role and responsibilities as board members.
It was explained that a board member had been removed from the board in response to the first finding. The club will be working with Ruth Nicholson and Judy Andrews going forward to address the second finding. In addition, the club plans to repopulate the board using the process outlined in the bylaws. The board is discussing how to involve the coaching staff and team voting representatives in that process to ensure all stakeholders have a voice.
The WYS report contained two findings about the Directors:
- It would be beneficial to compare Surf’s structure with that of other competitive clubs in the area. Having clear job descriptions and responsibilities would also help in addressing some of the concerns that have been raised by the coaches and parents.
- As addressed above, communication between the Directors, the Board of Directors and coaches is critical. There seems to be a disconnect in this communication process so that the Board of Directors are not receiving accurate and timely information from the coaches and the coaches are not aware the Board of Directors’ vision and goals for the club, and how the Board intends to meet these goals. The Directors must be receptive to their coaches and the Board must develop a consistent method of communication so the Board understands the concerns of their coaches and the coaches understand the goals of the Board.
The club is in the process of reviewing its organizational structure and the roles, responsibilities, and performance of its directors. Several months ago, the board also agreed on the need for an Executive Director to separate the Board from the daily operations of the club.
Professional Work Environment
The WYS report contained one findings concerning the Professional Work Environment:
- The club needs to address this issue immediately. It is my belief that no matter what direction the Board goes, coaches and players will leave. To sustain a healthy club, however the Board must strive to maintain a positive professional environment throughout the club. The Board should consult with July Andrews to determine the best way to address this issue within the parameters of the club bylaws.
The steps that have been taken to improve the work environment were outlined, including personnel changes and the beginning of the process of hiring an Executive Director. The members of the Executive Director Search Committee are:
- Rick Cantu, CEO and Co-Founder, Redapt, Inc
- Ray Blakeney, Director of Talent Acquisition, Microsoft Windows, Devices, and Games, Surf Parent B06DA and B08A
- Kasey Keller, ESPM soccer analyst, former US Men’s National Team goalkeeper and three-time US Soccer Athlete of the Year
- Gonzalo Pineda, Seattle Sounders assistant coach, Surf Parent B08A
- Christine Cossu, Freelance Creative Director and Producer, Surf Team Manager, B06C
- Megan Ferland, CEO Girl Scouts of Western Washington.
The presentation ended with a reminder of the club mission:
GS Surf is committed to helping each of our young athletes reach their fullest potential, on and off the soccer field. By providing a professional, safe, fun, and family-based environment, players will be coached and mentored to play at their highest level in a positive and challenging arena. GS Surf encourages and promotes high ethical and academic standards, good sportsmanship, diversity and community involvement. We will achieve these goals and values through collaboration with our players, coaches, parents, alumni, and the community.
The remainder of the meeting offered an opportunity for attendees to ask questions and provide input and suggestions to the board.
There were over 50 questions asked at the meeting, some of which were identical, overlapped or closely related. For the purposes of this summary, the questions and their answers have been grouped and summarized into the following 17 questions.
- Was there an audit for the last fiscal year?
No. Although there is no requirement for an annual audit for an organization with less than $3,000,000 in revenue, we are seeking a firm to conduct an audit this year.
- How are Board vacancies filled under club bylaws?
Vacant board seats are filled by appointment by the Board to the unfilled term of the specific vacant seat. Board seats generally serve for two years, and the seat terms are staggered so that not all seats are up for election each year. Elections for terms ending this year will be held in June. There is no provision in the bylaws for repopulating the board with a general election by voting from the club membership.
Board membership is open to anyone who is interested in serving. Positions on the board are not specific except for the designated officers, such as President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. The duties for officers are more specific than directors-at-large. All duties can be found in the club bylaws which are posted on the club website at under Parent Resources and Board Meeting Minutes.
The time commitment by current board members is significantly more than ideal. The Board intends that the time commitment to be reduced with the hiring of the Executive Director which will enable Board members to provide greater separation of Board work with daily club operations. The Executive Director will take on some of the operational responsibilities currently handled by the Board.
There is a letter signed by Board members who have recently left the Board. You can find it posted on the club website under Parent Resources and Board Meeting Minutes.
- How are club bylaws amended?
The bylaws may be amended in a regular or a special meeting of the voting club members. The voting club members are the team representatives. For a special meeting to be called, 20% of the team representatives must request such a meeting in writing, and the meeting must be announced 30 days prior to the meeting date. Bylaw amendments require a 2/3 vote of the members.
- Does a quorum of club voting members exist at this meeting? Could we take action tonight to address issues?
A quorum of the membership is defined as a simple majority of the members in good standing. Under the club bylaws, in order to conduct business, a meeting would have to be formally noticed 30 days prior to the meeting.
- Where can we find Board meeting minutes?
Board meeting minutes are now being posted on the website under Parent Resources and Board Meeting Minutes. The portions of meetings that are in closed session are noted in the minutes, but the details of closed sessions are not included in the posted meeting minutes.
- Was there a quorum present when the board member was removed? Would like to see documentation on why board members have been removed.
Yes, there was a quorum present. The removal was done in a closed meeting in order to protect people’s privacy and the confidentiality of the process. See the WYS report for more information.
- Was there a quorum of the Board when Shannon Hannan was appointed to fill a vacant Board seat?
Shannon offered his services, and the Board accepted. Upon reflection, while a majority of board members were present at the meeting, there was only one office present. A quorum requires two officers and a simple majority of all directors in office. Therefore, there was not a quorum. This was a Board mistake that the board will address.
- Would Sean Hansen step down as President?
No. He intends to fill out his term and his commitment to the club.
- Does the Board have the authority to fire coaches?
Yes, the Board has this authority. It can also delegate that authority to senior staff, including an Executive Director. Decisions about removing coaches are not taken lightly.
- Why are we in this mess? What took management so long to address these issues?
The board was in the process of addressing a number of items over the course of the year. These include a new pay scale for coaches for 2018-2019 and the hiring of an Executive Director to name a couple. A less-than-healthy board and office environment slowed our progress (described in the WYS report). Additionally, our lines of communication were not effective in surfacing other issues. When the club engaged the WYS independent review of the club, those plans were put on hold pending the outcome of the review. The club is now moving forward with those recommendations.
- Is there corporate Surf oversight of local operations and issues?
No. We are only affiliated by the brand, not by operations.
- How many coaches are in the club? How many are currently unhappy?
There are about 30 coaches in the club. The club has things to improve on, and the board wants to work with the coaches to address their issues and improve the club going forward. More than 25 of the coaches signed a letter asking that the anonymous emails stop.
- Are there any trends that can be picked up following the merger related to coaches who have come from one or the other of the original clubs?
- What is being done to address coaches’ grievances and concerns?
The club is planning a series of meetings with the coaches to provide information and take input. There is a new pay scale for the 2018-2019. The club is also hiring an Executive Director to separate the board from the day-to-day operations of the club, implement the proper organizational structure for the club, create proper internal processes, and enhance overall leadership.
- Why can’t we finish the year with our current coaching staff? Why can’t the fired coaches be reinstated? Why can’t the Board disclose the reasons for firing these coaches?
Decisions like these are never easy and are not made overnight. The decisions would not have been when they were if the board did not feel it was in the best interest of the club. The Board cannot comment on the reasons behind these decisions because they are employment-related issues.
- What is going to happen next year? How many kids are leaving? Will it be the same club next year?
As is mentioned in the WYS report, the club is likely to lose players and coaches, but change is necessary in order to move the club forward. What is most important now is that we come together to provide the best possible experience for our kids between now and the end of the season.
- The club is a non-profit corporation, a business, and parents are paying for a product. Coaches are the direct vehicle for delivering that product. We need accountability. What is being done to ensure the product is top notch?
The club has made progress on its goals in many areas over the past year and half and work remains in others. The current focus is on following through on the recommendations contained in the WYS report.
Feedback and Input
There is a trust issue in the club. Some people do not trust the board and are concerned about how the club can move forward in light of this. The Board needs to recover trust that it is acting in the best interest of the club. Intention is one thing; perception can be something different. Parent meetings will help bridge this gap.
Concerns were expressed concern about how board appointments would be made, including some perceptions of bias in selecting new board members, engagement of coaches in the process, and the timeline for soliciting new board members. There were also concerns raised about decisions being made with only three board members.
It appears that adherence to bylaws by the Board is selective.
Posting Board minutes should help us not be surprised or blindsided.
Some parents were unhappy that their coaches have been removed. They do not understand why the coaches were removed and do not like how the decision was communicated regarding the firing of their child’s coach. They do not view this as good employment practices. It is about the kids, and not about board members.
There is unhappiness about the current situation and how it is being handled in a negative manner. People do not like anonymous emails being sent to their children’s inboxes. This is damaging to our kids. We need to find a better vehicle to air our grievances.
The core of our club community is the coaches and kids. We are seeing fractures between parents. The energy we are expending in animosity against each other should be used to benefit of the kids.
Communication with coaches is not good.
Some coaches believe it is unfair that Coach Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar was fired. Coach Esteban Reyes and Coach Elmer Rodriguez announced that they will not coach their teams until Hugo rehired. This was met with a comment from a player’s mother that she was angry that coaches would use the players as pawns in this situation.
Suggestions and Requests
- Post the club bylaws on the website.
- Post the desired qualifications of prospective board members.
- Let the Directors and office staff handle day-to-day operations. The Board should have monthly meetings and oversee operations.
- Make the hiring process for the Executive Director transparent. Let membership know when and where the job will be posted and how applications may be submitted. Publish the process timeline so we can see how it compares with tryouts and other coach operations.
- Let team representatives participate in the selection of the new Executive Director.
- Conduct a survey about the state of the club
Wrap Up and Next Steps
Ruth closed the meeting by asking Sean what the next steps were for the club. Sean responded:
- Begin holding informational meetings with coaches
- Have future parent information meetings
- Hire an Executive Director
- Fill current Board vacancies