Virginia

16-year-old club volleyball player, family sue team over playing time

A 16-year-old Virginia club volleyball player and her family are suing after her coaches told her she didn’t have the skills to compete with her teammates and cut her playing time significantly.

Audrey Dimitrew and her family sued the Chesapeake Region Volleyball Association March 10. The suit says that when Audrey accepted a spot on the under-16 Chantilly Juniors in November, she was led to believe she would get playing time.

Coaches allegedly told her that she had the potential to play college volleyball and she would get “significant tournament game experience” as one of the two setters on the team.

However, things changed once the season began, attorney Robert J. Cunningham said. The team allegedly told the 10th grader she was not as skilled as other members of the team. The lawsuit claims coaches told Audrey she could transfer to another team. However, once she found another team, the league allegedly blocked the transfer even after several appeals.

The league’s handbook says players are only allowed to transfer teams if they show that a “verifiable hardship condition exists.” Cunningham says that’s true in Audrey’s case.

The Washington Post reports the lawsuit is one of many filed across America in recent years as families have turned to the judicial system to intervene in youth sports disputes. The stakes of such disputes can include athletic scholarships for players and an advantage in college admissions.

"Should CHRVA allow players the ability to move teams when they are unhappy with the amount of playtime they are receiving, we would be overwhelmed with requests to change teams," a league official wrote in a January 26 letter to Audrey's parents.

An attorney for the league, Kenneth G. Stallard, declined to comment on the case Wednesday on behalf of the league, saying it "will not comment on active litigation matters."

However the lawsuit turns out, Audrey is likely out of luck for the season. The lawsuit says just one tournament remains in the club season, though NV Premier may be eligible for other tournaments based on their performance during the season.

On March 12, a Circuit Court judge denied a preliminary injunction in the case, saying the law required him to defer to the decision of the league. According to a transcript of the proceedings Judge John M. Tran called Audrey's case "unfortunate," and he said he was "unhappy" that "a child is not given an opportunity to play." He did not dismiss the case, however, and said the issue has "the possibility of recurring in the future."

George R. A. Doumar, an attorney for Audrey's team, released a statement Wednesday saying "The Chantilly Juniors Volleyball Club continues to wish the best for Audrey."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.