Football: The Do’s and Don’ts of the Post-Game Handshake

James Ryan

“Let us not hear of generals who conquer without bloodshed. If a bloody slaughter is a horrible sight, then that is a ground for paying more respect to war, but not for making the sword we wear blunter and blunter by degrees, from feelings of humanity, until someone steps in with one that is sharp and lops the arm from our body.”—Karl Von Clausewitz, On War

For those of you who don’t already know, the whole point of the post-game handshake in any sport, win or lose, is to simply show respect for your opponents. A lot of times, emotions run extremely high in any competitive sport, and as such, if you were to ask most of the players on any given team during the actual time of play, they would probably just as soon chop their opponents’ arms off with a sharpened sword, than to actually shake their hands.

But football, we must remember, is a gentleman’s game, and no matter how rough or violent it may seem at times, particularly to the average spectator, it has always been intended to be a game of honour. During the game, the mindset can best be compared to the feelings that a soldier might get from fighting in battle. After the game however, it’s important to remember that the game of football and any of the actions that take place on the field should never be taken too personally. After all, it’s just business.

A good coach will always teach his players to play “mean, but clean,” and under no circumstances should a coach ever condone or encourage his players to engage in any type of “dirty” play.

A couple of weeks ago after the Niagara Storm JV football team played in their home opener and won by a score of 40-23 against the Hamilton (Steel City) Steelers, Niagara Head Coach Dave Richardson was quick to call his team together immediately after the game for a little pre-handshake speech, and to set the standard of expectation with each of his players.

He reminded them that even though the opposing team had become notorious over the years for their dirty and unsportsmanlike playing habits, it was important to win the game with class and to rise above any of the disrespectful remarks that were very likely going to be hurled their way for the purposes of instigating an argument or some sort of physical retaliation.

Having spent several years playing in the Canadian Football League (CFL) as a Hall of Fame O-Lineman for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Coach Richardson knows a thing or two about professional conduct and self-discipline, and he wasn’t shy about sharing this advice with his players.

Specifically, a player should never engage in any negative banter with his (or her) opponents after a game. It reflects poorly on the player, but also, when involved in travel sports, it can reflect very poorly on the coaches, a player’s family, and even the community from which that player and the team are from.

By virtue of playing on a “travel” team, each player then has the responsibility of becoming an ambassador for his own city or town, and as a result, the neighbouring communities develop permanent impressions of various townships and the people that reside within them based on the conduct and the actions of their younger representatives (and the parents who cheer for them from the sidelines).

Always remember to act with good behaviour and the best of intentions. Treat your opponents with respect, and remember that the only thing worse than a sore loser (I counted no less than six players on the Hamilton team that outright refused to shake my hand on that day) is a poor winner.

“Stay classy, Niagara.”—Fake Ron Burgundy

Oh and by the way, I’ve still never forgotten that POS Coach in the minor league who shoved one of my players after a game a few years back during the post-game handshake. And I also won’t forget about how when I complained to the League afterwards, they (particularly the League President at the time) did absolutely nothing about it. Needless to say, I decided right then and there that I was never going to coach (or have my son play) in that League ever again.

Apparently, disgusting and unsportsmanlike behaviour isn’t only limited to the players. The odd coach, parent, and referee can be just as bad at times.

And speaking of which…


SCUMBAG COACH ALERT!!: Youth hockey coach, Martin Tremblay, 40, from British Columbia was arrested on June 27, 2012 after tripping a 13-year-old opponent in a handshake line. The boy apparently suffered a broken wrist. Personally, I hope he gets convicted of assault and is never permitted to step foot in a hockey arena (or soccer field, etc.) ever again. Pathetic.

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Follow James Ryan on Twitter @TheSportstender

James Ryan
James Ryan

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