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October 15, 2013

Maybe we should rethink the post-game handshake

Two figures shaking hands dominate Kentucky’s blue- and gold-colored flag  –  a statesman and a pioneer, popularly, but not officially, thought to be Henry Clay and Daniel Boone.

How odd, then, that the Kentucky High School Athletic Association has advised educators to rethink the long-standing tradition of teams shaking hands after athletic events. Is sportsmanship dead in the Bluegrass State?

No, but a serious discussion and examination about the post-game ritual is playing out from Paducah to Paintsville. Maybe the topic should be expanded to schools across the country.

A brouhaha erupted when a poorly drafted press release had fans across the state – as well as the nation – outraged that Kentucky’s prep athletic association was either prohibiting or banning players from shaking hands, fist bumping or high-fiving after games. Not so fast. The association simply was trying to say that if handshake lines are part of post-game activities, they were to be supervised by school officials. If that’s not practical or possible, dispense with the exercise, the KHSAA said. Furthermore, game officials would no longer supervise players once the contest is over.

KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett warned officials that if further post-game flare-ups continued, participating schools could be sanctioned or fined.  

Good for Tackett. He identified a growing problem and tackled it. That’s what effective administrators do.

Violence at high school sporting contests is becoming, if not more prevalent, certainly more acknowledged.

The post-game brawl between two football coaches in Alabama became nationwide news this fall when the fisticuffs were shown on TV and replayed on various websites. It was potentially much worse in Indiana when coaches from Indianapolis Tech and Fort Wayne South started fighting and soon players and a few fans joined in. 

Perhaps worst of all, a small army of police officers in Wisconsin – about 27 -- was needed to restore calm after a post-game battle ensued in the handshake line between players from Madison West and Madison Memorial. A “handful” of players received two-game suspensions, officials said.

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