WSKW Conference 2014

The Western Society for Kinesiology and Wellness (WSKW) invites you to join us for the 59th Annual Conference in Reno, Nevada October 8-10, 2014 at Harrah's Reno!

About the Conference

WSKW attracts leading professionals in the fields of kinesiology and wellness. It offers all participants the opportunity to learn about and present scholarship, while developing strong professional relationships in a personal atmosphere. Our host city of Reno, the “Biggest Little City in the World,” is known for its temperate climate, entertainment, and fine dining. Historically, the ethos for the WSKW conference has been represented by the phrase, “Where the conferee is the program and mentoring and networking are the foundation.” This philosophy has stood for over 50 years. A few additions have been added in recent years providing a variety of opportunities for conferees to engage with their peers.


Registration starts at 4:30 on Wednesday at conference headquarters. Evening sessions will follow. See the Conference Program for more details. 


The cost $95 for professionals and $45 for students. The cost for a guest joining us for the Thursday luncheon is $25. Presenters are expected to register in advance for the conference. All others are also encouraged to pre-register to assist in the planning. Direct registration questions to the Treasurer, Jason Slack at Utah Valley University at 801 863-7488 or by email at A registration form is available online at


Rooms for the meeting are reserved at the Harrah’s Reno at 219 N. Center Street, Reno, Nevada ( The conference room rate is $52.00/night (plus tax). Rooms can be reserved by calling the hotel directly at 1-888-726-6311 or through the Harrah's online registration system.  Please reference the conference code, S10WES, when making your room reservation.

Please use the URL below to access the online registration system:

Keynote Speaker

The 2014 WSKW Conference Keynote Speaker is Dr. Steve Jefferies. A Professor at Central Washington University, Dr. Jefferies will be delivering the keynote address, "50 Million Strong: Health and Physical Education's 21st Century Moon Shot."

E.C. Davis Lecture

The 2014 WSKW Conference E.C. Davis Lecture will be given by Dr. Sharon K. Stoll. A Professor at the University of Idaho, Dr. Stoll will be presenting "Character and Leadership: Musings from a Weathered Athlete."

Character and Leadership: Musings from a Weathered Athlete

2014 E.C. Davis Lecture

Western Society of Kinesiology and Wellness

October 8, 2014, Reno,NV

by Sharon Kay Stoll, Ph.D., Center for ETHICS*, University of Idaho


Thank you to Dr. Heather Van Mullem and the executive board of WSKW for the invitation to speak today as the E.C. Davis invited lecturer.

I never met E.C. Davis, but believe it or not, his text, slide 2 The Philosophic Process in Physical Education, was required reading in my undergraduate work, and his and Donna Mae Miller’s work, of the same title and second edition, was required for my master’s degree. I believe no any other philosophic text was available at the time.

To be truthful, neither text motivated me to pursue my doctorate in sport philosophy, not because what EC Davis wrote was unworthy. Instead I believe inspiration to form a future direction occurs because of people and experiences. I was inspired by my professors Double CLICK in my undergraduate degrees in physical education (Coach and Levada Qualls) my studies of literature and religion, my years of coaching, and a professor at Kent State, Matthew Resnick Slide 3.

Textbooks seldom inspire people – they can I suppose – but textbooks in sport are not as powerful as experiences and people.

SLIDE To paraphrase a great existentialist, you will learn more about character and ethics from people with whom you work or play than you ever will reading S. K. Stoll, E. C. Davis, or Matthew Resick - but that is a paper and discussion for another day.


Again, thank you to Dr. Van Mullem and the board for inviting a Weathered Athlete to the podium – I am blessed and thankful for this experience.

I am to speak to you today about characterI am supposedly an expert in character and leadership.

I am a former athlete and coach. I have participated in sport at all levels, coached at all educational levels, and I have been blessed to consult and work with high level coaches from collegiate to professional sport. 

My talk today will be about character and leadership – but my talk will also be very personal - my musings of what it all means – and I will offer you SEVEN important lessons that hopefully will make a difference in your life.

What is character and how does it apply to leadership? Slide 4

I could give you some rather heavy resources, references, and guides to what the experts say of leadership and character CLICK Most of these studies tell a dismal tale – sport doesn’t develop moral character.

HOWEVER, DO believe sport and athletics should development character, but unfortunately, little research supports that thesis. The worst thing about all of this morose data is, I and my colleagues – including CLICK Dr. Jennifer M Beller, of Washington State University, who is in the room – Dr. B stand up and wave so folks can see you - we, she and I and our many graduate students, collected most of the damaging data – and we wrote some of the most damaging research on it – CLICK “the longer an athlete is in athletics, the less morally reasoned he/she will become.” So I am a bad guy – when speaking of athletics and character.

However, I am here today to speak well of sport – not poorly of sport -- so I will tell you some true stories of what I have learned about sport and leadership through my life as an athlete, a coach, and a researcher that does and does not support the literature.

SLIDE CLICK – What is character and how does it apply to leadership copy 2

Character is learned and character is taught slide 4, TRANSITION

We learn character from important people around us – and research is rather clear that we, as all primates, actually are born with vestiges of character, in particular empathy. Unfortunately, empathy doesn’t stay around long unless it is tended and tended well. Character is further formed early through important role models in one’s life: Parents, caregivers, grandparents, siblings And the powerful experiences that they offer us…

My own character was informed greatly by my mother and my father, with a little help from my older brother - JerryMy father was the archetypal moral role model – an honest, good, and decent man – hard working and caring. However, because he was so busy “earning a living and providing for us”, he had little time to help me with sports. My athletic skills were honed by my mother – who was never an athlete. She couldn’t swim, skate, or throw a ball – but she was a powerful teacher. She was a Deweyan – though she had no idea she was A Deweyan. She believed in “learning by doing”.

My mother thought it would be good for me to learn how to swim slide, TRANSITION and so she threw me into the farm pond with a make shift life vest , and yelled, Swim, Sharon. Swim – luckily I did not drown, the life vest fell off often, but I swam and swam – a natural fishI took lessons years later and perfected my skills, but Mom taught me first.

Mom thought it would be good for me to learn how to ride a bike slide, TRANSITION – so she purchased a used adult bike, put me – a five year old- on it, and pushed me down the barn bank on the family farm, and yelled – Peddle, Sharon Peddle. I peddled and peddled. Barn banks are steep and I must admit I still remember the experience like it was yesterday – wind in my hair, mom yelling, me pedaling, and as scared as I was, it was thrilling.

Mom thought it would be good for me to learn to ice skateSLIDE TRANSITION so she bought me a pair of skates, two sizes too large so I could grow into them, and sent me out to the frozen farm pond to figure it out – I did – I skated – rather poorly at first, but I figured it out. There were a lot of falls – a lot – cuts, bruises, abrasions… Mishaps occurred often - fell in the pond on occasion, but I figured it out – I skated. Years later, I again took lessons, and fell a lot more – some spectacular crashes – but I ended up skating in a professional companySLIDE TRANSITION 

Mom was a powerful Deweyan.

By the time, I got to school, I knew a bit about what it takes to compete, play a game, play fairly, and succeed. I had a little help from Jerry, my brother, who is four years older. He taught me a lot of stuff about playing games and character formation – most of the time – it was blood and guts. He never let me win and he never let me whine, and HE NEVER let me Cheat (THAT’S CHEATING SHARON KAY = _YOU DON”T GET THE POINT. SIDE OUT!!!) - whether it was table tennis, darts, badminton, croquet, or softball SLIDE TRANSITION– I had to win on my own, I had to win fairly, lose gracefully. After a few yearsI started to beat him often in about everything we played – he was not amused –and he quit playing with me. But I soldiered on, and took what I learned and later shared it with others.

My role models taught me some fundamental, essential character points:

SLIDE THREE Lesson One: SLIDE TRANSITION Playing is fun – enjoy the experience. You can’t get better without a fall or two – bruises, scrapes, contusions, and injury is a part of the experience – deal with it. Failing and Failure will teach you a whole lot more than success

SLIDE TRANSITION LESSON TWO SLIDE CLICK Play fair and play hard. Winning while cheating is no win at all – it’s just getting around the rules and getting around others – don’t waste your time and others cheating your way through life.

SLIDE FOUR Lesson THREESlide TRANSITION Don’t whine or complain and learn to lose gracefully. You won’t always lose – and you won’t always win – that’s why we keep score. Buck up and deal with it –it will make you a better person.

Character and the Environment SLIDE FIVE

Research also teaches us that character is formed by our important life lessons and the environment in which we live . School and sports are powerful teachers of character – it’s the relationships that occur within the environment.

When I got to school there were NO games or activities for girls. I am older than Title IX – the legislation that mandated sport and athletic activities for girls and women in any school which receives federal school funding. When I was in grade school, SLIDE TRANSITION the boys played baseball on one field, and we girls played softball on another field. I don’t remember why the girls in my class at North Lawrence elementary played softball when the girls in other classes sat, gossiped, and watched the boys play. Maybe it’s because my mother gave me a ball, a bat, and a glove – and I carried them around with me everywhere. The glove was pretty beaten up – actually it was my brother’s hand me down. He taught me how to stand at the plate, how to swing, run, and catch. I tried to pass on what he taught me to the other girls in my class. They loved playing the game – or I thought they didWe chose up sides and played a game – that game went on for four years. Every recess and every noon hour, we found our way to that softball field and played and played.

I have often wondered why we played that game – I hope my bat carrying didn’t intimidate the other girls into playing or my size – I was the tallest student in class, boys included. The boys basketball coach thought about signing me up..But, I hope my size wasn’t the factor for why we girls played while others did not. My best friend played every day with us SLIDE CLICK– she is to my left in the photo(I know you picked me out right away ). Vivienne was and still is the world’s worst athlete. She was the perennial right fielder, who spent a lot of time sleeping out there. She couldn’t bat, she couldn’t field, and her base running left a lot to be improved.

Fifty years later, she is still one of my dearest friendsI asked her why she played, when she obviously didn’t like it and was so poor at it. She said, “Because my friend played, and I wanted a friend. You want a friend, be a friend

There is a powerful lesson there for all of you seated here- sports and athletics builds powerful relationships – stronger than most every other experience. Friendships that are formed for a lifetime.

SLIDE TRANSITION TWO CLICKS Albert Camus was right, and to paraphrase him again, we learn more about morality and our obligations in life from the playing field than we do in the classroom.

To give a little more information on Camus, journalist, author, intellectual philosopher, defender of truth, moderation, and justice.

In 1930, Albert Camus was Saint Peter guarding the gate for the University of Algeria’s soccer team. He had been playing goalkeeper since he was a child, because in that position your shoes don’t wear out as fast. From a poor home, Camus couldn’t afford the luxury of running the fields; every night, his grandmother examined the soles of his shoes and gave him a beating if she found them worn.

SLIDE During his years in the net, Camus learned many things: “I learned that the ball never comes when you expect it to. That helped me a lot in life, especially in large cities where people don’t tend to be what they claim.”
He also learned to win without feeling like God and to lose without feeling like rubbish, skills not easily acquired, and he learned to unravel several mysteries of the human soul, whose labyrinths he explored later on in his writings.

Sport is a powerful teacher of character – because in team sports we have to learn to play together; to have each other’s back; to work and strive – all the time with people we may not especially like. But even if we don’t like our teammates, we learn to value them for what they can do and even for what they can’t do. Good sport experiences teach us to win and how to lose. Sports teach us that life isn’t fair. And they teach us about each other.

SLIDE SIX: Lesson Four: Teach others how to play – it will be a blessing for a life time. And, if you can’t teach others – find others to play a game with you. Game playing – especially motor skill game playing – is a powerful teacher of self.

Learning Character from Coaches SLIDE SEVEN

If we are fortunate, we have good coaches – who are also good men and good women who value the game and the responsibility that comes with teaching and coaching. These individuals can make a powerful difference in learning how to carry oneself- and how to behave. I was fortunate when I was coached to have some blessed humans teach me how to play the game, and play it well. My coaches had my best interests at heart. They wanted me to be a better player and a better athlete but more importantly a better person.

I was coached many years ago – so many years ago that my coaches, teammates, and I didn’t have much stress or pressure on whether we won or lost. I think we won more than we lost – but that’s not what I remember. What I remember is the joy of playing, the great people my coaches were, and the friends I made.

Unfortunately, the research today on the effect of coaches on the moral development of athletes, does not support any of my comments aboveMy research, along with my many colleagues, indicates that: Slide TRANSITION (1) the longer one participates in high level competition, the more one’s moral reasoning is negatively affected, and SLIDE TRANSITION (2) the type of competition that is typically practiced in the United States has a negative effect on moral growth. In short, sport as we practice it, does not build character. But it should and it can.

Research is also rather clear that powerful role models – important people in one’s life – can make meaningful change and growth in moral development – but it must be intentional activity. Research is also clear that the process of reflection is a powerful teacherSLIDE TRANSITION A good role model – an honorable person – who takes time to speak with young charges can make differences in the moral growth of those charges – whether they are high school athletes or collegiate athletesThe coaching environment is a powerful platform to teach character or to ignore character.

SLIDE EIGHT Lesson Number FIVE: Good Role Models are priceless – value them and be sure and thank them -

SLIDE ( Formation of Cognitive Moral Knowing Character is also formed by formal education. Role Models and the environment play powerful roles, but so does formal education. 

By the time I was in college, I knew that I wanted to study physical education and coaching. I wish I had an inspiring tale of why I chose to major in PE – I don’t. There were two things – I liked to play and the men pe majors were very good looking – better looking than the fellows who majored in English and Religion – my two strong minors. I loved to play. It was fun. What powerful metaphysical words: PLAY and FUN. All of you are players – or you wouldn’t be here in this audience. You know what I mean when I say PLAY and Fun.

Children and athletes get it – as Little Anna says in Frozen, “The Sky’s Awake, so I’m awake, let’s play”. We players are metaphysically linked to the joy of play – we can’t tell others why – we just intuitively are linked to the joy of play – the joy of sport – it’s fun –The Sky’s Awake, so I’m awake, Let’s play...

Michael Novak SLIDE NINE TRANSITION wrote one of the 100 most important books on sports titled the same, “The Joy of Sports”.  Novak is a theologian with 45 books to his credit, and he was appointed as a human rights ambassador by Ronald Regan to Radio Free Europe.

“Perhaps the most surprising of Novak’s religious meditations has been his sustained inquiry for over forty years into sports, especially baseball, basketball, and football, the three sports invented by Americans for Americans. Norman Mailer wrote of Novak’s The Joy of Sports (1976), If America is the real religion of Americans, then the sports arena is our true church, and Michael Novak has more to say about this, and says it better, than anyone else.’”

As a theologian, Novak sees the joy of sport linked to our very creation and to our very being:

God is a sports fan. SLIDE NINE TRANSITION Certainly He is, if He likes to see humans straining to their utmost to be the best He made them, making moments of imperishable beauty. Sports have to be among His glories. I do not pretend to speak for Him, but, looking everywhere for signs, I am often reminded of Him, not least by deeds of excellence and beauty. And so I think He must be, yes, an Artist who sees and approves of what he’s made. So exquisitely for the pleasure of the rest of us.

In the heat of a game, one lives in an eternal now, the way everything will be forever. Intimations of eternal life break into consciousness: all action overflowing, cupped up, compressed as one, everything in highest concentrations.

That’s what play has always been to me – “everything in highest concentrations” But I digress from my purpose – A discussion of the importance of cognitive education to support the development of character.

At college, I was fortunate to study at a small Christian college in northwest Arkansas. There under the tutelage of dedicated physical educators and coaches, I learned that “my first moral obligation is to think clearly, as Novak would say. At a liberal arts institution, my study involved the liberal tradition of learning – that means literature, music, arts, history, philosophy, and religion.

SLIDE 10 I learned that “cognitive dissonance” was imperative to growth – we need to be pushed out of our usual ways of thinking to broaden our horizons, Studying about sport and coaching helps to be better teachers and coaches, but the type of education is also important. Thinking deeply about moral issues helps us grow to be better thinkers and better peopleVery importantly, there are many deeply important moral issues attached to sport – one of which is fair play and its relation to justice as applied to gender equity, sexism, racism, and exploitation to name a few. Another present issue is the hypercompetitive environment of which we function to day in sport.

Cognitive dissonance demands that in the midst of moral and ethical dilemmas, three important questions should always be asked, “What is the right thing to do?”, “Why is it the right thing to do?” And “What social, moral perspectives support the decision making process?”

SLIDE 10 TRANSITION Question 1: What is the right thing to do? This question appears rather straight forward, however, according to research the question is usually answered quickly without much intended thought. Benjamin Libet Slide Click argued using his experiment of awareness intention, that we actually initiate “volitional processes” unconsciously – that is we don’t have time to think about it. According to Libet, human subjects become aware of intention to act 350-400 milliseconds after response starts, about 200 milliseconds (that’s 0.2 seconds) before we act. However, we are not mindless machines - automatons – we still have conscious power – we can still control; we have the power to veto the act. The upshot of Libet’s work is we don’t have free will as much as we have free won’t Slide Click – HOWEVER and this is a powerful HOWEVER SLIDE CLICK the more education and reflection occurs – the more powerful our “free won’t” will become.

SLIDE TRANSITION Question 2: Why is it the right thing to do? Unfortunately, most of us don’t ask this question before we act – rather we ask the question after we acted. And we are very good at using our resources to support the action that we made – not the decision that we didn’t really make. We are very good at figuring out a way to morally justify our action.

With the above being said – it is clear that we need to think about the right – before we are called upon to make a decision about what is right and why is it right. That is: All of us need some time thinking about the right – and why it is right to do – coaches could help us with this also – it’s not always just about the game – it’s also about us as we play the game and why we should play it the “right”way.

SLIDE TRANSITION Question 3: What socio-moral perspectives support the decision making process? This is personally my favorite question because it mandates that we become educated about the historical and moral significance of moral thinking and reasoning. I believe we have a duty to be informed and educated about the past 4000 years of Western tradition. What has the history of good and evil taught us? What can we learn from this history and how can that knowledge aid in our “free won’t” decision making processes? This information to me argues that we need thoughtful, reflective education about morality and ethics, philosophy, history, social science, and so forth. This question argues for a grounded liberal arts education.

I was fortunate to have that liberal education – and was grounded in Western tradition. I still love to read history, philosophy, literature, and religion – and it

informs me as I coach and teach.

Slide CLICK You students: Use your time in school and put it to good use.

Slide CLiCK You faculty: Solider on and read and think:

good education teaches us how to think, to reflect, and to question – all powerful attributes when either teaching or coaching.


Lesson SixDouble SLIDE CLICK Put time into your formal education – it is priceless. Learn as much as you can. Drink in knowledge every day. Read Good Books. Challenge your brain.

SLIDE CLICK There is a caveat to this perspective about good books – a good education must be tempered with good role models and in a good environment.

few years ago, our center, thanks to Dr. Beller, was hired to evaluate the moral reasoning of athletes who attended a very pricey and famous private school in Detroit MI. SLIDE CLICK In order to evaluate an athlete’s ability to morally reason, we use an instrument that we developed over thirty years ago. The instrument is valid – which means it measures what it’s supposed to (moral reasoning in sport) – and it is reliable – meaning that its findings are the same over time and with different populations or groups of people (we have evaluated over 90,000 athletes).

This fancy rich school had a required SLIDE CLICK “GREAT BOOKS” course in which every student had to read various books which were considered the classics. Students at rich fancy school also SLIDE CLICK were expected to participate in school athletes – which the majority of them did. The school had a long history of athletes getting scholarships at the next level as well as the majority of students enrolling in college. Now, considering that the school had a required curriculum in the great books, and a required expectation in athletics with most going on to college, one would assume that the athletes would score very high in moral reasoning.

SLIDE CLICK They did not score high.

At the same time, we measured moral reasoning at a SLIDE CLICK very small school in rural Idaho. The school had SLIDE CLICK no Great Books curriculum and the majority did not go on to collegeHowever, like the rich fancy school, most of the students in the school were involved SLIDE CLICK in athletes of some sort – because that’s what one does in rural Idaho. The school is moderately successful in the win and loss column. One would assume that the athletes would not score very high in moral reasoning.

SLIDE CLICK The Reverse is true: They did score high – significantly higher than students at rich, fancy school.

We wanted to know more. We knew about the curriculum at each school – because we had examined it. So we chose to learn as much as we could about the two coaching environments – one at rich fancy school, and one at little rural Idaho school and examine whether the coaching environment might have something to do with those divergent moral reasoning scores. We learned a lot.


  1. SLIDE CLICK The coaches at rich, fancy school did not teach about right and wrong on the field of play. They taught their athletes how to motorially play the game – and their athletes were very good at playing the game. There was no instruction on the nature of right and wrong. In fact, there was more teaching about how to gain an advantage than there was about “right and wrong”. The coaches did not refer to the “great books” curriculum or use references to doing the right thing. Most were not teachers in the school
  2. SLIDE CLICK The coach at rural Idaho spent much time in practice and even in a state championship game actually talking with his athletes about “the right thing to do.” He would repeatedly say and reinforce the values of “who we are”. We videotaped him at the state championship game, calling his players over to a huddle, when the opposing team’s fans were rude and profane. He said to them, “that’s not who we are. We don’t act like that and we don’t react to that. We play the game the right way, we play the game the ________ way.” The coach was also the high school principal.
  3. SLIDE CLICK Even though rich fancy school had an impressive “great books” curriculum, the meaning of right and wrong did not filter down to application on the field. The little rural Idaho school had no fancy “great books” curriculum, but the coach developed a practical, on the field approach that challenged his athletes to know the right and do the right.
  4. SLIDE CLICK Education is powerful – but it has to be practical and useful in real world events – like sport.


TRANSITION SLIDE 11 TWO CLICK S Lesson Seven : A good coach who is a good person and believes that he or she has a duty to teach right and wrong is a better moral teacher than reading great books or attending a fancy rich school. SLIDE CLICK The very best combination would be the liberal education coupled with a good coach who teaches right and wrong.

Conclusion: SLIDE 12 - c

This concludes my musings for today – let’s refresh ourselves on those seven important lessons;

CLICK Lesson One: Playing is fun – enjoy the experience. You can’t get better without a fall or two – bruises, scrapes, contusions, and injury is a part of the experience – deal with it.

CLICK Lesson Two: Play fair and play hard. Winning while cheating is no win at all – it’s just getting around the rules and getting around others – don’t waste your time and others cheating your way through life.

Click Lesson threeDon’t whine or complain and learn to lose gracefully. You won’t always lose – and you won’t always win – and that is the essence of life in general.

Click Lesson four : Teach others how to play – it will be a blessing for a life time. And, if you can’t teach others – find others to play a game with you. Game playing – especially motor skill game playing – is a powerful teacher of self.

Click Lesson Number Five: Good Role Models are priceless – value them and be sure and thank them.

Click Lesson Six Put time into your formal education – it is priceless. Learn as much as you can. Drink in knowledge every day. Read Good Books. Challenge your brain.

Click Lesson Seven : A good coach who is a good person and believes that he or she has a duty to teach right and wrong is a better moral teacher than all the great books and all the great education out there. – CLICK However it would be best to combine both and have a learned, good coach.


So my final musing to all of you here and in support of what E.C. Davis said: CLICK … that knowledge about is not enough to bring the mature student to understand the somethingor its place in the world. That height is reached by climbing, by action, and by extending one’s involvement” which translate to means:

SLIDE CLICK Build a philosophy and make that philosophy meaningful - Let that philosophy be play.

Let sport be what it should be – this great and empowering experience that will make you and all those with whom you play better for the experience. SLIDE TRANSITION. SO – As little Anna said, The Sky’s Awake, and I’m awake, GO PLAY!!!!



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