Friday, January 20, 2012

Outlawing Sportsmanship?

As many of you know by read my postings I have recently become an Assistant Coach to a High School Wrestling team. Within our athletes the Head Coach and I try and instill respect, and self confidence. Whenever we face an opponent during competition, or are hosted by a school district for a tournament we instruct our athletes to go and thank the opposing team for their hospitality. Naturally with this gesture of gratitude a hand shake is exchanged. This act was instilled within me at a young age growing up in the sporting world, so naturally this idea has been passed down to our wrestlers.
However at our most recent meet an alarming statement was made by the officiating referee. He specifically instructed the coaching staff, and the athletes that no shaking of the hands would be permitted during the event. I was shocked by this statement, but respectfully I followed the wishes of the official. At the next meet this same statement was brought up, but by a different officiating referee. At first I believed this rule to be just the personal preference of the official the week prior, but now two individuals have given the same statement! In my mind their must be a larger reasoning behind all of this. At first no one would elaborate on this negativity towards sportsmanship, as though it was a taboo subject. It was not until after the meet when I was able to talk with an official on a one on one basis that he explained to me this "secret agenda."
The NYSPHSAA or the "New York State Public High School Athletic Associations" states that "The promoting of sportsmanship is a major goal." However I was told secretly that this instruction of not to shake the hand of an opponent came directly from the State. The reason behind this was somewhat alarming. Skin infections are a common occurance in wrestling due to the nature of the sport. People are competing within close proximity of one another on a surface that has questionable sanitary properties. Minor infections like that of ringworm and impetigo are common place. These can be easily treated, and if proper hygiene is used avoided completely. However serious infections like herpes gladiatorium, and MRSA can occur. These infections can threaten the health of an individual drastically, and in the case of herpes gladiatorium can never be cured. This I was told was the reasoning why unnecessary physical contact has been outlawed in High School Wrestling. The State of New York I have been told will never come forward publicly with this statement, because of how it presents a negative shadow over sportsmanship. I am worried though as to how this will impact the student athletes. Essentially they are being told it is alright to not show sportsmanship. That to me is unacceptable.
In my eyes another way to over come this fear must be found. Skin infection has always been in wrestling, and wrestling is one of the oldest sports known. I fear for the lessons that these athletes are learning from this new rule. I hope that it will not impact them for the worse.

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