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Dan Gould leads Michigan State University‘s Institute for the Study of Youth Sports.

“There’s extraordinary science behind the way MSU thinks about sports,” says Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon. “This isn’t the old physical education.”

Gould tells Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis that ISYS has been around for almost 30 years and was started by the Michigan Legislature because of concerns about issues in youth sports.

Dan and his team try to help parents be “optimally involved” in their children’s athletic endeavors. Gould says their research shows that 7 out of 10 parents “are pretty good, so we seek to help the other 3 get along better.”

He adds that sports should be all about “fun and fundamentals” for kids up to about age 10.

“Then around age 11 or 12 kids change developmentally and cognitively and can understand winning and losing more like an adult, and can differentiate between effort and ability.

“It’s important for kids to learn how to lose as well as win,” says Gould. “over the years we’ve been so concerned with self-esteem – which is important – that we forgot that it’s not just about being positive. It’s about being contingent, too, and learning that you have to earn it.”

Gould says that many parents struggle with when they should intervene on behalf of their child and when they should let them fail.

“As John Wooden used to say ‘mistakes are the building blocks of success.’ It’s OK to let your child make a mistake even though your instincts tell you to jump in to protect your child,” Gould says.

Gould laments that a lot of parents seem to have the balance wrong, even though they often have good intentions.

The wide-ranging conversation also touches on management of injuries, concussions, performance-enhancing drugs, and the importance of instilling moral standards in our youth.

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