Sara Schairer, a Stanford University-trained compassion teacher, founded COMPASSION IT. This is the organization’s first time working with sports teams.
“Hey, these are two rivals that can come together and treat each other with respect, right?” Schairer said. “We thought this is a great platform — ACC Sportsmanship Week — it is the perfect week to be sharing this message of compassion in sportsmanship.”
Schairer usually gives talks to schools and institutions in San Diego, where the nonprofit was founded.
“I think what’s cool about this is that, often times, people who are attracted to COMPASSION IT are already into this kind of work,” she said. “They’re into mindfulness or yoga, but by working with athletic teams we’re reaching a whole different audience of people.”
Schairer thinks the impact of the rivals working together will help people realize they do not have to hate each other just because they support different teams.
“We hope that this is just the beginning of this partnership between COMPASSION IT, Duke and Carolina,” she said. “Hopefully, in the fall, we can do this again and even do more with it.”
Maggie Berra, a junior and former UNC rower who helped introduce COMPASSION IT to UNC, said when she heard about the program she fell in love with the idea and wanted to help bring it to campus.
“I’ve been able to meet a lot of new people doing this, and it really opened my eyes to what compassion truly means,” Berra said.
When Berra spoke to a group of middle school student-athletes at Durham Academy, she was surprised by the enthusiasm the students showed toward the nonprofit. She thought it was cool that students were interested in the movement because she said the students she went to school with would not have taken it that seriously.
Berra said she felt a friendly atmosphere between the Duke and UNC student-athletes.
“I never would have met those people who were so great and wonderful to work with,” Berra said.
Leslie Barnes, Duke University’s assistant athletic director and the director of student-athlete development, attended the student-athletes’ visit to Durham Academy and was able to see what the sportsmanship week collaboration was all about.
“They shared the importance of being a human and being compassionate and respectful to people, because basically, before we’re competitors, we’re all humans. And when it comes to being compassionate and respectful, we’re all on the same team,” Barnes said.