ABUSIVE SPORTS PARENTS: HS Baseball Player Sues Coach Due to Lack of Playing Time

Every so often, something so bizarre pops up in the world of sports parenting that I just feel compelled to present it to you.

And this week something came across my desk that I thought was quite distressing.

About a week or so ago, it was revealed that out in California, a HS baseball player and his parents are suing the boy’s varsity coach because the coach wasn’t playing him.

That’s right….a lawsuit based on a youngster’s lack of playing time. The lawsuit claims that the player became a victim of harassment and bullying by the coach because the coach wouldn’t play him.  The youngster and his parents are looking for $150,000 in damages.

Here’s the story.

Out at Los Altos HS, Robbie Lopez was a three-year starter on his HS team. But during his senior year this past season, the head coach – Gabriel Lopez, but no relation to the kid – didn’t play him at all.

Now, the details are very sketchy, but the boy and his father claim that the coach was, in effect, bullying and harassing the kid mainly because the boy had refused to play in a fund-raising game earlier in the season. Why the boy didn’t play in that fundraiser is not known. But somewhere along the line, the Dad complained to the HS AD about the coach and the fundraising game, and since then, the coach just didn’t play him.

The Dad insists that this is a kind of retribution or payback to punish his boy. But neither the coach or the school district has commented about the lawsuit.

This kind of legal action raises some serious concerns. Of course, it perhaps could have all been avoided if the coach had come forth early in the season and simply said to the boy, “Look, I’m the coach, and in my opinion, there are better players on the team than you” well, the truth is, the coach is entitled to say that. After all, he’s the head coach, and he’s being paid by the school district to make those kinds of evaluations.

But apparently, that kind of conversation didn’t take place

In addition, it would be hard to believe that after being a three-year starter that suddenly the youngster isn’t good enough as a senior to merit a few at-bats or start a game here or there.

But then again, maybe the kid or his Dad had been a  chronic pain in the neck to the coach, or maybe they promised the coach that the youngster would play in that fundraising game, and then reneged.

My point is: if this lawsuit is allowed to continue, and let’s say the boy wins his case of being deliberately harassed and bullied by the coach by not playing in the games, this would pose a very serious problem for school districts and coaches. As many of the callers said this morning on my show, if a school district and a coach are held liable on this kind of lawsuit, then this has the real potential to change the landscape of coaching everywhere.

As one caller mentioned, this could lead to a pre-season meeting in which the coach makes the kids and parents sign a contract in which they promise not to sue the coach or the school district based upon their kid’s playing time. Sounds hard to believe, but that would seem like the next step.

SOUND FAR-FETCHED?
Bear in mind that these lawsuits have been popping up more and more frequently, mostly because, I think, the angry parents want to retaliate on the coaches. I recall some years ago, a Dad – also out in California – sued the local HS basketball coach and school district because his son didn’t make the varsity team – and the father was convinced that this would result in his son not making it someday into the NBA.

As I recall, that lawsuit was dismissed by the court.

And there have been other comparable lawsuits A few years ago, a Dad sued a travel hockey league when his son was not named league MVP – even though the boy had led the league in scoring that season.  Furious and disappointed, the Dad sued the league because he felt this kind of slight would cost his son a college scholarship and perhaps a shot at the NHL.

Again, that suit was dismissed by the court.

One caller from Maplewood, NJ, this AM said that a lawsuit filed by an angry parent against the coach and school district due to a lack of playing time ended up with the coach not being rehired. But even though the boy has long since graduated and the coach is no longer there, the lawsuit still carries on in the court, and has cost more than $100,000 in legal fees to the school.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

I honestly don’t know. But I do know this kind of legal recourse is becoming more and more in vogue, and it’s just another weight on the back of coaches and AD’s everywhere. And if this trend continues, we may get to the point where school districts simply throw up their hands and say enough and vote to stop offering sports altogether. That is, if your son or daughter wants to play competitive sports, then go find a travel program.