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LMM4SPpic.jpg Hear the Conversation 19:21 min – 11 mb mp3

Michigan State University Spartans head football coach Mark Dantonio visits with MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis.

The trio’s wide-ranging discussion touches on the too-early specialization of kids participating in youth sports, leadership, and what being a Spartan really means.

“The key is to keep your children involved in some kind of physical activity,” Dantonio says. “It’s important for kids to have positive athletic experiences and to stay active throughout their lives.”

Dantonio, who started playing the game in the second grade, acknowledges that there’s an appropriate concern among parents for their kids’ safety playing football but believes “there’s adequate padding, and the collisions in youth football aren’t anything like the hits in high school or college,” so he believes it’s a safe sport for children to play.

“Find a great coach, and find people who care about young people, and not so much about the winning and losing, but about learning the game and having a good time,” says Dantonio.

Dantonio believes that kids specializing in one sport rather than playing a variety of sports as they develop is “cause for alarm,” because many kids just aren’t getting the physical activity the need to live long, healthy lives.

Dantonio believes that leaders are born out of adversity and that “if you have great leaders you’ll succeed because quality leadership creates great chemistry” on a football team.” Coach D adds that he wanted to get into coaching because of the coaches who impacted him when he was young.

“I consider myself to be an educator – not a coach, but an educator,” says Dantonio.

Coach D attributes the success of Spartan football to great continuity on the staff and to one word: chemistry. He adds that he’s on Twitter now as a way to get information out and says the communication landscape is changing so you have to stay on the cutting edge of staying in touch with recruits and others.

“I don’t tweet that often, but when I do, it’s me. I’m not going to have someone do that for me,” Dantonio says.

Dantonio adds that “being a Spartan is such an important thing. It speaks volumes about how you carry yourself and what you try to accomplish. We talk a lot about being givers and not takers.”

Coach Dantonio acknowledges that winning and losing football games is obviously a big part of his job. “But the wins are also when you have a guy who comes back to see you. And these lifelong relationships count just as much as any game on the field because you know you’re impacting young people.”

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