What is Success in Competitive Sports?

Examining Values and the Problem of Abuse

In 2016 news broke of the biggest abuse scandal in sports history. Over 365 cases of sexual abuse, situated in contexts of emotional abuse, have come to light in USA Gymnastics. In the stories and responses streaming in from a variety of sports, we hear a common narrative. Coaches, parents, and athletes turn to popular notions of “success” in sports—and what is necessary to achieve it—to explain harsh training environments, strict obedience, neglected injuries, silence, and acceptance of behaviors that would be questioned outside of the gym. Monica Vilhauer asks participants to consider our goals in competitive sports and what “success” really means. Which risks and sacrifices are we willing to endure to achieve our goals, and where do we draw the line? How can we distinguish between discipline and abuse? How do we empower young athletes to have a voice in this conversation and in their own training?


Monica Vilhauer | Lake Oswego

Monica Vilhauer leads workshops and retreats on philosophy as a way of life through her business Curious Soul Philosophy. After earning her PhD and then tenure as a philosophy professor, she returned home to Portland to shift her focus from academic philosophy to the practical value of philosophy for everyday struggles. Her specialties are in ethics, social-political philosophy, and the philosophy of communication. As a former club and college gymnast, Monica has had a long-standing passion for the question of what “success” means in competitive sports. She is thankful that the question is hitting national and international stages, and is eager to be part of local conversations where it can be explored in depth.

Program Themes

Community , Education , Health

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