High school athletics provides athletes with opportunities to learn many things that are not covered in academic curriculum. Athletes build relationships with their teammates and coaches, establish healthy exercise habits and experience the range of emotions that come with competition.
During these contests students feel the responsibility of representing themselves, their families, teams and schools. Coaches strive to have athletes who will always live up to high standards of conduct; however, if coaches do not have a plan to teach their athletes the importance of sportsmanship, they may be setting themselves up for potentially embarrassing situations for athletes, coaches and the school community.
Allow time to teach sportsmanship – eye contact and the handshake
As a coach, I find myself going over many necessities at the beginning of seasons – physical clearances, locations of trainers, emergency plans relating to weather and even parent meetings. Each of these elements is important to a successful season, but I also spend time with our athletes talking about the importance of how they conduct themselves. We need to have time to discuss what expectations we have for our athletes and explain how they align with school and societal expectations.
It may seem trivial but some students do not understand the importance of making eye contact and taking part in a genuine handshake. This is an important lesson for our students. During the practice before our first scrimmage, I make sure to explain the importance of first impressions; how eye contact and a handshake may open the door to a future job or business relationship. Even though the students may seem awkward at first, I have them practice it with each other. Many alumni have come back to say it was the first time they had been taught proper etiquette regarding establishing professionalism.
Just as important is to review when and to whom you issue a handshake. In tennis, participants shake hands with their opponents and the coaching staff during the reading of lineups and after the game. In basketball, it may be a handshake before and a high five after the game. Each sport may have some variation, but leaving this lesson to chance may increase the possibility that proper etiquette will not be followed.
Read the rest of the article on the National Federation website.