Parents sue Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) after sons cut from team

Published July 5, 2010

This story has been has been the subject of ridicule by many major media outlets, sportscasters, and internet bloggers. At our first glance at the headline, we also had to give our heads a shake. Certainly, it is too early to comment on the merits of the case because we do not know all the facts. Nonetheless, the case is an example that sports organizations are under an ever-present prospect of being sued for almost any reason. Organizations must take steps to protect themselves, and their employees and volunteers, from being in a position to be sued by a slighted parent, an angry player, or a disenfranchised coach.

The GTHL situation may have come about because the parents assumed their children had made the team based on their standing as returning players when, in fact, they were trying out for a position. Was there a breakdown in communication that could have been avoided by explaining more carefully or directly to the players (and parents) the nature and purpose of the tryouts? It is our experience that ‘team selection’ disputes often arise from poor communication of the process for selection and of the coaches’ expectations of players. In this case, extra care and greater clarity in communication may have prevented the league and the team from being sued. Even so, ensuring that your organization's insurance coverage includes such suits may be appropriate.

Originally published: Centre for Sport and Law Newsletter (2010) Vol. 6(3)

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