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Directive on handshakes causing stir in Kentucky

Oct. 11, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The backlash over a directive that Kentucky high schools should not conduct postgame handshakes has included district officials saying they won't follow it and a lawmaker who is calling for change.

Kentucky's athletic sanctioning body issued a "directive" on Tuesday that told high schools not to conduct postgame handshakes in all sports following more than two dozen physical confrontations the past three years.

The Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper reported Kentucky High School Athletic Association Commissioner Julian Tackett issued another clarification of the directive on Wednesday, describing it as a recommendation.

"It was my responsibility to ensure clarity," Tackett wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "In haste to get the information out, the normal expected quality control steps were not executed to ensure such clarity. For that, I apologize to our member schools."

At least three schools, including the state's two largest, said they plan to continue postgame handshakes.

"Teaching our students to win and lose graciously are life lessons that we hope and expect coaches to embrace," Jefferson County Assistant Superintendent Kirk Lattimore said in a memo Wednesday to principals and athletic directors. "Ask coaches to remember that very few of our students will be college and professional athletes. However, ALL of them need to be able to demonstrate character at crucial times."

A similar message was sent around to Fayette County schools.

"For now, we will continue to shake hands," said district athletic director Don Adkins. "As athletes, we should learn to lose with a little bit of dignity and a little bit of class and we should learn to win with a little bit of dignity and a little bit of class."

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Steve Riggs of Louisville said he plans to pre-file a bill to remove the KHSAA's authority to fine schools and athletic personnel.

Tackett had said that member schools or coaches that engage in unsportsmanlike behavior would be fined and penalized.

"When the General Assembly created the KHSSA, it did so to help foster pride, athletics and school spirit in Kentucky -- not to create a government agency out creating fines out of thin air," Riggs said. "My legislation is going to reiterate and clarify this fact and hopefully remind the KHSSA to focus on its mission of high school athletics."

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