N.Y. coach wins $50K defamation settlement against parents

It’s not uncommon for parents to go after a coach’s job when they’re unhappy, but it is rare for the coach to fight back with a lawsuit.

Former Honeoye Central High School (N.Y.) boys basketball coach Mark Storm last month won a $50,000 settlement after suing a small group of parents for defamation. The parents, in a letter to the district superintendent, accused Storm of being verbally abusive and having a drinking problem. A few months later, the school board voted not to renew his contract as the basketball coach, ending his 31-year coaching career at the school.

The Democrat & Chronicle quoted a few sources who couldn’t think of another example where a coach won a defamation suit against parents. Robert Zayas, executive director of the New York State Public School Athletic Association, said club sports were partly to blame.

“Families are paying younger and they’re paying more (money) and for 10 years if parents have questions they’ve gone to the coach,” Zayas told the newspaper. “It gives them the misconception that they have a say, but when their kids get to the high school level parents are amazed they no longer do have (a) say.”

Soon after his dismissal, supporters started a petition on change.org to have Storm reinstated as coach. It received 725 signatures.

The petition noted that Storm’s teams won more than 30 sectional and league titles in the Finger Lakes Region of Section V sports, including 12 sportsmanship awards and 15 coach of the year awards.

In the Democrat & Chronicle article, Storm talks about the new parent-coach dynamic, and the ways in which parents have complicated the job. He said his new term for “helicopter parents” is “lawnmower parents.”

“They just mow everything down that’s in their kid’s way,” he said.

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