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Will Courts Cry 'Foul' on Parents Suing Coaches for Playtime?

23 Aug, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Parents, Players Say College and Even Pro Chances Were Derailed – and are Seeking Financial Remuneration

The news cycle has been more than busy in the past two weeks, so maybe youth sports news has gotten overlooked. Or maybe, just maybe, we’re all numb to the prospect of coaches being sued by parents because of a lack of playing time for their children.

SDM first saw the issue pop up in April 2015 – but recently, the number of cases has all but exploded. According to an article in ABC News, “In the last year, parents have filed more than 200 non-injury-related sports lawsuits against coaches, leagues and school districts in the United States, according to Gil Fried, a University of New Haven professor who specializes in sports law.”

And many of these, it seems, are parents suing because of a lack of playing time. Last week, a former youth baseball player sued his coach, alleging he was benched in retaliation for not participating in a fund raiser. The news, carried in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, stated the player’s family was comparing benching to bullying. The price tag the teen and his family felt was fair compensation: at least $150,000.

The ABC News article lists a cross-section of suits brought by parents. Some claimed their children’s futures were being ruined because they were not able to be seen by college scouts. Others, however, claim bigger aspirations were derailed by a lack of playing time:

The family felt James Logan High School Coach Blake Chong may have cost their son not just a scholarship, but an NBA career. But it's difficult to prove such an allegation, according to Herb Appenzeller, author of From the Gym to the Jury, told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.

"I think the courts are basically going to say time and time again, 'That's speculation, you can't prove he would have made it in college or even would have gotten a scholarship,' " Appenzeller said. "So we are having those cases, [though] they don't seem to have much success when they go to court."

Marc Martinez sued his son's baseball coach, John Emme, twice. Both suits were dismissed, but now Emme has taken the offensive. He is countersuing both Martinez and his attorney, claiming malicious prosecution.

Some families are claiming emotional pain and suffering; a youth hockey player told reporters he never wanted to play again because he did not receive the MVP award at the end of the season, despite the fact that he led in scoring and assists.

And it’s not just the school setting where this is occurring. A Washington Post article noted that a club volleyball player and her parents sued after she was refused the opportunity to switch from one club to another, after the club with which she had originally signed could not give her the playing time she felt she needed.

Why the rise in lawsuits? According to Appenzeller, it’s simply a reflection of any other behavior in the news.

"They pretty much mirror society today. Everybody feels that if they are wronged, they need compensation. We have a lot of cases where people think their son or daughter should be on varsity, and when they are put on JV team, they sue."

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