Pop quiz: A young high school athlete isn't getting much playing time. As a parent, do you a) Encourage your teenager to buckle down and work harder; b) Have a few choice words with the coach; or c) Suggest that, you know, maybe academic decathlon might be a better fit for his or her talents?
If you chose any of the options above, you haven't been initiated into the rarefied Dallas lacrosse scene. If you had, you'd know that the correct answer is actually d) Sue for damages.
That's at least the one Dallas trial lawyer William Munck is choosing. On Tuesday he filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against Dallas Lacrosse Academy LLC and a half dozen local lacrosse coaches alleging they were shaking down families in exchange for playing their kids and giving them other advantages.
To understand the suit, which weighs in at a hefty 39 pages, it helps to understand how the local youth lacrosse community is structured. On the one hand, you have teams that have formed over the past decade or two at elite prep schools (e.g. St. Mark's, Greenhill, the Episcopal School of Dallas) and upper-crust suburbs (e.g. Plano, Highland Park, Frisco); on the other, are independent organizations like DLA (now C2C Lacrosse) and StickStar.
There's a lot of cross-pollination between the school and the select teams, both for players and coaches, and the competition is intense, with the select programs particularly focused on getting kids into NCAA lacrosse programs.
Munck's son, Billy, now at Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX, spent his high school years played for ESD.
During his sophomore year, Billy Munck was mostly relegated to the bench by Coach Kevin Barnicle. This wasn't because of talent, the Muncks said; it was because they refused to participate in the for-profit Dallas Lacrosse Academy, which Barnicle was involved in.
This, the suit says, wasn't an isolated incident. Barnicle (now at Greenhill) and colleagues like John Marano (then at Plano West), Alex Poole (currently at Coppell High School), and Chris Van Dorn (currently Highland Park), all involved with DLA, systematically used their coaching positions to coerce families into joining their side business.
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All of which, the Muncks say, violate a host of NCAA rules and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which Congress passed to help prosecutors fight organized crime.
The lacrosse coaches have denied that DLA is anything of the sort (This is apparently Munck's second lawsuit against them. The Muncks write that they want to ensure "that others, including Billy's younger brother - a high school sophomore, do not suffer a similar fate.").
Clearly, a messy situation, but also a teachable moment. The lesson here? Always, always, always play the kid of the trial lawyer.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.