Is Sportsmanship Becoming a Lost Art?

The NFL’s post-game handshake

This last fall an NFL post game handshake between the San Francisco 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh, and the Detroit Lion’s head coach, Jim Schwartz, had a lot of people talking. The actions of these two coaches caused many football fans to question the importance of sportsmanship and the necessity of the post-game handshake.

Traditionally coaches meet around the 50 yard line to shake hands, win or lose. But on this particular day, after the 49ers beat the Detroit Lions 25-19, Coach Schwartz walked out for the post game handshake. However, a very exuberant Coach Harbaugh ran towards Schwartz only slowing down long enough to slap him on the back and a say a quick (no eye contact) “good game”.

Coach Schwartz was not pleased by what he thought was a brush off and quickly turned and rushed after Harbaugh. Once he reached Harbaugh he gave him a firm shove while presumably telling him that he thought he was treated disrespectfully and that Harbaugh’s actions were unsportsmanlike.

During the post-game interviews both coaches down played the incident, but it was far from over. The handshake issue became fodder for the media and a hot topic around many water coolers the following morning.

The Great Debate: Does the post-game handshake matter?

Some sports reporters felt that Harbaugh was dead wrong and disrespectful, but others reported that it was no big deal and suggested the post-game handshake was unnecessary.

Even in our home, my family talked at length about whether the handshake was important or not. We all concluded that it was important. However, all three of my children told me that many of their teammates refused to shake or even hold out their hand when the teams lined up for the traditional “Good Game” handshake.

Sportsmanship in youth sports

I was blown away. Never had it occurred to me that a child would exhibit that kind of dismissive behavior after a game. I naïvely assumed that all children were taught, and were routinely exercising sportsmanship and respect for their opponents.

I decided to ask several fellow sports parents if they knew for certain that their child was shaking the hand of their opponent win or lose. Most of them said they hoped they were but couldn’t say for certain. And most assumed the coach was monitoring the handshakes.  Yet, the coach is also in line shaking hands, so they couldn’t possibly know if all of the kids are actually participating or not. I think most of us parents assume coaches spend a few minutes at the beginning of the season explaining sportsmanship and the importance of a post-game handshake. But is that actually happening?

Do you believe that sportsmanship matters?

The NFL handshake incident followed by the conversation with my children has caused me to question whether sportsmanship is becoming a lost art? Does a post-game handshake matter and do people even care about sportsmanship anymore?

I believe it does matter. I personally do care about sportsmanship. (That will come as no surprise to those who know that I believe that manners (and sportsmanship) always matter!) Teaching our children how to win and lose graciously is an imperative life lesson. What do you think? We at DSP want to hear from you!

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One Response to Is Sportsmanship Becoming a Lost Art?

  1. Eric Storch says:

    I can’t speak for youth sports – none of my kids do it – but at the end of most broadcasted NFL games, you can see the majority of players shaking hands, doling out hugs and lots of smiles. They know it’s a game and most of those pro football guys love what they do, win or lose.

    I feel that good sportsmanship is important and should be taught to kids. A competitive spirit is good, but in the end, they also need to know that it’s just a game and is played for fun.

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