Two words instilled in sports culture at every level as a cornerstone for sportsmanship.
When an athlete or coach hears those two words they involuntarily raise their hands, expecting to participate in the ritual post game handshake regardless of what took place on the field or the game’s outcome.
What if you don’t promote the post game handshake? Does that mean you don’t promote sportsmanship?
This is the question high school athletic departments in Kentucky are asking themselves since the Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) issued directives to their officials and recommendations to both schools and officials regarding post game activities.
There is no official ban or prohibition of post game handshakes by the KHSAA. However, the directives issued to officials dictate they in no way participate or be held responsible for any post game activities.
“It is directed that teams and individuals do not participate in organized post game handshake lines and ceremonies beyond that interaction that is required by the NFHS playing rules…”
The new directive goes on to state that any schools choosing to continue to participate in organized post game handshakes should do so under their own supervision and are solely responsible for any incidents that occur.
According to the KHSAA, officials have no role in what goes on in post game including handshakes. Following the contests, they are to “quickly and efficiently” leave the playing facility. There is no need for officials to secure game balls, shake hands with the coaches or players or stay around the playing area for any reason.
The directives were issued in regard to the post game of baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball, volleyball and wrestling. The KHSAA cite increasing post game “incidents,” more than a dozen in the last three years, in these sports in Kentucky as the reason for the directives.
“Officials choosing to involve themselves in post game activities will be penalized appropriately.”
Despite claims of safety issues, this boils down to the KHSAA’s fear of liability.
While more than a dozen incidents in three years is disappointing, it is not such an alarming trend that an ominous warning needs to be issued. Beware the post game handshake! It can lead to incidents!
Furthermore, even if an alarming trend is emerging how is withdrawing support the best answer? The reasons instigating most post game incidents come from the game which is being controlled by coaches, athletics support staff and KHSAA officials. They all bear the responsibility for a game getting out of hand and carrying over to extremes afterwards.
I am not saying officials should be more involved after a game is done. I understand the need to control their exposure. However, I also believe penalizing an official who waves to the sidelines for two teams to show sportsmanship after a game when they are not specifically deemed to do so per NFHS rules because a fight might break out is wrong.
Imagine your child’s soccer team just lost a game 10-0. You can smell the burnt rubber from the tires of the officials who peeled out seconds after signaling the game was over as you look at your child and the team sitting frustrated and disappointed on the sideline, looking at the coach and waiting for instructions.
On one hand the coach can line up his team and follow them to the middle of the field where he and they shake hands and say “good game,” to the other team like they have done many times before.
On the other hand, he can follow the advice of the KHSAA and avoid any possible incidents by avoiding the handshake. The coach will find a way to say good sportsmanship isn’t necessarily about acknowledging the other team regardless of winning or losing.
What would you want your coach to do?
More information about the new policy is available at KHSAA.org