CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Many of Kanawha County Schools' coaches understand the importance of sportsmanship, but some don't understand why the Board of Education wants to create a policy to mandate student conduct.
A recently proposed countywide sportsmanship policy would require principals to focus more on student conduct during athletic events, encourage athletes to shake hands with opponents following games and take disciplinary action against coaches who do not abide by the expectations themselves.
"I'm just shocked that out of all the things going on in our county school system, this is what they spend their time on. Every coach I know and every game I've ever been a part of has always shown sportsmanship. So, why bother?" said Jon Carpenter, football coach at Capital High School.
Carpenter said that while he values sportsmanship, he's irritated that the board feels the need to create a policy instead of trusting the coaches to lead their teams.
"That's what bothers me -- I'm disappointed in the battle that they're picking. Schools have real problems that are bigger than shaking hands. This isn't really going to help kids. It seems like we eat elephants and choke on gnats a lot," he said. "Of course we all want our kids to act with respect, but there are bigger problems."
The policy was first pitched after George Washington High School and Hurricane High School football players did not shake hands after a heated football game in the playoffs in November.
Board of Education member Becky Jordon, whose son is a GW football player, has since been vocal about the importance of sportsmanship, saying, "Kids shouldn't be allowed to act like jerks on the football field."
"Good sportsmanship takes you very far in life. Some don't agree with this policy at all, and I'm sorry, but nothing is wrong with raising the bar and asking children to behave," she said. "If they're not allowed to act that way in a classroom, why can they do it on the field?
"What's the difference in asking coaches to do the same as teachers?" Jordon asked. "When students are wearing our jerseys, they're representing our schools."
Board of Education President Pete Thaw does not support the proposed policy, which is up for public comment for the next 30 days, and believes it infringes on the rights of coaches.
"You say that we leave them latitude, but we really don't. When you have a policy, it's a policy," Thaw said at a board meeting last week. "Some of these coaches don't want their players mingling after the game because it's nothing but trouble, and that's the way it is."
The policy asks that a faculty member or administrator, preferably a vice principal, attend all home athletic games, and that all unsportsmanlike acts be reported to administration.