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Thursday, October 10, 2013
The latest reason to scratch our heads in puzzlement or hang them in dismay comes from Kentucky.
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has told its member schools to cease postgame handshakes between teams.
After more than two dozen physical confrontations in the past three years, the KHSAA has had enough. Don’t do it, the KHSAA said of postgame handshakes.
And if you do, you will be held accountable for any incidents that occur.
The stakes and tensions have become too high in too many high school sports. Athletes can create problems on their own, but the added ingredients of irate coaches and obnoxious, overwrought or indignant parents can make the mix more volatile.
Unfortunately, one of the few times you can count on teenagers to pay attention to their parents is when their parents are behaving badly.
Suspension of the postgame handshake is a discouraging, disheartening step backward in athletic competition.
“We’re not doing that,” said Mike McCall, director of communications for the Virginia High School League. “We’ve heard of incidents after games where things get a little hot, but never to the point where we think it’s so bad we should ban postgame handshakes.
“That would be giving in to those who think sportsmanship is dead.”
The postgame handshake is one of the most important elements of competition.
We all want to win. It’s never easy to absorb defeat, especially to a rival, especially knowing all the effort, in-season and out, that went into preparing for the competition.
But that is part of the deal. To give up on the postgame handshake is to refuse to recognize others made just as great an effort to play well and win.
You treat people as you want to be treated. When you win, you want to be congratulated. When you lose, even though it might not be easy, your opponent deserves, and has earned, the same courtesy.
Athletes on the wrong side of the score owe it to themselves as sportsmen to make such an effort.
The postgame handshake is the first step in coming to terms with the fact that things don’t always go your way. In an hour — or a few more if the loss is particularly disappointing — things will be better. Tomorrow, there will be more important issues to face.
That’s what parents, coaches and administrators have to stress to young athletes.
There was a brief incident after last year’s state championship football game between L.C. Bird and Ocean Lakes. Some players were a bit, as they say these days, “chippy” toward each other.
“But that was handled by the coaches and athletic directors,” McCall said.
And the postgame ceremony proceeded without incident.
McCall is no novice in sports management. He worked in media relations for Roanoke College, the University of Florida, Notre Dame, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins.
McCall has been nearby as college and professional athletes walked across the field after a loss and shook hands, even embraced and said, “Nice game” without any problems.
“They can do that because they understand,” McCall said. “They play hard, the game’s over and they move on.”
If athletes with thousands of dollars and careers at stake can behave civilly, why can’t high school athletes when only pride is involved?
They can, of course. The adults have to make sure winning and losing are kept in perspective.
“We think it’s important for sportsmanship that players shake hands after games,” McCall said. “We don’t know what’s going on with folks who think that’s a bad idea.”
It’s never a bad idea to do the right thing. And after a game, win or lose, the right thing to do is shake hands and congratulate an opponent.
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