A handshake after a football or basketball game is a sign of good sportsmanship. Tuesday, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association issued a Commissioner’s Directive on this post-game handshake.
The KHSAA says this is not a new policy but a lot of people reacted strongly.
“You're fighting hard, the whole time, there's talking back and forth there's shoving and kicking and all kinds of things but at the end of the game you still shake hands,” said Shawn Magsig, parent of a Tates Creek High School soccer player, about when he remembered high school sports.
The directive urges high schools not to line athletes up for the post game handshake if they don’t have enough supervision. It says post-game supervision is not the job of the game officials and it cites more than two dozen fights in the last three years in Kentucky which broke out during the post game handshake. If schools think they will have enough supervision, they can continue the handshake.
“You don't have to change a thing you've been doing if that's the thing you want to impart upon your kids, the way you want to do it, that's fine,” explained Julian Tackett, KHSAA commissioner. “If you don't think you can handle it, you've got that Jimmy or Joe that you know could be a problem, then you've now got a reason to handle it another way. You can say we're not going to do it”
Parents say the handshake shows one of the most important parts of the game, sportsmanship.
“It manifests while you're playing the game, you help somebody up, you say thanks to the ref, but the handshake at the end of the game that's the symbolic moment, where you recognize we're all in this because it's about good sportsmanship and healthy competition,” said Richard Schein, parent of a Tates Creek soccer player.
Outrage spread to social media as people voiced their concerns over a handshake ban.
“Everybody plays hard and tries to win a game, win or loose you should be able to go out and have some class at the end of the game and shake hands with players,” said Rich Staub, parent of a soccer player at Saint Henry District High School.
The KHSAA says this is not a handshake ban but a directive reiterating a policy already in place and Mike Harmon, head football coach at Tates Creek High School, says the miscommunication comes from the word ‘directive.’
“It's the same rules and expectations that have always been in place. Our wording sometimes and different things and I think people to some extent overreacted a little bit,” said Harmon.
Coaches and administration of the teams are responsible for team behavior. If schools continue to have the handshake lineup and a fight breaks out, they will be fined.
You can read the full commissioner’s directive below.
Several sports have “traditions” regarding postgame handshakes, etc. by team members (both en masse and as individuals), but none of them have such action dictated by playing rules. While it is an obvious sign of sportsmanship and civility, many incidents have occurred both in Kentucky (more than two dozen in the last three years in Kentucky alone) and throughout the country, where fights and physical conflicts have broken out. And this is not restricted to specific sports. In our state alone, incidents in soccer, football and volleyball have occurred this fall.
Unfortunately, the adrenaline and effort required to participate in the sport sometimes seems to deplete the supply of judgement available to participants. And this can be particularly problematic when there is a lack of an appropriate level of adult supervision, or counterproductive actions by the adults involved with the team. After consultation with the Board of Control at its last meeting, the Commissioner is issuing the following directives and recommendations to the schools and officials regarding post game in baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball, volleyball and wrestling:
- Following the contests, officials are to quickly and efficiently leave the playing facility following all rules mandated duties and ensure that the rules book mandated jurisdiction ends promptly. There is no need for officials to secure the game balls, shake hands with the coaches or players, or stick around the playing area for any other reason.
- Officials have no role in what goes on in postgame, including handshakes, etc. after jurisdiction has ended. Officials also have NO role in administering this policy. Officials choosing to involve themselves in postgame activities will be penalized appropriately;
- Game management and the administration of the participating team(s) are solely responsible for what happens after the contest is concluded.
- It is prescribed that teams and individuals do not participate in organized post game handshake lines/ceremonies beyond that interaction that is required by the NFHS playing rules (i.e. the awarding of a bout winner in wrestling) and the individual unorchestrated actions by individual competitors. If the decision is made to ignore this and participate in some form of organized postgame handshake line/handshake against this recommendation, it is the expressed responsibility of game management and the coaches and administration of the teams to supervise the activity, to report to the KHSAA any incidents that occur; and
- The coaches and administration of the teams are responsible for the individual conduct of the members of the team following the contest and shall be held accountable for such.
Henceforth, any incidents by an individual squad member (including coaches) or group of squad members that results in unsporting acts immediately following the contest will result in a fine against the member school athletic program, and additional penalties against the individuals or schools as deemed appropriate following investigation.
It is disappointing that this action has become necessary, but enough incidents have occurred both in our state and in others, that the necessity has arrived.
DIRECT COMMENTS FROM THE COMMISSIONER (4pm):
“It is sad that so many have apparently chosen to read small participles of the note above, versus the entirety of the directive and reminder, so I feel the necessity to add specific comments. And admittedly, two totally related paragraphs were not immediately adjacent and that may have caused some people to stop reading at one point, and then not follow through with the rest of the post. While none of the content main material has changed, putting the lines together about both the basics and the option for schools to continue whatever activity provided it is properly supervised. The word “directive” has as one of its meanings/synonyms, “prescription”, which is a recommendation from authority. Clearly this was intended to be at a higher level than simply a recommendation, but not a ban or prohibition, relying on the member school representatives to make appropriate decisions.
Nothing about this directive is etched in stone as far as post game procedures. As the document states, the schools continue to have the option to have postgame handshakes as always, provided they are properly supervised. That was the first part of two main intentions. The first, was to reinforce the requirement for supervision. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, all involved in contests seem to be more aggressive immediately after the contests are concluded and winning with honor and dignity (and losing the same way) doesn’t seem to be being instilled across the board. Sometimes, these attitudes and lack of supervision have resulted in fights/altercations/incidents during postgame periods. In Kentucky alone, this has happened more than two dozen times in the last three years. So the directive to the member schools is simple. Don’t do it, UNLESS you can properly supervise it. And if you don’t supervise it (or if you do and problems occur) then you will be held accountable.
Secondly, and just as critical, don’t expect the officials to police this time period. That has NEVER been the officials’ job at the high school level, and shouldn’t be now.
It’s really that simple. Sportsmanship and civility remain hallmark values. It is my hope that all schools can provide the proper supervision and accountability to continue these types of activities. But if they can’t, then stop doing them.”