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Youth sports institute celebrates 40 years with major research conference

Leading researchers from around the world will gather at Michigan State University this week to tackle the top issues facing youth in sports, including safety, sexual abuse, best coaching and parenting practices, and mental health.

The three-day conference is being organized by the MSU Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, or ISYS, in honor of its 40th anniversary. The institute was created by the Michigan Legislature in 1978, and has since been known as a respected source of knowledge on coaching and maximizing the benefits of sports for kids.

"While the institute has changed with the times over its four decades of existence, one thing has remained consistent - our commitment to scientifically studying sport for children and youth and to disseminating those findings to stakeholders, the parents, coaches, administrators and young athletes themselves," said Dan Gould, professor and director of ISYS.

"This conference is designed to bring the world's best youth sports experts together to identify what we know, what needs to be known and how we will discover much needed new knowledge. The best ways to disseminate that knowledge to the youth sports public will also be discussed."

Up to 150 people, including many alumni and former faculty and staff of ISYS, are expected to attend the conference, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at the Kellogg Center.

Speakers include MSU faculty members from the Department of Kinesiology and experts from other parts of the U.S., Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

The following speakers will address some of the most widespread, serious challenges in youth sports right now:

  • Sexual and emotional abuse: Gretchen Kerr, University of Toronto, Canada
  • Mental health in athletes: Stewart Vella, University of Wollongong, Australia
  • Role of parenting in youth sports: Camilla Knight, Swansea University, United Kingdom
  • Concussions in young athletes: Tracey Covassin, Michigan State University
  • Role of sports in combating obesity: Karin Pfeiffer, Michigan State University

The conference opening can be viewed live on the institute's Facebook page starting at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29.

Gould, joined by Kinesiology Chairperson Al Smith, will give an overview of the history of ISYS and discuss the state of youth sports today. He will also interview a panel of practitioners who represent various youth sports groups.

The conference will conclude on Saturday, Dec. 1 with a look at the next 40 years of youth sports moderated by Gould and featuring MSU faculty members Al Smith, Karl Erickson and Leps Malete.

Visit the conference website for the full agenda. Tune into the institute Twitter account, @YouthSportsMSU, to see live tweets or tweet questions for the staff or presenters. You can also follow the conversation using hashtag #YouthSports40th.

By: Nicole Geary