The Kentucky High School Athletic Association made national news this week when it issued a directive to its member schools regarding postgame handshakes.
While the directive was widely misinterpreted as banning postgame handshakes after high school sporting events, it did make it clear that if schools are going to continue having them, they need to be enforced so as to not avoid any altercations during the handshake.
“I knew this was coming for the past six or eight months,” said Logan County High School athletic director Hugh McReynolds. “They’ve had quite a few incidents occur around the state in the past year or so and some of them have been pretty serious.”
The directive places the responsibility of controlling the postgame handshakes on the individual schools and coaches - not the officials.
Both Logan County and Russellville expects to continue the tradition of having their teams shake hands with the opposition after a game or match.
“We don’t see it being a problem,” RHS athletic director Nathan Thompson said. “We do that stuff already. We are going to keep doing postgame handshakes. If we do change anything, we may just have the coaches kinda disperse along the bench instead of just being at the end of it. The coaches have a good grasp of the environment - like if the game has been hostile. They will know the best way to handle it.”
“We’ll continue to do it, but we’ll leave the decision up to the coaches,” McReynolds said. “We will encourage the coaches to be prepared.”
McReynolds added that the postgame handshake will be left up to the individual schools as to whether or not they will continue it.
Any school that has an incident break out during a postgame handshake from here on out could be subjected to a stiff penalty.
“The first school that is fined because something happens during a postgame handshake, I expect it to be fined pretty heavily,” McReynolds said.
And because of that, McReynolds said that he expects some schools districts may choose to discontinue the postgame handshake.
“Parents should be aware that if they are at a game and it doesn’t happen, it might be because just one of the school’s isn’t comfortable with it,” he said.
The directive from the KHSAA reads as follows:
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 during these postgame handshakes. 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 to officials 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.
- Certain interaction is required by the NFHS playing rules (i.e. the awarding of a bout winner in wrestling). Other postgame rituals such as handshakes, etc. must be closely monitored by school officials and are not a part of the game regulated by game officials. However, any unsportsmanlike conduct occurring during this time will subject the coach/player to penalties and discipline; and
- The coaches and administration of the teams are always 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 penalty 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.