When I played in West Germany as a first, second, and third grader, I was chosen to be a captain one year. At the time, there was a tradition that both teams followed before and after each game. Before the game:
- The home and away captains, followed by the respective starting goalies and then the rest of the players (no coaches) walked to the center of the field separated by the half-way line.
- When the team captains reached the center of the field, the teams stopped and faced each other.
- Then the home captain said the following cheer, \”Wir begrüßen unsere Gegner mit einem dreifachen Hip Hip … Hurra, Hip Hip … Hurra, Hip Hip … Hurra\”. Translated, the captain declared, \”We welcome our opponents with three cheers.\” Then the whole team got involved. The captain said, \”Hip-hip\” and the rest of the team responded with, \”Hoo-rah\” in unison. This was done three times.
- Then the opposing captain and team repeated the same cheer.
After the game, the teams again lined up across from each other. The captains and teams took turns declaring, \”Wir bedanken uns bei unseren Gegnern mit einem dreifachen Hip Hip …. Hurra, Hip Hip … Hurra, Hip Hip … Hurra\”. Translated: \”We thank our opponents with three cheers … hip-hip, hoo-rah … hip-hip, hoo-rah … hip-hip … hoo-rah\”.
I think it is fantastic that many teams engage in a ceremonial handshake at the end of games. It teaches players good sportsmanship. It also allows players and teams to put aside disagreements or hard feelings that may have percolated during the game. It is important to learn to leave these feelings on the field.
I also love what professional teams do before a game. Players walk onto the field hand-in-hand with youth soccer players. Both teams face and salute the crowd. Then one team moves down the line, first shaking the hands of the referees followed by the hands of the opponents. Once the first team is done, the opponents shake the hands of the referees.
I strongly encourage leagues to formally adopt some sort of pre- and post-game ritual.
- It should be done for all games, regardless if it is a scrimmage or a state championship game.
- It sets the right tone for the game as well as after the game.
- It gives the players an opportunity to acknowledge parents and fans (and vice versa).
- It teaches players good sportsmanship.
- The \’pomp and circumstance\’ makes the games more meaningful and memorable.
Are there other pre- and post-game rituals that leagues engage in? Readers of \’Improving Soccer in the United States\’ would love to hear about them.