Whats the Lesson?
The 2015 World Cup of Rugby final match was contested by two teams averaging six feet two inches in height, and 250 pounds of fast twitch muscle, playing 80 minutes of what to the uninitiated can best be described as football without the equipment or stoppages in play. If you do not know what you are looking for, it looks very much like extremely aggressive and athletic men repeatedly tackling each other at full speed. If you do know what you are looking for, it probably looks like the same thing. By the end, both teams are physically and emotionally exhausted. One, in this case New Zealand, exhilarated in victory, the other, arch rival Australia, crushed in defeat. Then they hug and shake hands with their opponent.
The memory of having watched this game and the traditional post game handshake popped to mind recently as I read an article about the expansion of an unfortunate trend in minor hockey. The Calgary Minor Hockey Association, for the 2016-17 season has forbade any player (from ages 5-17) from shaking hands with the referee at the conclusion of the game. If the reason is not yet obvious to you, Lance McKinnon, chairman of the Central Zone Referees Committee clarifies the intent as such: When the game is done, one team has won and another has lost, and emotions are running very, very high, so were hoping that by not doing the handshake, we eliminate that conflict. There you have it. When your 5 year old is finished playing, he (or she) may be so emotionally overheated that the prospect of thanking the ref for his or her efforts might lead to trouble.
Granted, wishing an opponent good luck before a game is easier than congratulating them after they have bested you. But is easier the goal?
Ontario minor hockey, at least the brand played locally, instituted a similar policy of having boys at all ages, shake hands before the game for the same reason – because we fear shaking hands after the game is not something they are emotionally capable of doing. Lost in the practice, that generally appears to be accepted by parents, is one of the greatest lessons sport has to offer – how to both win and lose gracefully. Granted, wishing an opponent good luck before a game is easier than congratulating them after they have bested you. But is easier the goal?
Sadly, these initiatives were probably deemed necessary due to the actions of a very small group of very small minded people. It is unfortunate that the decent majority pay the price. Kudos to rugby for getting, and keeping, it right.
Thanks for reading,