“The Punch” Sparks Talk on Sportsmanship

UO Blount Punch 275If you’re sports fan, it was hard to miss the story of “the punch” thrown during the September 3 game between the University of Oregon and Boise State. While the national buzz around the incident has waned recently, the issue is still a hot button in Eugene, Ore. You could say it hits close to home, pun intended.

The Eugene Register-Guard’s Mark Baker tackles the issue in an extensive piece today, noting that Oregon’s LeGarrette Blount’s jab on Boise State’s Byron Haut “seems to have sparked a national conversation about unacceptable behavior among athletes at all levels, and the effect such behavior has on the culture of a sports-crazy nation.”

Eugene-based sports psychologist Steven Ungerleider told Baker, “The good news is, I think this is going to be a major teachable moment, not just for him, but for the university.”

Baker also caught up with Michigan State University kinesiology professor Dan Gould, who told the writer, “Research has shown that kids learn aggressive behaviors by watching high-status role models. I love football. But one thing that concerns me now in college and the pros, is how much pushing and shoving and trash talking goes on after the play. And kids pick up on that. So I think situations like you saw at Oregon could maybe have a positive impact in that kids learn it’s not tolerated. What concerns us is when the star athlete isn’t held accountable.”

Kudos to Baker for writing such a great piece, and there’s no arguing with experts Ungerleider and Gould. The most unfortunate thing is the fact that this is in no way the first teachable moment on sportsmanship. In his article, Baker offers example after example of other such incidents.

While athletes from the collegiate level to the professional ranks need to be role models, we can expect them to be the leaders in teaching sportsmanship. “The punch” story may highlight the need for better training for coaches and a better perspective on youth sports. After all, what good is a teachable moment without an effective teacher and proper perspective?

Click here to read Baker’s entire piece, “Hard lessons to be learned” (Eugene Register-Guard, 9/27).