High School Sports Now Worth $40 Million to Student Athletes

At times, we read irrational…ridiculous stories about how bad it has become at the youth level of competitive sports. You know…behaviors that simply boggle the mind, coming at you with what seems to be little use of one’s common sense. Some really crazy stories that, at first glance, most logical people would believe to be fictional…totally made up or unreal.

And as a teacher, former competitive athlete, coach, and parent of former athletes, I must admit…I have certainly seen my fair share of absurd, self-centered, entitlement-type attitudes coming from quite a few parents of athletes (along with athletes themselves). They are…well, all too common these days.

But then comes this story out of New Jersey…a $40 million, track, lawsuit story. Yep…you read that right…$40 million, that is a number 4 with seven zeroes attached to it. Numerically, it looks like this:

$40,000,000.00.

How does one come up with such an absurd figure like this you ask? Well, that’s the same question I asked, and am still asking. No matter where I looked, I couldn’t seem to find any logical explanation. And I read a copious number of articles on this lawsuit Mr. Mears has brought against a New Jersey High School (Sterling Regional) for cutting his son from the track team.

Now make sure you catch that last part in the above “story” as it adds the drama to that $40 million being sought by Mr. Mears…the piece where his son, Mawsumensah Mears, was CUT from the track team.

Why you wonder???

Officially…it was due to Mawsummensah’s unexcused absences from the team.

Named in the suit are the track coach, principal, superintendent, school board, and likely anyone else this misdirected parent can tie this lawsuit to. Not a pretty thing from my perspective, not at all, as it seems Mawsummernsah’s father has lost all sense of reality.

So…what’s this situation all about, here is a brief video synopsis of the story from AOL.com:

Father Sues School For $40 Million After Son Kicked Off Track Team

And for just a bit more detail…here is an article on the story from Yahoo Sports:

N.J. Dad files $40 million lawsuit after his son is kicked off track team for missed practices

It is likely that many of you reading this might wonder why it took me a whole week to put something together based on the obvious loss of perspective this parent is showing. It is certainly a piece begging to be written, especially based on the premise of my blog (and book, Becoming a True Champion).

However, what I was really waiting for (as I heard of the story soon after it broke) was to gather more facts. I mean…when you read that a parent is bringing suit against a high school for this kind of money, you expect to find a pretty serious motive behind such an exorbitant figure…like say a wrongful death, or something along those lines. Certainly not that a sophomore in high school got cut from their track team for missing practice…REALLY!!!

Basically, I thought there just had to be a heck of a lot more to this case than what I was reading. And so I waited…and watched…but there was nothing, at least nothing I was able to find.

So here we sit…with a father suing a school for an absurd amount of money because his son did not like the races his coach wanted to put him in as a freshman, decided to run others ahead of him, and, eventually (as a sophomore), cut the young man from the team because the athlete missed practices without (in his coach’s eyes) a legitimate excuse.

Oh sure…the father said his son missed due to a death in the family, along with a hurt leg he had suffered. However, why would the second issue keep the young man from going to practice?

My own expectation for my athletes when I coached was that, injured or not, they were still expected to be AT PRACTICE, whether participating or not. You could not just simply miss practice because you were hurt…there is this thing called rehab, as well as the building of team unity, both important pieces to athletic success. Supporting others is an important piece of the high school athletic experience…heck, any athletic experience.

Again, this leaves me with that feeling there is more to this story (maybe a lot more) than what has been written. Being one in the business of teaching, coaching, and as a part of the school system for over 34 years, my gut tells me that Mr. Mears’ version of events is simply missing a lot of pieces. I suppose I could be wrong; I’ve been wrong before, but something is just not adding up.

And, lastly, it would be inappropriate for me to leave this topic without addressing two of Mr. Mears’ concerns (found in several sources). First is this complete misconception that his son’s, or any adolescent’s, participation on an athletic team is a “right,” as he so puts it.

Well…I hate to be the bearer of bad news for this guy (even though I’m sure NOT to be the only one), but participation on a high school athletic team is no more a right than is eating ice cream. Plain and simple, it is a choice…and one without any guarantees. You only get out of it what you put into it, and what you earn.

And, I might add, whether you like it or not…the outcomes are not always going to be fair…kind of like life. That is one error in the Mears’ thought process.

The second error centers on the idea that this cutting of Mawsumensah from track will cause the loss of any college scholarship opportunities he might have had.

Well…Mr. Mears, I hate to break this to you as well, but my gut also tells me that any scholarship possibility your son may have had (if he ever would have) went right out the window the moment you filed that frivolous $40 million lawsuit.

What college coach in their right mind would step anywhere near the quagmire which you represent to recruit your son…not with the lessons you’re teaching him. I know I wouldn’t.

Arrrrgh…now I have a headache!!!

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