Big Celebrations Causing Big Problems for High School Football Players

Filed under: Sports, In The News

Warning to high school football players: Beware the chest pump and the chest thump.

They're common celebrations after touchdowns and other big plays at every level from kiddie football to the National Football League. But high school officials are cracking down.

In Atwater, Calif., Atwater High School senior Angel Molina had just scored his third touchdown of the game -- a feat by any standard -- earlier this season when he tapped his chest twice and pointed his finger at the sky.

"I didn't say anything," Angel told the Merced Sun-Star. "I just pointed up. I was honoring God."

The team was penalized 15 yards for an unsportsmanlike display.

That was mild compared with the punishment dealt high school senior T.J. Peeler. In October, referees ejected T.J. from a game and suspended him from the next one for serial chest-bumping – a joyful smashing of chests, usually with a teammate.
The first time, T.J., one of the top-rated running backs in the Washington, D.C. area, wasn't even in the game. The chest bump took place on the sidelines. A few minutes later, T.J. ran 63 yards for a touchdown and, in the back of the end zone, chest-bumped again. Another penalty.

On behalf of the star player, officials at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Va., appealed the suspension -- and won. The runner was then eligible to play in a key playoff game for Broad Run on Nov. 20. The Broad Run Spartans won that game -- their winning streak stands at 26 -- and are now two victories away from a state championship.

Though it may seem like it, referees aren't trying to suck the fun out of high school sports. They're just following the rules of the National Federation of State High School Associations. Before the season, the NFHS distributed letters to high school athletic directors telling them it's cracking down on excessive celebrating and other examples of questionable sportsmanship.

Under rule 9-5-1: "No player shall act in an unsportsmanlike manner once the officials assume authority for the contest."

Some examples of bad behavior: "Baiting or taunting acts or words or insignia worn which engenders ill will" and "Any delayed, excessive or prolonged act by which a player attempts to focus attention upon himself."

T.J. told the Washington Post that he is revising his touchdown parties. "I'll probably just not do any chest-bumps. Probably just do a thumbs-up or something like that."

ParentDish sports reporter Mark Hyman is the author of "Until It Hurts: America's Obsession With Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids" (Beacon Press).

Have a suggestion for an article on youth sports? Contact Mark at

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.