There is a disturbing trend that is showing no signs of slowing down: The rise of lawsuits in youth sports. Rather than focus on the important life lessons their children are learning, parents are focusing on who's to blame. Their targets are numerous: It's the referee or official not foreseeing potential player injury risks on the field; the coach that is not playing their child or is making poor decisions that are hurting the team; the league for not providing the type of venue and services expected… The list goes on and on. 

Yesterday on our site, we ran this story about a 12-year-old girl breaking her leg sliding into home plate. Rather than focus on their child's rehabilitation and focusing on teaching her how valuable it is to pick herself up in life after falling down, the parents chose to show their child what you should do when something goes wrong. It's become as much of an American tradition as apple pie and baseball: You sue somebody. In this case, they sued the township and the league. Quite frankly, I'm surprised they didn't sue the coach for not teaching the player proper sliding technique. Among the complaints justifying their compensation demands in the lawsuit, they list limiting her "earning potential" as a reason. While I'm not judging the merits of this specific lawsuit and whether or not monetary compensation is justified, I am using it as the latest example of how parents are using litigation to hurt youth sports.

At a similar age, I suffered an injury that was similar. I was playing indoor soccer and a part of the turf was pulled up. I went to kick the ball and my foot stuck underneath it and twisted in every direction it shouldn't have. Rather than look to financially benefit from this injury or blame someone from ruining my chances of becoming the next Pele, I focused on rehab and getting back on that field. And that was exactly what my parents focused on, as well, using that thing known as a brain to recognize that their son is playing contact sports and the risk of an injury is always a possibility.

Lawsuits are becoming more commonplace these days in youth sports. Sadler Sports & Recreation Insurance examines some of the more bizarre lawsuits in youth sports, including a father that sued his son's coach simply for bad coaching. Or the player that sued for part of his paid registration fee based on games he actually played. And then there's the two parents of players on opposing teams that got into a physical fight at a youth soccer game. The instigator of the fight, who just so happened to be the one unofficially declared loser of the fight, sued his opponent and the league because they failed to control HIS behavior when they realized he was out of control. Oh yeah, the participants in the game? Five- and six-year-old girls. Then there's the outfielder who had a fly ball miss his glove and hit him in the face. The league and coach were sued by the parents because, as the suit claimed, they knew or should've known he had sight problems and never been allowed to play the outfield. (You know, because it's so much safer putting a kid with vision problems in the infield to face hard line drives.) And who can forget the 11-year-old catcher that was warming up his pitcher and accidentally hit a woman with a throw in the face. She sued him — yes, him — for $150,000.

One of the great organizations in this business is the National Alliance for Youth Sports, the leading advocate for positive and safe sports and activities for children. A featured article on its website discusses why insurance is so important for its members and coaches in, as they astutely put it, "today's lawsuit-crazy youth sports environment." And that is sadly what youth sports has become, a lawsuit magnet. I have seen the ugly side of parents far too many times to count at these types of activities. And it doesn't change the older their children get. In the May issue of Athletic Business, I will be addressing sportsmanship on the high school level, and I'm sure you can guess who two of the primary culprits are for poor sportsmanship: Mom and Dad, who magically transform into Mad and Dumb once they arrive at their child's sporting event.

As a society, we need to bond together to help our children learn the valuable life lessons that come with sports. There shouldn't be a rallying cry to remove sports anywhere, there should be a rallying cry to better support sports and our children. THIS is the fight that we should be fighting. Not fighting with other parents or coaches or officials or leagues in court where any financial gain could contribute to a much greater loss — the loss of youth sports. 

Dennis Van Milligen is Editor in Chief of Athletic Business.
Great stuff! When I was a kid, I cut my hand while playing over at a friend's house. I told my mother what happened when I got home. She said, "Well, I sure hope you didn't get any blood on their carpet."
Bad parenting, Rob. She should have sued!!
I say good for her! The truth is that all these parents are doing is raising kids that are wimps. And because of this kids can no longer be kids. We are trying to make childhood injury free and in the meantime kids are getting hurt more than ever. Which, is the saddest part of this whole mess. I'm a Scout Leader and I swear that there are more things that are relatively (emphasis on relatively) safe that I can't do than that I can do. For example, if I were to follow the safety guidelines I couldn't let any Scout under 14 use a manual post hole digger. And that is just the beginning of the madness.
As a long-time reader of Athletic Business, I have learned of dozens of frivolous lawsuits like the examples posted here. My question is this: what, if anything, can be done to bring such lawsuits to a screeching halt?
1. What if trial lawyers and their firms were threatened with disbarment for bringing multiple frivolous suits within a certain time frame?
2. What if an arbitrator were required to be brought in to settle disputes before they reach the courts?
3. What if plaintiffs were required to pay 100% of defendant's expenses preparing for and attending to suits?
4. How about if all lawsuits were required to be public information so that plaintiffs couldn't hide behind any kind of anonymous shield?

Just throwing questions out there. The United States has been a litigious country for quite some time and shows signs of only escalating. I understand that people have the right to sue but it seems that those that are quick to sue suffer no financial or personal setbacks for doing so.

This link is to a Free Republic (Fresno, CA) publication about three attorneys that faced disbarment in 2003 for filing thousands of frivolous lawsuits against small businesses in California even though no one had been harmed by the defending businesses.
Cliff, I'm the first to agree that many (most? all?) of the these lawsuits we read about are simply ridiculous. I'm not sure what the answer is when it comes to preventing them. For an interesting perspective, I'd recommend a documentary called "Hot Coffee." It's about the famous (infamous) lawsuit involving the woman who sued McDonald's because her coffee was too hot. Let me say--it's not what it seems.
Yes the coffee was too hot according to the temperature standards at the McDonalds but it still wasn't fair. The number one thing I could say about this is..............WHY in the world would you put a hot liquid between your legs while riding in a motor vehicle, that is known to all of a sudden suffer from unexpected elevation changes.
As a retired public high school athletic director, I have seen and even been a part of crazy lawsuits and threats of lawsuits. Anyone can sue over anything but how many actually win? Any statistics about lawsuits served and results of those?
The only person that wins if the lawsuit is successful is the parents and all they get is money. This isn't about prevention or teaching or learning it's all about the money. Money, may ease the financial burden, but ultimately speaking money is just an object that has an arbitrary value set upon it.
The kid loses because all the kid is taught through the process is that if I don't get my way, I can get my way anyway by getting money. Money has become our God and that is a very sad fact.

Additionally, the surprising thing is that more and more of these ridiculous lawsuits are actually succeeding in getting compensation. Which IMHO, only proves that our justice system has been turned upside down.

Maybe, we will learn the day that these ridiculous lawsuits only hurt people and organizations, the day we end up not having adults be willing to volunteer their time and talent because of fear of legal action being taken against them.
In the McDonald's coffee lawsuit, the elderly woman who was burned (3rd degree burns) simply wanted her medical bills covered and McDonald's refused. When she brought suit, she again only wanted her medical bills covered--it was the jury who awarded the huge sum. As a result of the (incorrect) publicity about the lawsuit, big corporations were able to use the lawsuit to campaign for legislative reforms (disguising their work behind "grassroots" groups like "Citizens for Lawsuit Reform"--groups actually run by lobbyists working for insurance companies, large corporations and medical groups). They were very successful and were able to institute changes in several states that make it impossible to recover real damages in cases where it is warranted.
My point is, that while I think many of these lawsuits are ridiculous and frivolous, we have to be careful about legislating changes and instead let the judicial system that is in place (albeit, not perfect) do it's job. It also wouldn't hurt if everyone took a little more responsibility for themselves in their day to day life!