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October 11, 2013

On The Rebound: KHSAA shaking up the handshake

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A ruling was released by the KHSAA this week that appeared to change every high school sporting event in the state. No longer would players from any sport be allowed to do the customary hand shake at the end of games.

In a directive by the Board of Control that read somewhat like a Supreme Court ruling, it was stated, “Unfortunately, the adrenaline and effort required to participate in the sport sometimes seems to deplete the supply of judgment available to participants.”

The KHSAA referenced altercations that have occurred at the end of football, soccer, and volleyball games this season during the customary show of sportsmanship.

Please bear with me for a moment while I try to picture a volleyball brawl breaking out. Apparently there have been no incidents of fish slapping at fishing events.

The release also extends to officials, who are required to remove themselves from the playing area immediately following their official duties. They also are not allowed to shake hands with coaches or players. If they stick around, they will be “penalized appropriately.”

Later in the week, the KHSAA deemed it worthy of stating that the original directive did not say what we thought it said. There had been a strong backlash from coaches, fans, and certainly on social media outlets.

Meanwhile Laurel County issued a letter to its coaches that post game handshakes have been and will continue to be the policy because, “It is important for kids to learn how to handle adversity and show good sportsmanship when things don’t go well.”

As a regular attendee at county sporting events I can say that that the local school system does an excellent job of making sure several administrators are on hand at all sporting events. They did not need a KHSAA directive to know what to do.

This is the line in the KHSAA statement that caused so much confusion, “It is directed that teams and individuals do not participate in organized post game handshake.”

It is really hard to read that statement more than one way. The second release by the KHSAA clarified that what they really meant is they have no jurisdiction over what happens after the game and it is the responsibility of the schools. However, if there is a postgame incident then the KHSAA will be involved.

What it all means is nothing has changed except the KHSAA wants to make sure the blame does not fall on them when someone decides to turn a handshake into a choke hold. You really don’t need to issue a statement to tell everyone nothing has changed. Legal counsel might suggest otherwise.

It seems the KHSAA could use a little public relations boost these days. Not many governing bodies get high grades whether it is elected officials or the person you call boss. Still someone has to be the boss.

Next year the KHSAA will expand their coverage to the middle school level. This is a good decision if for no other reason the inconsistency in transfer rules and eligibility for player hold backs. Laurel County is a school system that does not allow players to be held back at the middle school level. Most counties do allow this, which means 12 year olds could be facing 13-year olds. At this age it can make a huge difference in physical and mental maturity.

The downside is that parents that want to give their children an athletic edge will just start holding them back in elementary school. You will never be able to fix all that ills athletics because it is to full of passion and competition to ever be cinched from all sides. I do applaud the KHSAA for the effort, but surely the NCAA is just as well-meaning with the many messes they have created.

With all the issues at hand, it seems like a handshake should still just be a handshake.

mhoward@sentinel-echo.com

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