BYU sociology professor encourages sportsmanship

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The Education in Zion Museum welcomed BYU sociology professor Mikaela Dufur, who presented a lecture in the Education in Zion Museum March 6 as part of a lecture series.

Dufur’s lecture, “How Not to Get Ejected from March Madness: The Impact of Sportsmanship, Character and Honor,” encouraged students to look at their own behavior during sports events and strive to be more compassionate.

Photo Courtesy Sara Hall. Professor Mikaela Dufur encourages  sportsmanship, especially during March Madness.
Professor Mikaela Dufur encourages sportsmanship, especially during March Madness. Photo courtesy Sara Hall.

“I invite us all to be sportsmanlike,” Durfur said. “Especially with upcoming March Madness.”

Durfur, a BYU Athletic Committee member, emphasized the BYU aim of character building, which includes sportsmanship.

“Character is constructed by small decisions,” Durfur said, quoting the BYU aim.

Durfur explained the idea that sports can teach people to be better Christians.

She cited the incidence of poor sportsmanship when New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert punched and pulled the hair of BYU women’s soccer members.

However, Durfur said that BYU students are not exempt from demonstrating poor sportsmanship. She showed a movie clip of former BYU quarterback Max Hall criticizing University of Utah fans.

“Sportsmanship is not about someone else,” Dufur said. “It’s about us. The breakdown of sportsmanship is a lack of love for one another.”

Durfur discussed several social psychological theories that explain why people may struggle with sportsmanship. One of them was what she referred to as BIRGing, Basking in Reflected Glory. BIRGing is when fans associate themselves with the glory and success of the team. On the other hand with CORFing, Cutting off Reflected Failure, happens when fans disassociate themselves with their teams when they lose.

“These things can lead us to bad behavior,” Durfur said.

Durfur transitioned to some developmental theories. She said that young people can be influenced by spectators who demonstrated poor sportsmanship. Youth learned appropriate behavior from their leaders and parents, especially when it came to sports. Parents and leaders set an example for youth in sports when parents demonstrated appropriate fan behavior Durfur said.

“The players learn from spectators and in young sports that’s parents,” Dufur said.

Durfur said that sports can elicit powerful emotions just as music produces powerful spiritual emotions in many religious settings. She hopes that as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we should control our emotions during sports and stand up to a crowd that refuses to behave in a Christlike manner.

“Take a look at our own lives and learn where we can improve and be better,” Durfur said. “It shouldn’t be hard for us to have compassion on others who are different.”

Photo Courtesy Sara Hall. Students ponder the message of sportsmanship.
Photo Courtesy Sara Hall. Students ponder the message of sportsmanship.

The Education in Zion Museum will continue its teachings on sportsmanship by hosting a family home evening program about church sports in the gallery on March 25 at 6, 7 and 8 p.m.

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