One morning after the Kentucky High School Athletic Association issued a directive discouraging postgame handshakes, it became national news, receiving mentions on both the TODAY Show and Sportscenter.
Meanwhile, area high school athletic directors were busy meeting with coaches and concocting plans to avoid negative attention stemming from possible confrontations after heated contests.
The consensus, it appears, is they will keep doing what they’re doing.
Postgame handshakes will live on in most of the northeastern Kentucky area, as long as there is a mutual agreement between teams to engage in the traditional act of sportsmanship.
“We respect what the KHSAA has to say, and respect the logic behind it, but in this part of the state, you don’t hear as much about these problems as you do in other parts,” said ninth-year Raceland AD Bill Farley.
“We’re rooted deep in tradition and, for us, things aren’t going to change,” he added. “We’re going to continue to do what we do.”
KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett clarified on Wednesday that there is no ban on postgame handshakes, and prohibition has not even been considered.
More than two dozen physical altercations have broken out during postgame handshakes in the past three years in Kentucky alone, according to the KHSAA’s statement. Incidents have occurred in several sports, reported the KHSAA, including soccer, football and volleyball this fall.
In an effort to cut down on such conflict, Tackett warned that if teams choose to partake in handshakes, they better “do it right” or they will suffer penalties as a result.
“(Coaches) understand the consequences,” Farley said. “For example, if the football team commits a violation of this, the school’s not going to pay for it, the football team’s going to pay for it. Money will be taken out of their program. They’re well aware of that.”
Several area schools make a concerted effort to keep all parts moving after games. That includes the escorting of officials from the premises, the overseeing of fans exiting the area and ensuring players’ and coaches’ well-being.
That will continue, said Mark Swift, Ashland’s 16th-year athletic director.
“We’ve done all we could to make it a very safe environment for officials and participants by having administration visible and present with a good structure in place to eliminate any negative activity,” Swift said. “We’ve had very little trouble since I’ve been here.”
Ashland teams will continue with handshake lines as usual, provided that their opponents are OK with it.
“I think it’s important to have the opportunity for the postgame handshake,” Swift said.
Said Russell AD Sam Sparks in an email to his coaches: “On-site school staff and coaches will continue to monitor these exchanges between teams and to make sure we are cognizant of any possible issues.”
Sparks also wrote that Russell will continue “to promote good sportsmanship at every opportunity.”
When ADs from across the state met at an annual KHSAA assembly recently, a video focused on violence in team sports was shown. The HBO special film chronicled incidents that consisted of violence, some with tragic outcomes, involving officials and players.
The responsibility of monitoring any postgame activity between teams falls on school administrators and coaches, not officials.
“Once the game is concluded, officials walk back to the locker room and get dressed,” Farley said. “Their duties don’t include anything else after a game.”
Also emphasized at that assembly was the fact that several incidents in Kentucky had taken place during traditional handshakes.
The Raceland and Lewis County volleyball teams slapped hands along the net as usual on Tuesday night, but Farley said it was agreed upon prior to the match.
“We said we’ll shake hands at the beginning of the game and at the end of the game,” Farley said.
As for the future, he said, “If a team comes in and they don’t want to shake hands, that’s fine. If we go somewhere and they don’t want to, that’s fine too.”
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.