COLUMBUS, Ohio – There’s no formal agenda, secretary to record minutes or fancy board room with high-back chairs.
But make no mistake: The the meetings between a group of Crew players and coach Robert Warzycha are as critical as any between stockholders and their corporation.
The semi-regular gatherings – “We don’t go 16 or 17 days without meeting,” goalkeeper William Hesmer said – are chance to exchange ideas, air grievances and find common ground on matters on and off the field.
Usually five or six of the older players sit down with Warzycha and his staff. Besides Hesmer, some of the players are captain Chad Marshall, Eddie Gaven, Sebastian Miranda, Danny O’Rourke and Andy Iro.
“We’re trying to see if we can make things better for the team, and also tell him how players are feeling,” Marshall said. “If we’re tired and can hold off on doing this or that. He’s the coach, but he’s willing to take suggestions and opinions.”
Hesmer said the meetings were regularly held when Sigi Schmid was coach in 2008, but they were discontinued the next season when Warzycha took over.
“Last year it started to happen, but not as much as we wanted,” Hesmer said. “And this year in the offseason we discussed that this is something we can’t slack off on.”
O’Rourke said the hectic summer schedule in 2010 (Columbus reached the final of the US Open Cup and advanced out of the group stage in the CONCACAF Champions League) made the conferences a lower priority.
“We’ve got to make it point to stay on top of that because it’s beneficial to everyone to be on the same page,” O’Rourke said. “If not, you get guys griping in the locker room. You want to get everything out in the open.”
He said topics discussed include travel arrangements, training schedules, game tactics and “ways we think the players should be treated better.”
“We bring it up to Bobby and try to keep it in-house,” O’Rourke said, “and then he’ll have a discussion with the front office.”
The goal is to keep minor problems just that.
“If anything’s not working, we don’t want to let it keeping going for months,” Hesmer said. “Bobby wants to know, ‘Hey, if this isn’t working, let me know and we can make some adjustments.’ That communication is always important.”
Warzycha is a willing listener but said ultimately the final decision is his.
“Whatever we decide to do is best for the team,” Warzycha said. “Sometimes there’s a suggestion that never happens because in my mind looking at it, we don’t want go in a different direction.”
Added O'Rourke, “Of course, Bobby’s word goes. It’s good he’s letting us have a more influential part in the decision-making. It’s a huge step in the right direction from Bobby and the vets of having more open communication from top to bottom and bottom up. He listens to our ideas.”