When Sports Parents Go Too Far…

istock_000003410566small.jpg

It
has finally come to this: a parent has sued a sports coach for not playing his
child more frequently.

Perhaps
this will go down in American parenting history as definitive proof that we
have all totally lost our minds.

I am
surprised this didn’t happen earlier, actually. 
And that the lawsuit originated in Texas, not New York City, where
parents pay professionals to coach their children for kindergarten interviews,
or my hometown of Washington, DC, a town with 100,000 lawyers.  DC came close to being first in ridiculous
parenting lawsuits: a few years ago a pre-school parent threatened to sue
another family when a three-year-old classmate cut her friend’s hair without
permission.  The school director talked
the parent down like a hostage negotiator.

Here
are the facts and main characters, as reported in People Magazine and various sports blogs.

Dallas,
Texas.  Billy Munck, high school
junior.  His father, William Munck,
lawyer. Father sued son’s lacrosse coach, Kevin Barnicle, and the Dallas Lacrosse Academy, for playing
Billy in only nine games in 2010 during his junior year of high school.

Coach
Kevin also allegedly threatened Billy with a severe penalty (“Billy Munck will
never play varsity lacrosse”) if Billy didn’t enroll in the coach’s summer
camp.  Lawyer-dad utilized the
anti-racketeering RICO act, better known as the province of drug dealers and Mafia
hit men, as the statute to take down Coach Kevin.

Because
a coach who doesn’t give your son enough minutes is kinda the same as shooting
someone execution style and sinking him with cement shoes, right?

Well
sure, says dad.  He filed a 39-page
federal racketeering lawsuit late last month cataloging the events described
above.

“Those who do not acquiesce to the RICO
defendant’s threats and demands suffer,” the lawsuit states. “Billy
Munck was one of the victims of this criminal enterprise, as were many
others.”

Now,
high school sports are a big deal, especially in Texas. Lacrosse is a particularly
elite, potentially lucrative sport. For lots of kids and their parents, sports
long ago ceased to be about teamwork, exercise, and fun. Lacrosse players are
frequently recruited starting in or before ninth grade, with many high school
students receiving college commitments by their sophomore or junior years. 

Unlike
peewee soccer, you can value, in financial terms, the exposure high school
coaches provide players. A free ride to top Division I lacrosse schools like
Duke, North Carolina or Notre Dame can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition, room and board.  And few players get recruited if a coach
won’t let them play in front of scouts.

Like
lacrosse, parenting is serious business. And maybe, just maybe, the coach was indeed
out to get Billy, since we’ve all seen coaches who take their sports just as
seriously as we take parenting; a coach has plenty of power, and power can
corrupt.

This
doesn’t mean I side with William Munck. What he did was crazy, frivolous and laughable.  But like a lot
of embarrassing parenting decisions, this probably started in a good place.  The man wants the best for his son. How different
is this from the dad I know who contacted college coaches via email, pretending
to be his kid?  Or the mom who helped her
daughter write her college essay?  Or the
nanny instructed to spend an hour each day holding up flash cards to a one year
old?

The
question is not why William Munck sued his son’s coach, but what do other
parents, schools, sports academies and courts do about parents who cross the
line between wanting what’s best for their kids, and taking illegal or
unethical actions to achieve it?

I
imagine that soon enough, more parents will follow Munck’s lead and sue more
coaches, teachers, and administrators.  Do
we punish these parents? Shun them? Ostracize them?  File counter lawsuits to stop them?

Stick
our heads in the sand, cross our fingers, and focus on
raising our own kids right?

The
lasting lesson here is that William Munck’s actions did not help his son.
Billy Munck,
who graduated in 2012, played one season of lacrosse for Southwestern
University in Georgetown, Texas, a Division III, far below top 20 lacrosse
school. He is not currently on the
team
.

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply