Home / Coaching / Shake a Ref’s Hand

Shake a Ref’s Hand

How many times at the end of a volleyball match, or any sporting event, do we see the officials, referees, umpires, etc. hurriedly “escape” from the field of play because coaches, players, and fans demonize their role as peacemakers? Ironically, it is often the coaches that create these rules and the officials are the ones asked to enforce rules coaches create. Sound like our government?

In my men’s group, I have two awesome police officers. Noble, professional, family men that put their lives on the line to protect us everyday. Both have recently been terribly shaken by society and how the media has turned on them as scapegoats. As the Talking Heads once sung, “How did [we] get here?

The real question is not, “How did we get here?”, but “How do we move forward?” The culture of sports can provide the catlyst. And a simple handshake is a great start.

This morning I was listening to a TED talk by Ex-NFL great and ‘Coach for America‘, Joe Ehrmann. He not only recognizes, but proclaims the world of sports is the single greatest contributor to cultural norms of society. As Joe states,

“Sports will engage more individuals, more families, more communities in a shared activity than any cultural activity, organization, or religion in America. It has become the secular religion of this society. And there is a transmission of values that can do a tremendous amount of destruction. Sports has always been a metaphor for social change. Until recently when we got into this win at all costs mentality, sports has always been a way to integrate imigrants into American culture. Every ethnic group that has ever been ghettoized, sports has created a way out of that ghetto. When you talk about civil rights, women’s rights, human rights, think of the role that sports has played to bring them into the political and mainstream consciousness”.

My morning continued by delving into “The Methany Manifesto” by St. Louis Cardinals Manager, Mike Matheny. It’s tough enough for a loyal Cubs fan to read a book about the Cardinal, just realize the pain it causes me to tell about Mike’s story.

One of Mike’s greatest moments in sports came from a University of Wisconsin hockey player that was the only player on the team to shake the hand of the referees after a game. Asked why, the young man replied, “I was taught to respect the umpires on my youth-league baseball team and to shake their hands after every game.” This young man played on Mike’s little league team.


Aretha Franklin knew what she was preaching for all these years.

Admittedly, as a coach, I might have gotten a yellow card or two. I might have gotten caught up in the heat of the moment. But I also have many great friends that are officials…and police officers. Those yellow cards prove I’m not perfect, coincidentally, officials aren’t perfect either…especially as they hold up the values coaches put in place. Lesson learned.

Shake a ref’s hand after every game. It will make our world a better place.



  1. Shaking the refs’ hands after the match is actually part of the protocol under FIVB rules along with shaking the other team’s hands. Two seasons ago I actually had one of my university men’s team players (a Brazilian) get yellow-carded for not shaking the R1’s hand (he didn’t like some of the calls against him).

  2. Ah Bella. #1 Referee in the world. I never worked with him, wish I had. Nice article Ray

  3. I’m confused by this post. Are you saying that it’s commonplace in the USA not to follow this world-wide common show of respect? I’ve been coaching youth sports for 20 years in Canada (baseball and volleyball) and at every game I’ve ever been involved in, we always shook the hands of the referees or umpires along with the opponents and their coaching staff. No exceptions. Who let this happen? A blog post won’t fix this. If you feel this strongly about it, lead the charge to fix the problem.

  4. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the encouraging response. I can say your fellow Canadian Jonathan Toews certainly sets a good example of sportsmanship. It sounds as if it is the right culture in Canada.

    I am certainly trying to set the right example by acting the proper way and encouraging my players to do the same.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *