Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 9, 2013

Mark Maynard: Handshake lines a thing of the past? 10/10/13

Mark Maynard
The Independent

ASHLAND — The Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s decision to say it’s not a good idea to have handshake lines after games speaks volumes — and not about the KHSAA. It speaks volumes about the state of sports today.

What used to be the final act of sportsmanship after an athletic event has become so mouthy — and often violent — the KHSAA saw no other recourse than to say do the handshake at your own risk. If something happens, you and your school will be severely punished.

The news of the no-handshake rule has made national news. It was on the “Today” show, ESPN and “The View” to name a few. It gives Kentucky another black eye. But, again, don’t blame the KHSAA for the fallout. They are trying to be preventative.

Where do these kids learn these behaviors?

Well, some people need to look in the mirror and some need to look at our professional athletes who are more out of control than ever. You may even want to blame social media where it has become easy and even considered cool (like, like, like) to rattle off disgusting posts against someone without so much as leaving your name.

Sportsmanship? It’s almost nonexistent these days. High school games are supposed to help develop character, teamwork and the idea of doing your best no matter what the outcome. I know that I’ve learned more from life’s setbacks than from life’s victories. The same should hold true on our athletic fields.

Sports doesn’t build character; it reveals it. Whatever happened to “may the best team win”?

If you want to see poor sportsmanship in action, go to a youth league game in almost any sport. You’ll find parents berating officials, coaches and even innocent boys and girls at the top of their lungs. That’s where the poor sportsmanship teaching really begins. When small children watch their parents act out in front of everybody and constantly offer excuses for what went wrong, what do you expect? We also refuse to hold the athlete, at whatever age, accountable for his or her actions.

When these same children grow into teenagers, they will act out similarly to Mom and Dad or even the professional athlete who loves to make excuses, too. These teenagers will look for excuses as to why they didn’t win and it’s seldom the other team was better. They will blame referees, coaches and teammates and never point the finger at themselves. When they go through the handshake lines they will find an opponent who got the best of them and act out inappropriately with a comment that shouldn’t have been uttered. Retaliation is a natural reaction for the opposing player and the recipe for ugly behavior.

Now, I’ll say this: There are times when it’s best not to have the handshake line, and coaches need to understand those situations. When a game is emotional and already chippy, minutes after that contest may not be the time to put them back together. It doesn’t take long to trigger a near riot, and that’s exactly what the KHSAA is trying to stop. So a little common sense is in order for coaches, too. Everybody doesn’t win every time out and that’s OK, or at least it should be.

Social media stirs emotions before and after games, too. We used to settle our differences on the field and not behind a computer. Unfortunately, that’s the world we live in today. Tweets and Facebook wars incite poor sportsmanship. Coaches try to guide their players away from social media for that very reason. But having nearly 24/7 access to social media sites via cellphones makes that kind of difficult, too.

And coaches need to teach the values of sportsmanship, too. The problem is, they have some unwinding to do because of overzealous parents who have been making excuses for their children since they began their athletic careers as impressionable young boys and girls in youth leagues, which are developed to teach sportsmanship.

If they are parroting their parents when they reach high school, exactly who is to blame?

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.