Handshakes Fail to Show Sportsmanship

By Jesse Grossman ’15

President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shook hands at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service last month.  Many wondered if this was a sign of peace to come or just a friendly gesture.  In sports, a handshake at the end of a game is supposed to represent sportsmanship and the true meaning of the game.  However, in high school sports, it can now be perceived as a forced action and sometimes after a tough loss, players refrain from it.

“I wouldn’t exactly call shaking or slapping an opponent’s hands to be sportsmanship.  If anything, I think that it’s the proper thing to do,” said Monica Riskevich ’15 of the varsity girls’ lacrosse team.  “To be honest, it’s sometimes challenging to shake someone’s hand and tell them good game after they tripped you and huffed and puffed in your face.”

When people do talk trash and play dirty, it shows a lack of sportsmanship.  Therefore, when they go to shake your hand to show respect, it can leave a player wondering where this respect was during the game.

According to Etiquette International, a good handshake requires eye contact and a few pumps no longer than three seconds.  In the usual post-game handshake line, players differentiate in their approach: some players have their hands out for a quick slap, some for a fist bump, some people with their hands down, some just tapping hands without looking, some people say good game and some don’t say anything at all.  In reality, to most people, it has simply become formality for the end of a game.  Riskevich later called it “something you have to do.”

Most high school athletes are influenced by watching professionals.  In the four major American sports, there is only one handshake line that takes place at the end of a playoff hockey series.  However, there is no other organized showing of sportsmanship where every player shakes hands.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that a handshake, a high five or a fist bump does have a significant meaning.

“Personally I think it is a sign of sportsmanship. It shows respect not only for the other team, but also shows respect for yourself and for the love of the game. It’s important to take pride in what you do and do things the right way,” said Michael Taormina ’15 of the varsity baseball team.

Ronald Laurore ’14 who played JV basketball last year believes if coaches did not tell players to line up, handshakes at the end of games simply would not happen.

“I would do it if I thought someone played exceptionally well or I knew a person, but not every single kid on the opposing team,” said Sam Boorstyn ’14 of the varsity baseball team.

Those who has played a recreational league sport has seen a player who does not want to shake hands after the game with the other team.  This player avoids contact and goes somewhere else or puts his head down due to a tough loss.

“I view them as not true supporters and lovers of the game,” said Chanice Battle ’15 of the girls’ varsity basketball team.  “I feel that if you love the game so much, you should have enough decency and respect to congratulate others on their win or lost and not celebrate a win in other teams’ faces.”

Overall, a sporting event is a battle and how opponents see each other can change drastically from pre-game to post-game.

“On the field, the other team is your enemy and you should be respectful,” concluded Boorstyn.  “A handshake is the right thing to do, but it shouldn’t necessarily be required.”

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