Amazingly, a football coach in Roosevelt, Utah, suspended his entire team because of attitude and discipline problems. In a letter to the players, he told them he was displeased with how they were representing their school and community. “It is a privilege to play this wonderful game!” Union High coach Matt Labrum wrote his players, according to a story in The Miami Herald. “... The lack of character we are showing off the field is outshining what we are achieving on the field.”
Maybe these are just a few examples of extreme actions by players and coaches. But they do paint a disturbing picture and probably a dangerous trend in high school sports.
Handshake lines are ritualistic activities that are common to some high school sporting events. The long-standing practice, at times, does seem strained or awkward. Is it sincere to tell an opposing player “good game” when you have just beaten them by 60 points?
And no wonder nerves are tested when a team wins a heart-stopping game on the last play (or worse a disputed one) and teams line up to shake hands knowing one squad is devastated and the other is jubilant.
Understandably, there have been cases where the postgame handshake has been dropped so players aren’t placed in an emotionally-charged position. Maybe a 10-minute cooling off period would be best, but that’s not practical either.
Poor sportsmanship is a behavior that is learned and in too many cases tolerated. The National Hockey League seemingly promotes fighting, baseball celebrates its bench-clearing brawls, and pro basketball at times gives the appearance of mixed martial arts bouts among giants.
Should any of us wonder why it is becoming commonplace to see outrageous exhibitions among coaches or players at high school sporting events?
Athletes aren’t heroes or gods just because they score the winning touchdown. Yet, too often, that’s how they’re treated.