Saturday, September 20, 2003
The post-game tradition is as much a part of high school sports as the pre-game warm-up, the announcement of the starting lineup and the national anthem or Pledge of Allegiance.
No matter what happens on the field, no matter what the other team said in the days leading up to the big game and no matter how bad the calls were, it has always been the tradition for coaches and players to offer their hands to the other team after the game.
There is no better example of how important this gesture is than in hockey's Stanley Cup playoffs. In every game of a series, players go out on the ice with the intent of punishing their opponents -- and as the Cup gets closer, the emotions and games tend to become more intense.
However, at the end of every series, the same players who have been trading punches game after game will take off their gloves, form a line and shake the other team member's hands.
If that kind of sportsmanship can exist in a physical sport such as hockey, it should certainly exist in high school soccer.
It seems unbelievable that, after the Steamboat Springs High School soccer team's 3-2 overtime win against Glenwood Springs on Thursday night, Demons coach Bob Guska would instruct his team not to shake the Sailors' hands.
But he did.
He must not have been listening to the pre-game mission statement that says the score of any athletic event is generally forgotten over time, but the actions of the players, coaches and spectators are remembered.
The coach was unhappy that officials apparently missed an offside call that resulted in Steamboat's winning goal. He also was concerned about the physical nature of the contest and was worried that a fight might break out as the teams exchanged handshakes after the game.
I understand Guska's fears, but I can't agree with his decision to skip the post-game handshake.
The Glenwood players and coaches should have put smiles on their faces and offered their hands to the Sailors once the game ended. I would expect the same from coach Rob Bohlmann and his players.
If a player was upset, it is the coach's job to make sure that player walked through the line. If the coach felt the player might get into a fight, he should have pulled that player to the side and laid out the consequences of those actions before the young player could make an emotional mistake.
In last year's 4A volleyball championship match, a bad call cost Steamboat a game and a shot at the title.
After the match, coach Wendy Hall didn't complain. Instead, she joined her teary-eyed players as they congratulated the new state champion, Lewis-Palmer. The smiles may have been forced, but the gesture was sincere.
The field is a classroom for players. There, they learn there are a lot of parallels between life and the games they play.
The players should walk away from the game knowing that life is not always going to be fair, sometimes the best effort falls short and that the handshake can accomplish a lot.