The Kentucky High School Athletic Association recently sent a directive to its member schools that left me wondering how an intelligent group of people could come up with a decision that is – and there is simply no polite way to say it – just downright idiotic.
You see, the group has banned post-game handshakes.
That's right, in one sweeping act of lunacy they have wiped out an incredibly important part of what competing is all about.
Today's young athletes need to experience the heart-racing thrill of winning games, and also the sting that accompanies losing.
But you know what else?
They also need to experience that post-game handshake line where they look the opponent in the eye – win or lose – and congratulate them on the victory if they were the better team that day.
Is it fun to be on the losing side and congratulate the winner? Nope.
Is it character building, and character revealing, how athletes handle it? Absolutely!
Now, the reason behind the KHSAA's decision is that more than two dozen incidents of post-game violence erupted last year alone.
When you consider all the high school sporting events that took place throughout the state this represents an incredibly small portion of student-athletes.
But yes, it's still an alarming problem, but one that I think could be solved any number of much more effective ways.
Why not just punish the athletes who misbehave? Suspend them and require them to take a sportsmanship class before being allowed to return. Or if the situation warrants, ban them from competing.
And don't let the coaches off the hook in this either. They are in positions in which they should be teaching kids the right way. So if they're unable to educate their players on how to act respectfully following games, and can't ensure a safe post-game exchange, then suspend them too.
I'm sorry, but I don't see what's so difficult here in fixing this problem. But of all things, don't remove the post-game handshake because of the horrific and sickening behavior of a few.
Just look at the Stanley Cup playoffs each spring. Following these best-of-seven series, in which teams have battered and abused one another, they line up and shake hands. It's one of the coolest scenes in all of sports.
If the pros can do it, teens in Kentucky certainly can, too.
Now what really worries me about this decision is that sometimes youth sports programs take their cue from what others are doing, particularly organizations within their respective state.
So I urge – actually plead – that no youth sports programs adopt this backward thinking measure.
Kids need to learn how to deal with wins and losses in a sportsmanlike manner with a post-game handshake.
They shouldn't be hidden from it.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.
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