No Post Match Handshake?

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Joyce Bassett of ­Youth Sports recently wrote about a spat of unsporting conduct during post match handshakes between opponents and wondered if that tradition had run its course:

I remember several years ago my daughter was complaining about doing post-game handshakes because she once saw a girl spit on her hands. I also remember coaching an indoor game during a particularly brutal season of stomach viruses and thinking “I don’t want to shake these kids hands!”

Sometimes, I wonder if shaking hands at the end of heated sporting events is a good idea.

It absolutely is a good idea.

No matter what, we can’t let a few bad sports ruin things for everyone. Are there nut case parents on sidelines? Yes. Should we ruin it for everyone by implementing ‘Silent Sundays’ or buffer zones for parents? No. You deal with the people causing problems and educate everyone else on how to behave. The same goes for the handshake. It’s been a tradition for a long time and teaches an important lesson to our kids. No matter how fierce the competition was, at the end of the match, you shake hands, congratulate each other, and move on. I can’t imagine youth soccer without it.

That said, coaches have to be ready to handle mishaps. I’ve seen a player punch another player as they shook hands (this was in REC!). Spitting on hands has happened forever. All coachable (and in the case of hitting someone, sanctionable) moments. After a particularly hard loss for my U11 Girls, they were angry and had no intentions of shaking hands because they felt the official had taken the game away via a late disallowed goal. I had to corral them all onto the touchline to shake hands stressing over and over again that what happened was not the other team’s fault, they had played very hard, and deserved a hand shake and congratulations. It was a HUGE coaching moment and I think my girls learned something from it.

A number of Joyce’s readers felt the same way. Spitting on hands is nothing new, but the constant prevalence of video cameras and media is. I’ve noted many times that I wish the media would stop sensationalizing isolated incidents of unsporting conduct as if it’s rampant or some massive affront to humanity. They are coaching moments where children learn to deal with disappointment and loss. Sometimes we catch them before they do something wrong, sometimes we don’t.

My U11 team spit on their hands once. I’ll freely admit it. They had played a friendly scrimmage against a number of boys they went to school with. After the scrimmage they shook hands and a few had spit on their hands. They thought it was hilarious. They never expected my response would be so intense and appalled. We had a major discussion about proper behavior, sportsmanship, and respect. What started out as a simple gag with boys they knew from school turned into a valuable teaching moment. But thank goodness CNN wasn’t around or they would have been ostracized on national TV.

It’s time the media stopped worrying so much about individual instances of bad behavior by kids. They’re kids. Sometimes they misbehave and most of the time the adults handle it and the kids learn something from it. Instead the media should focus on the lessons taught and learned.

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  1. I agree…it’s important for them to learn to be gracious, and be good sports even if they lose. I remember one time when our boys were going through the line, shaking with a team that they’d just beat, and the other kids were just slapping as hard as they could to try and hurt our kids, but our kids still went over to the other team’s bleachers, stood in a line along the fence, and faced the other team’s parents, and applauded (something that our coaches do as a show of appreciation for good sportsmanship on the other team’s fans’ part) even tho’ one of the other team’s moms called our kids a ‘bunch of cheaters’ as they walked by. It’s a shame when the kids are more mature than the parents!