Post-game handshakes are meant to symbolize good sportsmanship, but the ritual has become so volatile on Kentucky high school fields that the supervising association is urging to schools to skip the practice.
“We’ve had situations where young men in football this year reach across and punch a kid below the belt,” said Julian Tackett, commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association . “And we’ve had two young ladies at the volleyball net get into a fist fight when shaking hands.”
In an attempt to end the post-game fights, the KHSAA released a statement last month telling coaches they should stop the practice.
“Personally I hate to see this change,” Tackett wrote on Sept. 19. “I think we should reinforce behavior and civility, but incidents even in our own state in volleyball, soccer and football, have illustrated this need.”
After receiving backlash for its decision, the organization clarified in two more emails on Oct. 8 and 9 stating that it had not banned handshaking, but advised against it and would hold the coaches responsible for any assaults.
The organization said that “any unsportsmanlike conduct occurring during this time will subject the coach/player to penalties and discipline.” Incidents of “unsporting acts” will result in “a penalty against the member school athletic program.”
“We have never banned handshaking,” Tackett said. “What we did do was tell our schools if you can’t properly supervise them, you shouldn’t do them. That’s the bottom line. It’s a reiteration of common sense.”