Sharon Stoll

Paul Steinbach Headshot

Interview with Sharon Stoll, high school gymnastics coach, founder of University of Idaho's Center for Ethics, and teacher of moral reasoning curriculum.

Once, as a 23-year-old high school gymnastics coach in Ohio, Sharon Stoll knew the springboard was out of position for an opposing vaulter, yet did nothing about it. That the athlete subsequently injured herself did little to cloud Stoll's focus on winning the meet. "It was just flat wrong," says Stoll, founder of the University of Idaho's Center for Ethics, some 30 years removed from the incident that she confesses "still bothers me." Stoll revisits that vault every time she teaches her research-based curriculum on moral reasoning to high school and college coaches who seek to improve the character of their players and the performance of their teams. Paul Steinbach asked Stoll to explain her admittedly idealistic approach, which so far has been embraced by three Division I college football programs, 25 high school football teams and Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves.

Q: Why have you focused your studies on sports?
A: Sports builds character. You hear that all the time, right? In fact, there's no data that supports the notion that sports builds character. However, I thought I might be able to capture how athletes reason about sport, how they make decisions based on universal norms of honesty, justice, responsibility and respect.

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