LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky's largest school district won't ban handshakes after athletic events, despite a suggestive directive from the Kentucky High School Athletic Association to do so.
In a directive handed down by KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett, post-game handshakes are no longer being encouraged.
"Over the last two to three years, on more than a couple dozen occasions, the kids have forgotten how to act," said Tackett.
According to the KHSAA, there have been 24 incidents throughout the state in which post-game handshakes have led to altercations over the past three years. Now Tackett is calling for changes.
"The directive is: don't do them," instructed Tackett. "If you do do them, you're held accountable for what happens during those."
As part of the directive, the KHSAA is now requiring referees exit the field or court immediately after games, leaving teams to conduct and control handshakes on their own.
"Failure to supervise is going to be viewed as a penalty," said Tackett.
With a soccer match-up set for Wednesday night between Trinity and Ballard high schools, attention shifted from the rivalry to whether the teams would shake hands following the game. Neither of the school's leaders wished to speak on camera about the KSHAA handshake directive, but both told WAVE 3 News team handshakes following the match were likely to occur.
In a statement released by Jefferson County Public Schools Wednesday, district officials made clear they intend to "honor the tradition of shaking hands after events" to ensure "student athletes are taught character first." The statement went on to acknowledge, however, that the responsibility of monitoring the post-game handshakes would fall on the shoulders of coaches and event staff.
Former Ballard High School basketball coach Scott Davenport applauded the district's decision. According to the current Bellarmine University head basketball coach, doing away with the post-game tradition strips student athletes of an important lesson in sportsmanship.
"To do away with it, I think that's just taking a wrong stance in terms of teaching," said Davenport. "Yeah, tempers get heated. It's competition. So in the real world, if things don't go our way, we can't just tuck tail and quit. We have to learn to handle it the right way."
While Tackett specifically identified post-game handshakes turned altercations as the driving force for the directive, some suspect it was a September football brawl in Indiana that sparked the discretionary order. During the September 27 incident, coaches and players fought on the field at the match-up between Arsenal Tech of Indianapolis and Fort Wayne South Side before police restored order.
Whether or not teams will follow the no-handshake suggestion remains their choice, but Tackett warns if the act is not monitored, penalties will be given.
In a press release put out by State Representative Steve Riggs (D-Louisville) Wednesday evening, Riggs announced plans "to file legislation stripping the authority of the governing body to creating fines of this nature." Riggs said he based his decision following a statement recently made by Tackett to the Louisville Courier-Journal claiming "school officials and coaches who fail to observe the directive could fined up to $1,000."
Riggs went on to say in the release, "promoting sportsmanship is a coach's job and they should not have to be looking over their shoulder when they encourage young student athletes to be gracious winners and losers."
According to Riggs, Chairman of the House Local Government Committee, "Not only do I believe the KHSSA was wrong in pushing this directive and threatening school officials and coaches with fines, I am not convinced they had the authority to do that in the first place. When the General Assembly created the KHSSA, it did so to help foster pride, athletics and school spirit in Kentucky - not to create a government agency out creating fines out of thin air. My legislation is going to reiterate and clarify this fact and hopefully remind the KHSSA to focus on its mission of high school athletics."
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